Over the last few years I have made a lot of progress on tracing my mother’s family. Over the next year or two I hope to do some research on ten problems I’ve identified. I am recording them here, and I will provide links, in the future, to any postings I do about each one.
What surprised me about this list is the huge range of skills and strategies that I would need to pursue these questions. Searching in accessible resources and repositories has helped, but not solved these problems. This is where research really begins. None of these are easy, but working on them will be a real education.
1. Jessie Ruth (McLeod) Murdock, 1861 – 1936
Jessie Ruth McLeod was born March 10, 1861 in Pictou, Nova Scotia. She is my great great grandmother along the all-female line. Her marriage certificate lists her parents as William and Rachel McLeod. She arrived in the U.S. around 1881. There is no evidence of her coming with close family, but it’s hard to believe she came without family or friends at all. Her subsequent life I know all about, but this is all I have of her family origins. I have only one possible match in the Canadian census, and the only other clue is that her eventual father in law, William Murdock, had also come from Pictou, much earlier.
- Skills needed: Make timeline for her, try once again to learn more about her father in law’s Pictou family, and explore naturalization records in Massachusetts. Re-explore family records for clues.
2. Catherine (Youngs Bennett Baldwin) Ross, 1835 – 1907
Another great-great-grandmother, Catherine Youngs, is the kind of mystery woman a person could chase for decades. Born in Surrey, England, perhaps on 4 Jul 1835, Catherine arrived in the U.S. around 1843. On one marriage certificate she lists her parents as William and Catherine Youngs. On another, she lists them as “unknown.” Three of her children thought her maiden name was Youngs, and one thought it was Spaulding. She was married three times, to Bennett, Baldwin, and Ross. After her marriage to Hiram Ross in 1870, I know a great deal about her. Before that, very little. Her first home in the U.S. could have been Massachusetts or New York, or someplace else. If she came with family, I know nothing about them.
- Skills needed: Analyze all data reported by her and by others about her, look for other British citizens in Allegany County, New York, explore early British census and vital records, explore U.S. immigration and naturalization records in Massachusetts and New York, look for the first husband William Bennett using methods appropriate for common name searches, and talk to my mother about the idea that her father could have been wrong about his grandmother’s maiden name being Spaulding.
3. Maria (Shipley) Martin, 1848 – ?
The problem with yet another great great grandmother, Maria Shipley, is almost the opposite problem. Born in Wolfville, Nova Scotia around 1841, I know a great deal about her Shipley/Innis/Dougherty/Bransby/Munroe ancestors. She came to the U.S. around 1885 with her husband and children, and at least one sister. But after her daughter’s wedding in 1892 in Milton, Massachusetts, at which time she seems to be separated from her husband, I have no knowledge of her. So I would like to know more.
- Skills needed: Find local newspapers for any town she might have been living in. Pin down locations and circumstances for each relative I know of in Massachusetts, which would be her estranged husband, her six children, her sister, and a niece.
4. Anna Jean (Bennett Gilley) Douglas, 1854 – 1939
My grandfather’s aunt Anna Jean Bennett was born in Belmont, New York in 1854 and her parents seem to have divorced, perhaps, soon after. By 1860 she was living with her mother and stepfather in Belmont, in obscure poverty. In 1873 she married a Boston druggist, Harrison Gilley. They divorced at some point and in 1884 she married a Providence attorney, William Wilberforce Douglas, who became a judge and, eventually, Chief Justice of the R.I. Supreme Court. From 1884 on, I am very familiar with her life. But other than that first marriage record, I have no idea what happened to her from 1860 to 1884. The lovely photographic portrait of her above was taken in Montreal during this period. Her brother was a globe-trotting artist. Who was her father (named William Bennett)? I would like to know her story, which I suspect is fascinating.
- Skills needed: Learn more about Canadian border crossings for this time period, as well as Montreal resources such as newspapers, employment records, city directories, high schools, art. Try to find her in the 1870/71 census, and 1880/81, possibly living with her father in the U.S. or Canada, using searches on multiple members of the family, since her father and brother have very common names. Since the first husband was from Boston, use city directories to pin down his locations over many years. Review all later artifacts, documents and photos for additional clues.
5. Hannah (Andrews) Lamphere, 1819? – 1878
Hannah Andrews, my ggg-grandmother, was born in Massachusetts or Connecticut around 1819. She has a brother Alden and her parents’ names may be Jesse and Sarah Andrews. She married Russell Lamphere, Jr. in 1838 in Preston, Connecticut. There were a number of Andrews who moved from northeastern Massachusetts to Preston about 130 years before Hannah was born. But Hannah may actually have been born in Massachusetts. Her brother married a girl from Springfield, Mass. I can find no sign of her parents – I wonder if they died young.
- Skills needed: do another literature search, analyze known information, learn more about guardianship records just over the border in the central portion of southern Massachusetts and also in Preston. Explore church records for the church where they married.
6. Daniel Lamphere, 1745? – 1808
Daniel Lamphere is the father of my gggg-grandfather Russell Lamphere, Sr. The detail above from Daniel’s 1808 probate file, about his son Russell, is part of the substantial evidence of the branch back to Daniel. Daniel, from Westerly, is likely descended somehow from George Lamphere, an original settler of Westerly, R.I. But there were several Daniel Lampheres in the area at that time and it’s confusing, so, no luck so far.
- Skills needed: Learning more about all the people surrounding Daniel and his wife Nancy is the strategy I have started and plan to continue. Track down his Westerly deeds. Find out where he’s buried.
7. Lydia (Miner) Lamphere, 1787 – 1849
Lydia Miner of Norwich, Connecticut, my gggg-grandmother, married Russell Lamphere, Sr. in 1807 in Norwich, CT. She passed away in Norwich in 1849. There is some suggestion she may have been born in Rhode Island, most likely just over the border in Westerly, like her husband. Miners originally settled the nearby southeastern corner of Connecticut. People familiar with the well-documented Miners/Minors think this problem should be easily solved, but so far, it hasn’t been. I believe Lydia and her husband were attracted by the growing factories in Norwich, since they lived in the Yantic Falls neighborhood. Of all of my family, they were among the earliest to abandon farming for industrial life. It’s possible that she and Russell met as factory hands, or that her father worked in an early factory.
- Skills needed: Local Yantic Falls history is likely to provide additional clues. Also, less easily accessed sources of local Westerly and Norwich information such as church records, town council records, the Connecticut State Library, cemetery records, and still more tracing of each of their children may help. Analyzing every available fact may bring up other possibilities. I would like to find where she and Russell are buried.
8. Thomas Arnold, 1733 – 1817
My ggggggg-grandfather Thomas Arnold comes from a well-documented Smithfield, Rhode Island family. But of course my branch is not so well documented. His wife, Rachel, might be a Smith. That possibility is repeated here and there with no evidence. I wonder if a concentrated look at deeds or other local records might help me determine Thomas’ association with nearby Smith families.
- Skills needed: Investigate town records from Smithfield and any deed connected with Thomas (who is not the only Thomas Arnold in that area). Continue to research each of the children.
9. Mercy (Ballou) Aldrich, 1778 – ?
Working on Thomas Arnold, and local deeds, might help me figure out whatever happened to his granddaughter, my ggggg-grandmother Mercy Ballou, who divorced Nathan Aldrich in 1803. I have no knowledge of her life after that, but I would like to know what happened to her. Her former husband, and his second wife, sold property to her father after the divorce, and I believe they moved up the road to Wrentham, Mass after that. I am trying to pin down her father Richard Ballou’s property to find a location she may have returned to after her divorce.
- Skills needed: There are numerous small family cemeteries in Smithfield. I wonder if she could have been buried there. Her father’s 1824 will only mentions his wife and “lawful heirs”, no specifics. Knowing far more about her siblings might help.
10. Russell R. Lamphere, 1818 – 1898
Of all the details of my ggg-grandfather Russell Lamphere‘s life that I don’t know, one thing that I am most curious about is his relationship with Connecticut Congressman John Turner Wait. Congressman Wait submitted a war reparations bill for Russell Lamphere three times in the 1880’s. What happened in Alabama that would have justified reparations, and why were they submitted by a Connecticut Congressman even though Russell and his family had moved from Alabama to Rhode Island? There is nothing in Congressman Wait’s rather illustrious family history that suggests a connection to either Russell’s wife or mother, and yet I suspect there is a connection, or at the very least, perhaps Mr. Wait left some papers.
- I am also learning a lot more about Tuscaloosa, Alabama during the Civil War. A kind reader approached NARA in Washington DC about any files connected to Russell’s war claims. Staff did some substantial searching; it wasn’t perfunctory. So I feel fairly confident there is nothing to be found there. I need to move on. I have a half-formed idea that studying Congressman Wait’s complete genealogy will reveal some answers to my own.
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