I’ve decided to revisit a brick wall ancestor, my 4x-great grandmother, Lydia Minor, and to create, along the way, a complete guide to this journey. I hope readers with their own Rhode Island brick walls will follow along, and perhaps choose one problem to explore on their own as this goes on. The problem originates in Rhode Island but then veers westward; something that many readers will identify with.
I’m not kidding when I say this will probably take years. I chose this problem because it’s pretty hopeless. Eight years has not solved it yet, so there is no low hanging fruit. It should be/would be/could be solvable – the Minors of southeastern Connecticut are pretty well known – but this particular individual has eluded researchers up to now. Lydia Minor is the great-grandmother of my mother’s grandfather, Russell Earl Darling.
The problem, if it is ever solved, will be solved by devising and implementing strategies, which will often involve seeking connections between small details that can be gleaned about Lydia and her known family. So, let’s strategize.
The research question
It’s important to state, in writing, the question. The question needs to narrow down the focus, but also to refer to specific people.
Who were the parents of Lydia Miner, who married Russell Lamphear in 1807 in Preston, Connecticut?
OK. Now I know what I’m looking for.
Lydia Minor’s life
I’d like to begin by showing the little I know about who Lydia Minor really was, so that readers will begin to appreciate her as much as I do.
- The marriage was recorded in a Norwich, Connecticut newspaper as happening in Preston (Connecticut), the town immediately east of Norwich. When I review facts on the husband, Russell, it will be clear that he was living in Norwich at this time, having recently moved from Westerly, Rhode Island.
- With few Minors in Preston, no clues have surfaced to connect Lydia or Russell to Preston. But embarrassingly, I now realize that although I have consulted The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Records, Preston 1687-1850, Parts 1 & 2, some New London County probate districts via microfilm at the NEHGS library in Boston, and some Preston deeds at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, I have never been to Preston Town Hall. And there’s nothing like going to the town hall. Well, that’s why we’re doing this! Adding it to the list.
- “Miss” Lydia Miner is an indication this is a first marriage. Based on her age (from her death record, coming up) of about 20 or 21, that was very likely anyway.
Lydia’s newspaper death notice clipping was something I ordered from the New London County Historical Society:
- The notice, in a Norwich, Connecticut newspaper, specifies that the death occurred at “Norwich Falls.” The Falls is a neighborhood that became industrialized thanks to water power in the very early 1800’s, and (as will be reviewed in the future) evidence points to Russell and Lydia spending many years there.
- Lydia died on 18 January, 1849, still married to her husband Russell. Her age in January, 1849 of 62 years suggests a birth year of 1787 or, even more likely, 1786. Russell certainly knew how old she was, but who the source of this information was, and whether it was reported directly to the paper for insertion or copied from some town record, is unknown. No death record was found on three separate searches in the Norwich Town Hall or in the printed two volume set, Vital records of Norwich, 1659-1848. Also none was found at the Connecticut State Archives in Hartford.
- Western papers please copy is a good indication that Lydia had loved ones west of Connecticut. Although only one son and one daughter are specifically known to have headed west, this is something to keep in mind as the children are explored.
Here are some thoughts about her as shared by her son William in his old age as he was reminiscing to a reporter, along with an old friend (this clipping was sent to me by a very kind researcher on a related line who noticed Russell Lamphere on my blog):
The story, further, tells us that Lydia and Russell Lamphere had 14 children; seven boys and seven girls:
- Lydia and Russell not only had 14 children, but seven were girls and seven were boys.
- Lydia did all her own housework (I do know that several of the oldest children were girls, which was probably a help) and met “the demands of society” which I take to mean she led a normal life and interacted with her community.
- The Lampheres were Methodists. Good to know.
- The clue about the children living long lives is barely true, as a child-by-child examination will show, but clearly some of them did.
Research plan (just the beginning of the plan, I will keep adding):
- Visit Preston Town Hall to seek birth and marriage records for Lydia, and take a careful look at ALL Minor records in the deeds and probate (although Connecticut separates probates into “districts” I notice the towns often have older materials on hand).
- Review Thomas Minor Descendants 1608-1981 by John Augustus Minor to build a list of all the Lydia Minors that are not the right one. I’ve done this before, but I think I’ll start fresh. Also, in that book, explore Minors who were ever resident in Preston.
- Review historical background materials on Norwich and Preston.
- Investigate Methodists churches in Norwich Falls in the first half of the 1800’s.
- Carefully review available record sets for Norwich and Preston on Ancestry.com, AmericanAncestors.org, and FamilySearch.org, as well as any Revolutionary War records on Fold3 for Minors/Miners from Preston. I haven’t reviewed web resources on this for a while, and it changes quickly.
- Consider a visit to the New London County Historical Society in New London, after the review is well underway and the research plan is more fully developed.
Next: Starting from the beginning, I’ll review the early life and residences of Lydia’s husband Russell, trying to determine where he met Lydia.
 “Married,” The Courier (Norwich, Conn.), 20 May 1807, p. 3, col. 3; image copy, GenealogyBank.com, (http://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 18 June 2011).
 “Letters from the People : Old Times and Old Folks,” Norwich (Connecticut) Bulletin, 12 September 1898, p. [unknown], col. 3.
 “DIED,” Norwich (Connecticut) Evening Courier, 23 January 1849, vol. VII, no. 141, whole num. 541, p. 3, col. 1.
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