This entry is part 2 of 11 in the series Bust Your Brick Wall Challenge

Before we can hope to solve a problem, we have to understand it. We need to define the brick wall that we need to overcome in order to reach our goal. Sometimes just talking through your problem with someone else or writing about it on your blog and describing the challenges you’ve encountered can give you new insights and a fresh idea of how to tackle your brick wall.

What’s Your Problem?

  • Are you faced with a common surname and a highly populated town (like I am)?
  • Or a surname with 1000 spelling variations?
  • Did your ancestor use several aliases?
  • Did your ancestor just disappear without a trace?
  • Are there missing records?
  • Did the courthouse/record office/church burn down?
  • Did everyone in the family name their children after a grandfather and now there are 10 men with the same name running around the same town?
  • Are all the records in another language?
  • Are the records on the other side of the world and not online?
  • Are you sure you are even solving the right brick wall? Did you prove the prior generations?
  • Did your ancestor die young without leaving many records?
  • Do you know enough to break through the brick wall or should you take a class?

Sometimes a well defined problem can create its own solution.

Take a moment and write down the brick wall you’ve just defined. Try framing the problem in terms of the the people involved, the time period and the place. Write about how big your brick wall is and how high it is. Write about all the ways you’ve already tried to break through this brick wall and who, if anyone, has worked on it with you. Writing out a detailed description of the problem will help to narrow your focus and will make sure you don’t veer off track chasing the first shiny object you see.

Checkout my post on defining my Brickwall Browns.

Brick Wall Challenge
Write a post defining your brick wall and share a link in the comments below.
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  1. I love your Brickwall Browns series… In fact before I even realised you had started this series I had started using it on my own blog. 🙂

    My series is called ‘Who is William?’ and I hope to find out who William really is. 🙂

    • Thank you Beth. I was reading your first post on William Williams just the other day and it seems like quite a formidable challenge! I’m so pleased that you’ve chosen to follow along with me. I haven’t solved my Brown brick wall yet by any stretch but I feel as though I am finally making some progress by following my plan.

      • I think it is a formidable challenge… Just like your Browns… Step 2 went live today so I’m starting on step 3.

        The method you use is fantastic! I’ll definitely be following along. 🙂


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