Wednesday, September 25, 2013

BIFHSGO Conference Research Room and Brickwalls

As John Reid mentioned in his Anglo-Celtic Connections blog, this past weekend I had the pleasure to be the host of the Research Room at the BIFHSGO 19th Annual Family History Conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The focus of this year's conference was on Irish genealogy research.

In the Research Room we had a number of computers with donated access to sites such as,, Genes Reunited, The Genealogist, British Newspaper Archive, and the Irish Times Ancestry Search. Along with those online resources we had a number of skilled and very patient volunteers to help the attendees with their research problems.

Being a conference focusing on Irish family history we had many questions concerning how to find their ancestors in Ireland and all the issues related with doing research from a distance. We also had some success stories:

  • One woman spent at least 6 hours finding records and documents concerning her family in Nova Scotia. She had the guidance of a number of our volunteers to help her out.
  • We had one participant find the newspaper article concerning an ancestor that confirmed a family story.
  • A transcription of an Irish parish register confirmed an aunt's research and also led to a possible collateral branch.
This year we also added place where people could post their "brick wall" problems.
Our "moss and ivy covered" brick wall.

In the next several weeks the information on those cards will be posted on the BIFHSGO web site in the hopes that someone might be able to help solve a problem or too. I will also be going through them to see if I can possibly find some answers for their brick walls. I will be posting my findings in this blog along with how and where I discovered the answers to the questions.

However, there were some common methodology related problems with many of the posted brick wall problems:
  • Not knowing what records are available (or aren't available in some cases)
  • Not understanding what records are available in the various collections
  • Assuming everything must be online
  • Not knowing when the various civil registrations started for births, marriages, and deaths
When you come across a new collection learn what is actually included in the collection. This can save hours of frustration when attempting to search for records that aren't included in the collection.


  1. This is very good advice Ken, I can't tell you how much time that I actually spent looking up information in a collection not knowing that the information I was looking for was not even part of that collection.
    I have enjoyed your writings, and am happy you decided to do these blogs to give people like me a glimpse of your experience. Keep up the good work.
    Looking forward to your future writings.

  2. Ken,

    I want to let you know that your blog is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!