The past week has been devoted almost exclusively to brick wall census work, or in other words my Smith line (Susan Elizabeth “Lizzie” Smith (Bonner Brinlee)). I completed the initial compilation of “possibles” and am now working on finding as many families as I can in both the 1870 and 1880 censuses. Initially I was able to pair up about eight families from both censuses right away due to some very distinctive names. Now I am part way through finding the 1870 families in the 1880 census. After I find as many of them as possible, I’ll check to see if the unpaired families match any of the 1880 families and then look for the remaining unpaired 1880 families in the 1870 census.
This is very time-consuming work, but it is particularly useful in “weeding out” certain families: when an Elizabeth Smith from the 1870 census turns up as Matilda E. Smith on the 1880 census, I can mostly rule her out. (Note: Due to the unreliability of human memory and the fallibility of census-takers, no one is being completely ruled out or removed from the “possible Lizzie Smiths” database. However, I am prioritizing and categorizing the families, and this definitely narrows down the number of families that I want to devote more attention to based on the closeness of fit to the information I have on Lizzie Smith.)
Despite all the time and effort the work is taking and the uncertainty of ever getting any concrete results (= breaking through the brick wall), this exercise is definitely sharpening my search skills. When the names are all common, you have to use and recombine a lot of different search parameters and be careful about making assumptions. For instance, I have to remember that many families may not have remained in Tennessee.
Added to Norman To Do List: Check Arkansas County Marriages under Record Search (there are a lot of my Normans listed there).
Other positive news for the week is that I cleaned up and reorganized a lot of my genealogy materials and workspace, particularly my files and books. Everything is much more accessible and easier to locate now. Most family-related materials have found their proper binders or folders. I’m hoping that will help speed up my research a bit.