Thursday, 19 April 2012

My Brick Wall

Brick walls are very common in family history research, and every genealogist has encountered them. You are tracing a particular branch of your family tree back generation after generation and then suddenly...the trail goes cold. You can't find any further information relating to a particular ancestor, and you don't know the next step to take. Sometimes you find an alternative line of research that allows you to break through the brick wall, and sometimes you just have to give up and start researching a different branch of your family tree.

My brick wall involves my great (x4) grandfather, George Cruickshank. I had traced my ancestry back through five generations of Georges, starting with my grandfather. The trail led me to the birth of my great (x3) grandfather in Slains, Scotland in 1844.

The parish record states that:

"George Cruickshank then in New Clochtow had a son born in fornication between him and Jane Leith and baptized by the name of George. Witnesses James Leith and George Cruickshank."

George and Jane were not married when their son George was born, and I can find no record of them ever being married. In fact, Jane married a man called George Will in 1848, in St.Fergus, Banff. The 1851 census has George and Jane Will living with the seven year old George Cruickshank, and his eight month old half brother James Will.

So what became of George Cruickshank Senior? The only clue I have to his identity is that he lived or worked in New Clochtow. Was the George Cruickshank listed as a witness at the baptism George himself, or yet another ancestor, perhaps his father?

My brick wall arises from the fact that Cruickshank is an extremely common name in the north-east of Scotland. Also, George was a popular forename due to the reigns of George I to George IV, from 1714 to 1830. I have performed various searches on the Scotland's People website, but I haven't yet been able to confirm if any of the records returned are for my ancestor. A record can look correct in terms of date and location, but unless you can confirm it you can waste a lot of time researching somebody who isn't even related to you. Believe me, I know.

The other difficulty I have had with this research lies in the fact that statutory registers began in Scotland in 1855. Prior to this we have to rely on Old Parish Registers, which are much more hit and miss. So my brick wall has me stumped - for now. I'll update this post as and when I break through, and please leave me a comment if you have any tips or advice for me. I'd really appreciate it.

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