Genealogy Brick Walls - A Breakthrough!
July 15, 2014
As fellow genealogists will understand, brick walls are frustrating. You know the information you’re searching for is out there - but where?! Recently, I was able to burst through a brick wall that had been blocking research on my great-great-grandfather, Frederick Sanderson.
Frederick Sanderson was a master mariner based out of Nova Scotia, Canada. Family stories said that he died at sea when his ship sank in the late 1800s, and that event propelled his widow and her son (my great grandfather) to immigrate to the United States. Details were fuzzy regarding where this shipwreck might have occurred and when it happened.
I set out to find the truth to this family story and to discover what I could about Frederick’s death. One of the first obstacles when doing Canadian research, especially in the Atlantic Provinces, is the availability of online records. First off, records were not routinely kept during the 1800s, and those that were are not often digitized or available online. My primary goal of finding a death record for Frederick proved difficult. My next attempt at trying to find a newspaper online to locate an article about his death or an obituary was coming up blank, as well.
After taking a break from this particular quest, I was on Ancestry Library Edition one day in the Nova Scotia data collections section. On a whim, I clicked a link to “View other Immigration & Travel collection related to Nova Scotia.” I had been to this link before and not found useful information, but today was an entirely different story. I noticed a database that I had not seen before titled “Canada, Seafarers of the Atlantic Provinces, 1789-1935.” Intrigued, I looked to see how many records were contained within this data collection. The record number was small, only in the couple hundred thousand. I clicked into the database thinking that there was nothing to lose.
I am so glad that I did! I found not only information on Frederick’s death but lots of information about his other sea voyages. I was reminded yet again that digging deeper into Ancestry Library Edition pays out genealogy gold. This information was not easily discoverable by just performing a name search but was still in Ancestry the whole time.
Remember to go through small data collections, then periodically go back to take a second look at those collections. This habit may provide that first crack in those brick wall questions. Ancestry updates their collections all the time and you never know what new information you’ll find.
Midwest Genealogy Center