Over the years I have found that there are a few common causes of brick walls:
- Mistakes made on original documents (eg misspellings, wrong age etc)
- Mistakes made by the modern day transcriber (eg mistaking a copperplate "T" for an "F"
- Our own difficulty in reading original documents (due to poor quality of the document or archaic script)
- Searching in the wrong place for an ancestor (our ancestors were often more mobile than we imagine).
The good news is that most brick walls can be broken down simply by learning a few new search strategies, applying a little lateral thinking and doing a little studying. Patience is also a virtue in the demolition process - leaving a problem and coming back to it later will sometimes reveal an answer, and sometimes new documents become available online.
I have put together my ideas for breaking down brick walls in a new article on Hubpages. As always, I welcome any feedback or additional ideas.