A while back, I worked on a case for a client that had hit a brick wall 23 years ago, and had not been able to break through it. She never knew what had happened to her great grandfather, as did his own daughter, her grandmother.
She gave me an excessive amount of information, and had also invited me to her family tree. I explained to her that I NEVER use anyone else’s research, and build my own tree with just the name, age, and known areas for the closest known direct relative to that ancestor. I will look at personal documents, if I need them, after I get to that point and find that it matches my research. My client also let me collaborate on her DNA, which was invaluable.
I built my FRESH tree for the line with the brick wall, and had gotten to the point where she had hit her brick wall. Her great grandfather was nowhere to be found after he had divorced his wife, her great grandmother, in 1893. I had found a person that I suspected was a match; although, he had a different middle initial and last name, his birthdate, place of birth, and occupation matched. This person had seemed to not exist before 1896, and was in a totally different area with an entirely different family, but was strongly suspected as being the same person.
My next step was to build a separate tree for the strongly suspected match. I then grouped her DNA matches, and gathered as many known matches to the person being sought, and the strongly suspected match; the descendants of each matched perfectly in a DNA mapped tree, according to their centimorgans and place in the new, combined tree. Her great grandfather and the strongly suspected match were one in the same.
Her great grandfather had changed his name, moved to a totally different area, and had a whole new family. It is unknown why he left one family behind, and “hid” his past from his new family, but my client had some suspicions as to why.
Through this case, not only was I able to help my client solve her 23 year mystery, but I was also able to help some descendants of the second family of her great grandfather, who had also hit a brick wall, that of his life before 1896. Have you ever thought about a name change when you’ve hit a brick wall? It’s more common than you think. 😉