General Meeting and Lecture: March 14, 2013

1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Santa Cruz Public Library, Scotts Valley branch
251 Kings Village Rd, Scotts Valley, CA 95066

Speaker: Warren C. Pratt, PhD

Lecture Topic:
Taking Down a Brick Wall, One Brick at a Time
– A Case Study 

For genealogists, brick walls are difficult problems for which sufficient evidence has not yet been found to reach a conclusion meeting the genealogical proof standard. Many, perhaps most, brick-wall problems can be successfully resolved. However, doing so usually requires a disciplined research process and the use of many sources of information. The conclusion many times comes from the use of correlated indirect evidence; after all, if there were direct records simply establishing the relationships, the problem would be less likely to have been classified as a brick wall.

This presentation focuses on some of the research principles, methodologies, and sourcing that can be applied to resolve brick walls. Illustrative examples are taken from a case study researched and written by the presenter and recently published in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

The problem solved in this case was the identification of the father of a child born in 1809 to an unwed mother. The father’s surname, his given name, and his location (Kentucky or Virginia) were not known at the outset of the search – even the child’s mother was in question. His mother left no records for the year the child was born and there only two records of his father’s entire life – the father’s birth and death dates in a family Bible and one tax record. The solution required genetic testing and back-tracking a young single woman across four counties in two states in the late seventeen hundreds and early eighteen hundreds.

Warren C. Pratt was born in southeastern Kentucky and spent his early years among relatives and friends in a small town of 800 residents. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Kentucky and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, all in electrical engineering. Dr. Pratt spent his career of about 30 years in the computer industry working in Colorado, Toronto, and California.

Dr. Pratt had a passing interest in genealogy while working; however, it was upon his 2006 retirement that it became a priority. The quest to spend a “little time” putting together a family history for his children developed into a thirst to resolve questions that others had abandoned as unsolvable. Warren has been very fortunate to receive excellent mentoring along the way and he enjoys attempting to repay that debt when he has the opportunity to help others.