So you have hit the ‘brick wall’ in your family research. Here are a few suggestions to possibility spark some new and untried methods. First examine the family surname. If it is a rather common name, focus on family individuals who you found to have more unusual given names. Even if such a person is a 3rd great granduncle and not direct lineage, it could direct you to the right branch. If a given name is Godfrey, Morrison, Redmond, Vaughn, or Crispin; you do have a better chance even if the surname is ‘Smith’. You can do a search in US census records using just a given name. Also that more unusual given name could have been a mother’s maiden name – well worth checking. If helps to narrow if down if you know which state they lived in at a certain census time, but never just check that state. A reminder, an ancestor could move several different locations over the decades and even later return to a home state.
Also on surnames, there can be a variation in the spelling of the name over the years. Even if it is a short name with only a few letters and one syllable, it might have been longer at one time and even misspelled by record keepers. Some examples are Diaz, Cox, Bush, Pen, Gray or Pitt. All could have a ‘S’ or ‘es’ ending or ‘Gray’ could be written ‘Grey’, etc. You just have to try different arrangements.
Then of course a surname could have been changed, even aliases. A person could have switched the first and middle names around, they might be using a grandmother’s surname or even changed a foreign given name or surname to more of an English version (Anglicization). You have an ancestor with the surname of Gallagher and it was originally Ó Gallchobhair is one example. It might have been Mailloux to be changed to Mayhew and Hywell then changed to Powell – quite a difference. So investigate online the numerous spellings of a given or surname and keep a list. Refer to those spellings when you are going through records.
Another problem that slows the search down is then a record keeper or clerk adds another letter to the beginning of a surname just because that name began with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u). They figured the necessary letter was left off by mistake and the clerk will correct it. When in fact the name did begin with a vowel; such as ‘Illier’, a clerk might have made it ‘Hillier’, making your research more difficult.
So a few suggestions to try out to maybe finally break through the brick wall.