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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree February 2018 > The bright side of a brick wall

The bright side of a brick wall

When it comes to the commonplace family history ‘brick wall’, Karen Evans likes to focus on the positive aspects. She’s found that butting against a rock-solid genealogy problem forces you to think out of the box, explore new methods and make fresh discoveries… even if they weren’t the ones intended! Now you can try her tips yourself and see your own skills as a family historian grow…


It is well known that a genealogist searching for their family must NOT be in want of a brick wall but, if we are honest with ourselves, the occasional elusive ancestor is not without their merits.

We have all felt the thrill of the chase and that buzz of adrenalin when a long-held brick wall shows a chink and it is possibly on a par with getting married when one comes tumbling down (oh, sorry, only me then). However, a good solid ‘Great Wall of China’ brick wall can actually lead to some rather interesting paths and before I go further can I say that this, 20-year, brick wall is still very, very solid.

On 26 July 1748 my 6x greatgrandfather William Overfield marries Mary Cheese in St Leonard’s Church, Bridgnorth, Shropshire, the register claiming both parties are of the parish. Before this date, however, I have found no solid (or even slightly wobbly) proof of William’s existence anywhere. There is no William Overfield (or any Overfields) baptised in Bridgnorth or indeed Shropshire before this date and, to make it worse, I cannot find a burial that may indicate a possible year of birth. After a few years of exhausting the most obvious leads it was time to try some new ideas. Here are some of the paths I have followed that may not have led me to William but have certainly improved my understanding of my family, the areas where they lived and hopefully improved my skills.

Deloving in the parish chest

Back in the past when using the internet for family research was but a promising twinkle, visits to the local record office were a regular occurrence. I had visited Shropshire Record Office on several occasions but in 2002 I decided to see if it held documents relating to Bridgnorth’s ‘parish chest’. As William Overfield or his parents didn’t seem to have come from Bridgnorth or the Shropshire area I wondered if there were settlement documents giving a clue to the Overfields’ original place of residence. There was nothing but, on a whim, I decided to look at miscellaneous records relating to Bridgnorth. Do you ever think some ancestors are playing an eternal game of hide and seek while others scream to be found? Well, the Overfield name jumped out on a coroner’s document concerning the death of a three-month-old Richard Overfield in 1823. At the time I had no idea how he fitted into my family but was shocked to discover that baby Richard had been murdered with poison and the chief suspect was his own father, also named Richard Overfield!

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About Family Tree

Would you like to find out those must-search sources that professional genie researchers use? We've asked a crew of top-notch family historians to share their go-to websites and records. A positively useful read, it is sure to inspire you to dig deeper and search further on your ancestor-hunting quest. Plus we've got an article packed with tried and tested advice for tracking down long-lost relations all over the globe - these new-found cousins can be an absolute boon to your research (and great fun to meet too). And we've got a delightful read which will show you how a genealogy research conundrum doesn't mean the end of your investigations, but the chance to flex your detective muscles and get better and better at tracing your family tree. Enjoy!