This has been a topic that I have written before, but I feel it is well worth repeating. One of the things that has helped me the most when breaking down a brick wall is discovering the story of the people that lived around my ancestors. It does not matter if they are in a rural or urban setting.
For those ancestors living in a rural setting it is important to look at the people that are living around them. Due to the low population in those types of settings you had to make real sure to be friendly with your neighbors. There were a variety of threats in the surrounding area that you would have to depend on those around you. This could vary from a simple barn or house raising, food, wild animals, weather, fire, or Indian threat. You had strength in numbers. It is always wise to plot out the properties around your ancestors to see who the other people were. See where they came from. Always good to figure out the migration trail of those that lived around them. People did not tend to move to a particular area without having some previous knowledge that would draw them to a particular area.
Pay special attention to who your ancestors bought there first land from in a particular area. What was their relationship? Often was the person sent out from the old place to check out the land and make the purchase. Knowing as much as you can about them will help you with your own search.
Now as time went by into the latter half of the 19th century there would be a influx of people into urban settings. The opportunities for jobs was higher and life was much steadier. This applied not only to people that had lived in the country for a while, but also to new immigrants to the country. Vast majority of people that lived in urban type settings rented their homes. City directories become a valuable tool for the Urban researcher. Pay attention to who the neighbors were. Was your family living in a ethnic neighborhood? Where was the local church? Who did they work for? All of these again will shed light on your families past.
As always I look forward to your thoughts. Don't get caught in the trap of wearing blinders. You can find solutions to your brick walls. You just need to expand your investigation.