I occurred to me that many amateur family historians like myself would be interested in the process of breaking down a brick wall (although in this case, it’s holding strong). Here are a few steps so far; feel free to leave comments or suggestions.
Hannah Andrews, 1818-1878
Hannah is my ggg-grandmother (through her daughter Emma Lamphere, then Emma’s son Russell Earl Darling who is my g-grandfather).
1. Where she was born. No birth record found to date. In 1850 and 1860 her census records report that she was born in Massachusetts around 1819. Hannah’s death certificate on microfilm at the Rhode Island Historical Society says that she was born in Coventry, Connecticut and lists her parents as Jesse and Sarah Andrews. In later census records her children reported that she was born in Connecticut. However after the removal to Alabama it wouldn’t be surprising if the children got mixed up.
2. Her life story. My ggg-grandmother Hannah Andrews (“of Ashford, Connecticut”) married Russell Lamphere in 1838 in Norwich, Connecticut and they had 5 children. Around 1852 they moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Family legend has it that Russell started some kind of store. The Civil War broke out and in its chaotic aftermath they lost their business. They were in the 1860 and 1865 Tuscaloosa census records but by 1870 Russell and the youngest daughter were in Meridian, Mississippi and I have never found an 1870 record of Hannah. During the 1870′s they all moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where Hannah died of gall stones in 1878. The obituary noted that the death occurred “after a long and painful illness”.
3. Relatives found through the census. The 1850 census shows that Hannah and Russell were sharing a house with Alden Andrews and his young family in Norwich, CT (image 132 on Ancestry.com). Alden is close in age (about 31) to Hannah and also reported being born in Massachusetts. I have no actual evidence but I assume Hannah and Alden are siblings. Later, in 1880, Alden’s son, Merrill, is living with Hannah’s widower Russell, and apparently Russell got a job for him in the cotton mill where he was a supervisor.
Unfortunately, searches for Alden are no more fruitful than for Hannah. Alden’s 1873 death record in Coventry, Rhode Island does not list parents. However he has two marriage records which I have (so far) only seen abstracts of. The first wife was from Springfield, Massachusetts and the second was from a Pomfret, CT family. Most of Alden’s children report in the 1880 and 1900 census that he was born in Massachusetts (Alden’s children never moved out of Conn./R.I. so their memories may have been clearer).
4. Looking for the father Jesse Andrews. Given that Hannah was living in Ashford, CT in 1838 at the time of her marriage, naturally we hope to find her father Jesse there. There is an 1830 census record of an older couple living alone. That seems unlikely. There is an 1820 Jesse Andrews household of 11 people. That’s possible, but seems less likely since Hannah and Alden report being born in MA a year or two before that. I cannot find him in the 1840 census for Ashford. In New England in 1840 there are four Jesse Andrews: North Haven, CT has two; Andover, VT has one, and there is a Jesse and Sarah Andrews family in Montague, MA who are, sadly for me, not right because they never left MA and they produced other children during the years Hannah and Alden could have been born.
I find the North Haven connection unlikely because geographically the locations are quite distinct, and because I see no evidence that those people ever left CT and lived elsewhere. There is a large family of Andrews in Farmington, CT and one or two Jesse’s but I have not been able to make any of them work out.
If Jesse Andrews was dead by the 1830′s, there may be guardianship records somewhere for Hannah or Alden.
5. Other connected persons. At the encouragement of the NEHGS staff I pursued the identity of the Colchester CT minister who officiated at Hannah and Russell’s wedding. The two of them were from Ashford and Norwich, respectively so where did Colchester fit in? I learned from some old Google books that Joel R. Arnold was a popular minister of the First Congregational Church of Colchester and he increased the church membership significantly during his relatively short tenure there. There is a CT Church Record Slip Index at NEHGS on microfilm which covers the church but I could not find this church marriage record; I have no real evidence that it took place in the church building.
6. Looking at the children. I have tracked all of Hannah’s and also her brother Alden’s children like a stalker. Many of Alden’s sons died young. I am looking for stray relatives living with them or around them, and looking at places they lived and what they named their children.
7. Alden? Yea, ok, this makes you think. It certainly appears to be a family name. More recently, my mother also has a cousin Alden, recently deceased. The younger Alden’s mother, Gladys, was the older Alden’s great-great niece. Would someone name their child after a great-great uncle who passed away 60 years prior? I suppose they might if they thought it sounded nice. But that’s neither here nor there. I am looking for Andrews families linked with Aldens. And I am also looking for a Sarah (—) Andrews who might have a mother named Hannah. The Aldens are well documented, and the Andrews not as much; in both cases the books I’ve perused haven’t helped.
8. Next steps. View the microfilms of Alden’s two marriages. Look for probate or guardianship records for Hannah or Alden, possibly in nearby Massachusetts such as Brimfield, Sturbridge, Southbridge and also perhaps in Springfield since Alden married a girl there. Keep exploring Andrews relatives in Coventry, CT, the birthplace mentioned in Hannah’s death record. Perhaps the children remembered visiting a relative there once and confused that with her birth place. Try to figure out what, if anything, Alden did during the Civil War. He would have been in his 40′s. And one more thing, I have been advised to look at Andrews articles in TAG and have not done so yet; but I think TAG will only contain the Farmington Andrews. But I will try it.