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All genealogists ultimately hit the proverbial brick wall. We just can't seem to find a birth date for our great great grandfather that would help us distinguish him from another individual with his same name. We research for hours through microfilm hoping to find the piece of the puzzle that will suddenly flood our family tree with new branches. As genealogists we strive to not just get past the proverbial brick wall, but to tear it down. Not brick by brick, but all at once with one piece of information that helps us knock the wall down completely with one blast from our bulldozer. And when we do tear down that wall we are on cloud nine for weeks until we again ultimately hit another proverbial brick wall.

Through my many years of research I have come across several brick walls. Some I have torn down in just a matter of days, others in weeks, and some I have yet to tear down. The reason we want to tear down these brick walls has more to do with our passion and yearning to feel connected to our ancestors than any other reason. That indescribable feeling inside that each one of us feels when we find learn of a new ancestor, where they lived, who they lived with, what period of history did they live in, etc. This feeling is why we sit up late at night trying to build our family trees and why we will work on one piece of the puzzle for hours.

My advice to the beginning genealogists is to know when to walk away. Whether you put a particular brick wall aside for a couple days to a couple months knowing when to set aside that brick wall and turn your focus to another part of your family tree will help you to eventually break through that brick wall. Setting aside a brick wall may sound unproductive, but believe me, it works. When you have exhausted all possible avenues of research setting aside your brick wall and coming back to it later will help you bring a new perspective. From working on other branches of your family tree you may pick up a trick or two you didn't know before when researching that brick wall in the corner that is collecting dust. Walking away from a brick wall will eventually help you tear that annoying wall down. So, if you are currently banging your head against a brick wall and all you are coming up with is headaches and bumps, walk away. Take some time off from genealogy, go to the park, have a picnic, and pick up your genealogical research another day. Or, pick up a different file and start working on that part of your family tree. When you feel rested and ready to tackle the brick wall again, go for it. And if you still can't tear down that brick wall, my advice is to buy a helmet. Because we all know that some brick walls just aren't meant to be torn down.

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Comment by Jennifer Eklund, PLCGS on August 2, 2009 at 2:43pm
Kate, just think of the walls that will come down for a lot of genealogists once the 1940 census is released April 2, 2012.
Comment by Kate Steere on July 31, 2009 at 6:12am
Hi Jennifer-

I've done this with both of my major brick walls, and each time I come back to them, each time I'm able to find a little more information to help tumble the wall a bit. :)

One reason is the additional information that may be available online since the last time I searched, another is that I learn how to use the resources available a little better as I assist other people in their searches. ;)

As you say, some walls just won't fall, but we can have fun trying, LOL :)

I enjoy reading your blog postings, thank you-
Kate
Comment by patsy adkins on July 30, 2009 at 9:32pm
I couldn't agree more with you Jennifer. Believe me Ive been there done that several times over. I walk away from it and give all a rest. There have been brick walls that Ive looked at for a long time because I know the information isnt there for me to find at the moment.
With that being said though when I have walked away from all my research something will turn up and it will get me looking again.
Me and two other ladies who I meet on line about 10 years ago started working on Egnor Family out WV. We took information and brought it up to date as will as we could. There are still brick walls in that family were still trying to figure out some have come down and others NOT!!!!
We always say that our brick wall people were either in the witness protection program is the reason we can't find anything on them.
patsy

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