Quick tip – Expand the scope

When you get stuck, you can expand the scope of your research to increase the chances of finding relevant evidence. Here are some different ways to expand the scope:

  • Research more people: the children of your brick wall ancestor, known siblings, spouses (if they were married multiple times), neighbors and other associates
  • Research the property they owned or rented, to find out how and when it got into the family and where it went next.
  • Expand your geographic area. People often created records in neighboring towns, or in higher-level jurisdictions (e.g. appeals cases heard in the provincial capital). Look at a contemporary map to see what other larger towns were in the area.
  • Expand your time period. Sometimes, information got copied into later records. Sometimes, researching earlier records can give you insights of families that interacted with each other that can give you clues about your family.
  • Use less common sources. Do not limit your research to easily available indexed records. Check finding aids to find out what else exists. There may be sources that are not online yet, or that are online as images but not indexed.

Children building a hut. Credits: Joop van Bilsen, collection Nationaal Archief (CC-0)

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She holds the Certified Genealogist credential from the Board for Certification of Genealogists and has a post-graduate diploma in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee. She has been doing genealogy for over 30 years and helps people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. Wonderful advice…understanding your ancestors in their full context can add so much and reveal details you might otherwise have missed.

  2. Superb advice, Yvette. In my next newsletter, I’m going to post a link to this page.

Leave comment