If your "brick wall" ancestor is several generations back and you've already gleaned your family history from elderly family members, the next step in researching a brother or sister of your direct-line ancestor is to select the sibling about whom you already have the most data. Then begin documenting as much family information on that person as you possibly can by using all genealogy resources available to you, just as you did when researching your direct-line ancestor. If you haven't researched online lately, you're in for a pleasant surprise. Online databases—some at no cost—include, but aren't limited to state census records, birth, marriage, death, and Social Security indexes, cemetery surveys and a plethora of family trees. A trip to your local or county library genealogy section will also find many of those same records in a printed format.
Recently, in an effort to find additional information about my maternal great grandmother, I pursued her youngest brother through the census records and, subsequently, located his grandson through online state birth records. My phone call to this gentleman (who just happened to be born the same year as I) began something like this . . . "Hello. We've never met, but I believe we're 2nd cousins!" Most folks are interested, even excited, to talk with new kinfolks and share their family stories, photos, and information. Because my "new cousin" lived only an hour away, we arranged a face-to-face meeting. During our very pleasant visit I also spoke by phone with his older sister, gathered many new interesting facts about his family tree branch, viewed and exchanged family photos, and even received directions to the cemetery where his grandfather, my great granduncle, was buried.
One visit to a newfound relative may not turn up all your family tree puzzle pieces, but who knows what memories may be jogged by subsequent visits and phone calls. I was very pleased to make the acquaintance of a new cousin as well as fill in many blanks on his family line branch. We exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses, snapped photos, and made plans for another visit in the near future. Meeting new cousins and expanding your family circle is always a plus. And tomorrow . . . I've got another phone number and another new cousin to call who just might hold that final piece of my family tree puzzle. Happy hunting!