Friday, October 2, 2009

Family Newsletter Friday: Brick Wall Week!

This has been a TBWW – that’s Totally Brick Wall Week – for me. The Fairfax Genealogical Society held a Brick Wall Workshop last Saturday morning, and my great-grandmother Susan Elizabeth Smith Bonner Brinlee was one of the cases considered by the panel of four experienced genealogists. Then on Thursday the bimonthly meeting of the New England Genealogy Special Interest Group of the Fairfax Genealogical Society was also devoted to brick walls.


The first piece of advice on finding Lizzie Smith came as a real surprise to me. The panel asked: What is she doing in Indian Territory in 1891? And especially with a name like Smith? > Check the Dawes and Guion Miller rolls. As it happens, that was one of the first places I checked when I started trying to find information on the Brinlees and learned about Lizzie Smith. I did not find anything at that time and concluded that the family story that she was part Native American might be a myth or a misunderstanding. The fact that it was the first thing that occurred to the panel (even though the Native American connection was not mentioned in my brick wall form) led me to believe that perhaps I had been hasty. In my original search I did not really do a thorough search or try to find out exactly how these rolls were compiled and what other information might be associated with them, so I should go back and check again.

The second suggestion was to do something that I have actually already started and have described here (but I hadn’t done it at the time I submitted the brick wall form): start checking out Smith families in Tennessee that might be Lizzie’s family and gradually narrow down the field of candidates.

These and other pieces of advice were not the only benefits of the workshop, however. Listening to the advice given on the other submissions was very instructive, and I took tons of notes. The regular programming offered by the Society is very educational, but these workshops are even more intense and specific.


I did not submit my New England brick wall, George Floyd, since I cannot say that I have done enough research on him to declare him a brick wall, yet, but since I know so little about New England research I decided to attend this session of the New England Special Interest Group (SIG). The leader of the Special Interest Group knows tons about this subject and was able to suggest all sorts of places to look on the cases that were presented for consideration. Again, I took a lot of notes that I can use as I try to push the Floyds another generation back. SIG members presented their own brick walls, and some of the stories were quite intriguing. There was a lot of speculation in particular about a young woman of 28 who married a 65-year-old man who had abandoned a previous family.

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