It is my turn here again at Worldwide Genealogy, and I will admit, although I've been ruminating on possible topics for the past week I have persisted in drawing an absolute blank.
It struck me then that this is a topic in and of itself. We have all reached the point in our research where we find nothing and how we approach this can be the difference between a temporary brickwall and a complete stop. So I thought I'd share a few of the things I do when faced with the frustrating experience of no results.
Take a broader view. Sometimes research blanks are the result of the whole 'missing the forest for the trees thing.' The cluster genealogy approach can be a good one - looking at friends, neighbours and associates - so can branching out into local history. Read about the area in which your person lived, they might have a sentence or two about your person or they could spark something. If nothing else, they will give you an insight into the life of your person. I'm an advocate of more general histories for the same reason. To take the Australian example, the experiences of convict ancestors will make no sense if you don't look not only at Australian history generally but that of Britain.
Newspapers. Ok, so this is related to taking the broader view. I don't mean those specific searches we all do scouring the pages for a certain name or event, but a general browse of newspapers of the period. What didn't make it into the history books but could be effecting your 'blank.' Fire, Flood, Act of God?
Google it. No really. It's not the be all and end all of research tools but mix up your keywords and have a look. The same goes for library catalogues. Gems are to be found in amongst the manure.
Talk about it. Whether you blog or just dump it all out on friends and family, a fresh set of eyes can make all the difference. A warning though, sometimes this can result in your wanting to beat relatives over the head as they blithely reply with "oh I know that... such and such married such and such... I've got a letter..."
Set it aside. No, I don't mean giving up. Archives and Libraries are always working on finding aids, collection cataloguing and making new things available to the public. Digital databases are adding more records all the time. Come back in six months and try again.
There are of course circumstances when there simply is nothing to be found. Hard to accept but sometimes we will just never know.