We had a fabulous response to our Breaking Down Brick Walls seminar last week, which featured Findmypast historian and genealogist Joshua Taylor talking through some of his own hints and tips for getting past any dead-ends in your research, and making the most of all the available resources as you explore your family tree. Below are a few examples of the questions you sent in during our question and answer session afterwards, and the responses they got.

We'll be posting a few reader tips in a follow-up blog later!

I’m trying to trace my husband's uncle Aubrey Smith. I can find him in birth and marriage but not census records. He was born in 1908 so should be in 1911. Perhaps his name could have been misspelt. Can you advise? 

Could Aubrey have been known by a middle name instead of his first name? Try leaving the first name field blank when you're searching the 1911 census and enter some of the other facts you know, such as year of birth and place of birth. If you know the name of another family member Aubrey would have been living with, you could try searching for that person instead. Sometimes siblings or parents are the key to tracking down a missing ancestor.

What if the town where your ancestors’ records had a fire and all the records were burned. How do you go further?

That would depend on the country you lived in. In America and England for example there are centralised censuses, which record information covering the whole country, so those would be a good place to start.

Hi. I am trying to trace the birth certificate for Alexander Adolphus Dumfries Henshaw born 7th Nov 1912. I cannot find a register, also had a friend look. Alexander died 24th Feb 2007. He was my Nans cousin but nobody knows the link.

Tricky question - that really depends on where he was born. It might be worth broadening your search to include other countries. 

- [additional note from a viewer] Wills can also help with associates. There were two children with the same name in one English parish and I'd found a burial record for one of them. The will of the person they were renting from showed which child had survived.

This is very encouraging! I've built a couple of trees based on ideas/educated guesses based on people who interacted with my ancestors and I've sometimes wondered if I wasn't wasting my time - but just listening now, I realise this was a good move!

Great to hear! Lots of people find family history daunting, but so much of the battle is just getting confident enough to make those intuitive deductions. Best of luck as you continue your research!

I have very common names in my tree. One family, every oldest son is named John Green. I'm at a standstill trying to figure out which of the thousands belong to my tree.

Hi there. Siblings can often come in very handy when trying to track down common names in the census. You could also make use of the other information you know about your ancestors when searching - perhaps a place of birth or an occupation.

Any hints on how to break a brick wall when no father's name is given on birth certificate? I have one such ancestor, whose mother gave her deceased husband’s name as father in the baptism record but he had died 2 years before "their" daughter was born!

I came across a rather useful source in my own family history research. Local record offices may have copies of 'bastardy' records, which were usually an attempt to establish the father of an illegitimate child. It's also worth searching our historical newspapers as cases were sometimes reported in local news.

 The information on Persi was very interesting. I currently have a Britain Subscription do I need to have a worldwide subscription to access Persi?

PERSI is available with world and US subscriptions. You can also view PERSI records with pay as you go credits.

 Hi, Good seminar! Any hints on research in the 18th century where more intuitive approaches are needed to supplement the location and parish records?

Our newspaper collection dates back to 1710, and is a mine of useful information, since it's almost entirely comprised of local titles. We also have crime records dating back to 1770 (not to cast aspersions on the potential activities of your ancestors!), and the schools and wills records date back even further. Good luck with your search - and thanks for tuning in!

Hello, I’m trying to find Edward Victor Stamp in WW1, where should I look?

We have a variety of World War 1 records that you could try looking in, such as the Pals Battalions, Rolls of Honour, British Officers taken prisoner of war, Naval records, WW1 distinguished conduct medal citations, Victoria Cross records, and many more. If you’re not yet a member of Findmypast you can explore the records at no cost for a fortnight with our free trial. Good luck with your search!