brick wall

Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.

A brick wall is frequently used as a metaphor in all aspects of life to denote a severe obstacle; a difficulty that seems nearly impossible to penetrate; a problem difficult to resolve. The metaphor, of course, derives from the idea of brick as an nearly impenetrable substance.

In genealogy, a brick wall suggests a coming to a dead end in one's research. After all known resources and tactics have been exhausted, a researcher will often "hit a brick wall" and can go no further in resolving a particular genealogical problem. Brick walls occur for many reasons, including but not limited to the experience level of the researcher, the availability of sources, access to sources and, sometimes, simply being too close to the problem. Brick walls are often solved by a fresh point of view—having some else review the problem, or putting the problem aside for a period of time and returning to it with one's own fresh point of view. As more and more resources become available on the Internet and elsewhere, patience may be all that's needed in resolving some brick walls. In some cases, a person may hire a genealogist to resolve a brick wall.

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