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From Frustration to Findings: How Mind Maps Can Help Solve Genealogy Brick Walls

I understand that genealogy research can be a challenging and frustrating process, especially when you hit a brick wall and can't seem to find the information you need. But don't worry, there are strategies you can use to overcome these obstacles and make progress in your research.

One technique that can be especially helpful is mind mapping. This is a FUN, visual tool that allows you to organize and connect information in a way that makes it easier to see patterns and potential solutions. To create a mind map, start by writing your research question or problem in the center of the page, and then add branches for different types of information, such as family members, historical events, or sources you've consulted.

As you add more branches and sub-branches, you can begin to make connections between different pieces of information and look for patterns or clues that may help you solve your brick wall problem. For example, if you're trying to identify the parents of an ancestor, you could create branches for the ancestor, potential parents, and sources of information about their lives. You could then add sub-branches for events that connect these individuals, such as census records or land transactions.

Mind map using sticky notes. These are EASY to move around and quickly updated. No erasing and re-drawing or updating a computer document.

I love using sticky notes for this. I can easily change, update, and rearrange. Above is a real life example (messy handwriting and all!). If I use a sheet of paper, I have to erase a lot or start over to change or update things. And even though I can do it on the computer, it doesn't help my brain engage the way it does when I use sticky notes. Interacting with information "3D" really helps us remember and engages more of our brain power! I can later create a more permanent, "pretty" version for my files after I solve the puzzle if I choose to do that. (Example below.)

Be messy. Write down every thought you have! I solved a TOUGH problem one time by capturing some thoughts that - at the time - I considered silly and ridiculous. "Maybe he had a double life and that's why he's not on the census." "Was he so poor that he moved around a lot? He left the town when he ran out of credit?" Guess what? Those were the turning point and the clues that solved my mystery.

Mind map created on the computer. It's pretty, but it's not great for engaging my brain to THINK through complex problems. Paper works better and is easier to update!

One of the benefits of mind mapping is that it allows you to approach the problem from different angles and consider multiple possibilities. It encourages out-of-the-box thinking, which can be particularly helpful when trying to break through a brick wall in your research. By visually organizing the information and making connections between different pieces of the puzzle, you may be able to identify new leads or find solutions that you hadn't considered before.

So if you're feeling frustrated with your genealogy research, don't give up! Try creating a mind map to help you organize your thoughts and identify new leads. And remember, genealogy research is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time, patience, and persistence, but the rewards of discovering your family history are well worth the effort. Good luck!


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