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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.

I absolutely need an “X-RAYS BOX.” Right away.

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.

Direct Evidence

Her marriage:[1]

At Preston, Mr. RUSSELL LAMPHEAR, to Miss Lydia Miner.

Evaluation

  • 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[3]:

The scanty 23 January 1849 death notice for Lydia at least gives an age, 62.

Evaluation

  • 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.

Indirect Evidence

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)[2]:

I think for a woman who married in 1807 and had 14 children, being remembered in this manner by a loving son 50 years after her death is very sweet.

The story, further, tells us that Lydia and Russell Lamphere had 14 children; seven boys and seven girls:

Note that the “genial old gentleman, fond of stories” was Lydia’s son William Lamphere, and the rest of the paragraph refers to Lydia’s husband, Russell Lamphere.

Evaluation:

  • 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.

While I don’t have a picture of Lydia of course, this photograph is of her daughter, Lucy Ann (Lamphere) Cook, 1808-1865. From the collection of L. Buck, used with permission.

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.

Footnotes

[1] “Married,” The Courier (Norwich, Conn.), 20 May 1807, p. 3, col. 3; image copy, GenealogyBank.com, (http://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 18 June 2011).

[2] “Letters from the People : Old Times and Old Folks,” Norwich (Connecticut) Bulletin, 12 September 1898, p. [unknown], col. 3.

[3] “DIED,” Norwich (Connecticut) Evening Courier, 23 January 1849, vol. VII, no. 141, whole num. 541, p. 3, col. 1.

The post you are reading is located at: https://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2017/03/12/brick-wall-journey-part-1/

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About two years ago I posted my top 10 problems and that post actually led to the solution of one of those problems.  So I am trying here, again, and my list today is somewhat different, due to progress made in several areas.

1. Catherine Young (Bennett) (Baldwin) Ross (1832? – 1907).  The first “gap” in my mother’s family tree is for the parents of my gg-grandmother, Catherine Young (Bennett) (Baldwin) Ross, known as “Grandma Ross” to my grandfather.  Grandma Ross took my grandfather in for a while after his mother died and his father was busy with other things.  He knew about her three marriages because he scrawled all the names on the back of this picture – he was descended from her second husband, Edward Baldwin.

Catherine was born in Surrey, England, possibly 04 Jun 1832.  The borders of Surrey were altered around that time, making this extra-difficult.  Her father’s name may be William B and her mother, Catherine (from her death record).  In the 1900 census she gave her immigration year as 1843; the 1905 census says 1840.  Searching English census records, ship passenger lists and American records has turned up a few speculative possibilities but nothing that seems to fit together.  My earliest record for her is an 1860 census record with her second husband at Belmont in western New York; eventually she had four children, William Blackstone Bennett, Anna Jean Bennett, Harriet Elizabeth Baldwin and Miles Edward Baldwin.  I have found no trace of any member of her original family.

My latest research track:

  • try and pin down her elusive first husband, William Bennett, who was born in Massachusetts.  I suspect she was divorced rather than widowed.
  • Keep investigating the idea that her first marriage might have taken place in Massachusetts, and even the divorce could have happened there.  It did not happen in Allegany County, New York.
  • Keep pursuing possible clues from DNA.
Catherine Baldwin, circa 1900 in Providence, RI, in her 60's.

Catherine Baldwin, circa 1900 on Marshall Street, Providence, R.I. around 1900.

2. Sarah Arnold (1776? – 1861?).  Having confirmed my relationship to Sarah’s husband, Jesse Andrews, I now need to move on to determine which part of the large Arnold family in Warwick Sarah’s father, Joseph Arnold, is from.  That name is pulled from Sarah’s 1795 marriage record in Warwick, Rhode Island.  Sarah is, as far as I can tell, not mentioned in The Arnold Memorial or other books published about the Pawtuxet/Warwick Arnolds, which probably means that she was not mentioned in any local birth or probate records (although I continue to check).  A Joseph Arnold is sometimes noted nearby Jesse and Sarah in census records. 

This would be an ideal common-name problem for me to tackle because I have good access to many records. No excuses!

My latest research track:

  • make my own documentation of all possible Joseph Arnolds, using vital, probate and land records in Warwick and East Greenwich.
  • try to pin down any further details of the neighbor Joseph Arnold, including nearby possible grown children.
  • Explore Joseph Arnold more widely in court, military and cemetery records.
  • I do not know the names of most of Sarah’s children, but continue to try and find those names, possibly in Norwich, Connecticut, as hints to her family.
One of several pages of Joseph Arnold deeds indexed at Warwick City Hall.  Note the "S.D." and "S.W." indicating "Son of D" and "Son of W".  Not every deed has that, of course.

One of several pages of Joseph Arnold deeds indexed at Warwick City Hall. Note the “S.D.” and “S.W.” indicating “Son of D” and “Son of W”. Not every deed has that, of course. That would be too easy.

3. James Lawrence (1807-1882).  My 4x-great grandfather James Lawrence was born in England in 1807, and his father’s name may have been James.  In 1835, he married Ann Shortridge (Shortriggs) in Dorchester, Massachusetts.  The next twenty years found them in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Connecticut before ending up in Providence by 1860 with several of their almost-grown children.  According to the 1865 census, he was a machinist.  If I could learn more about James’ origins, it might help me to verify my complicated relationship to the Lawrences through DNA testing.

My latest research track:

  • Keep looking for ship passenger records and court naturalization records for James.
  • Other than birthplaces listed by his children years later, I am having trouble pursuing him across the eastern U.S. through the 1830’s – 1850’s, although I do have an 1850 census record for them in Virginia.  Try finding clues from that for further research.
  • Learn more about Dorchester resources such as directories, businesses, and immigrant populations there.
Places fo birth:  England, South Carolina, North Carolina, Connecticut, Rhode Island.  My father was right.  My mother DOES descend from a long line of gypsies.

Places of birth for James’ children, from the 1865 census: England, South Carolina, North Carolina, Connecticut, Rhode Island.

4. Jessie Ruth MacLeod Murdock (1861-1936).  Thanks to a helpful cousin who saw my blog post, I learned about a 1954 local genealogy book written by the nephew of my brick-wall gg-grandmother back in Pictou, Nova Scotia. That was a great moment, but imagine my surprise as I obtained the book and saw her listed as “adopted” – a sentiment I do not believe she shared.  Although I now know more about my gg-grandmother Jessie’s early life in Pictou, Nova Scotia, I continue to know nothing about her mother, Rachel, and her relationship to the people who may have adopted her, William and Mary MacLeod.  Jessie came to the U.S. around 1881, according to the 1900 and 1905 census.  I can find no evidence of her journey or any relatives coming with her.  She married Louis Murdock in 1883, making me wonder if she was related to Louis’ adopted father, William Murdock, also from Pictou.  There are some Rachel’s in the Murdock family.

My latest research track:

  • investigate land and probate records of the Murdocks in Pictou through microfilm at the New England Historic and Genealogical Society library in Boston.
  • see if the name of her third daughter – Jessie Ellen – can be matched with any people from Pictou.
  • naturalization records
The MacLean farm which became the home of William and Mary (MacLean) Murdock, from page 192

The farm in Lorne, Pictou, where Jessie MacLeod spent her teen years, from page 192, The Pioneers and Churches.

5. Lydia Minor (1787-1849). Now that I have solved the Andrews problem, I plan to move one generation back to the Lydia Minor problem.  She married Russell Lamphere in Norwich, Connecticut in May, 1807 “At Preston”, as reported by the announcement in the Norwich Courier. Lydia and Russell had seven boys and seven girls in Norwich Falls, Connecticut.  No vital records for the marriage, the children, or Lydia’s death has been found.  A Norwich Courier notice indicates she died 18 January 1849.

Russell was from Westerly, Rhode Island, and at age 32 in 1808 his father’s probate papers said he was “late of Westerly now residing in Norwich”, however census and town records show him moving between Westerly and Norwich several times.  So the marriage at Preston could be because she was from Preston, or perhaps they were both originally Westerly residents.

Lydia’s 1849 death notice gives her age as 62, making her birth (if true) around 1787.  There was a Lydia Minor born to Jerusha Peabody and Ludowick Minor in nearby Stonington, Connecticut in 1787, however, I am pursuing another person that may be THAT Lydia.

My latest research track:

  • Examine deeds and probate for a potential “Minor” family in Westerly and Preston
  • Look for probate for Lodowick Minor at Stonington.
  • Keep pursuing the possible sister for Lydia, Eliza.
A quote from Lydia's 80 year old son, William, from the Norwich Bulletin, 12 Sep 1898, reminiscing with a friend about his mother.  Sent to me by a kind researcher in Norwich.

A quote from Lydia’s 80 year old son, William, from the Norwich Bulletin, 12 Sep 1898, reminiscing with a friend about his mother. The article later makes it clear both families had 14 children each, in Lydia’s case, 7 boys and 7 girls.  Sent to me by a kind researcher in Norwich.

 6. Maria Shipley Martin (1848? – ?).  Maria or Mariah Shipley Martin, my gg-grandmother, has a fascinating family tree that includes immigrants from Scotland and England who came to Nova Scotia in the 1700’s.  So she is one of those mystery ancestors whose origins are well known, but she disappears from records after 1892, when her daughter got married at her home in Milton, Massachusetts.  I suspect, by that time, she was separated from her husband, but I have never found any further record of her.  Massachusetts was pretty strict about death records so perhaps she had gone with a relative to another state before her death, or perhaps she did, indeed, divorce and remarry.  My family had no knowledge of this branch, so I have found the stories of her children Bessie (my great grandmother), Clara, Hazel and Daisy, but I have found very little about Minnie, May, and John Anderson Martin.

My latest research track:

  • keep looking for a divorce record in several counties.  Look further for a second marriage in Massachusetts.
  • Look for her death record at the NEHGS library in Boston.
  • Try Milton, Mass. city directories.
  • Try naturalization records.
A book of her grandson's sayings and some fabric scraps, put together by Maria's daughters in 1898 after the death of daughter Bessie.

A book of her grandson’s Teddy’s sayings and some fabric scraps, put together by Maria’s daughters in 1898 after the death of daughter Bessie.

7.  Nancy (——-) Lamphere (1752?-1833). Nancy may be a Tefft, but I have no confidence in that so I am open to all names.  She married Daniel Lamphere around 1774 and had six children.  The only records I have for her are her husband’s probate in 1808 (and later), a number of Westerly deeds that she is mentioned in, and the birth records of her children in Westerly. She may have died around 1833.  If she was living next to her son Russell Lamphere in 1810 (perhaps in her third of the house), then apparently she was sometimes called Anne, an obvious variant that I haven’t been using very much.  

My latest research track:

  • Explore middle names that were used by Nancy’s children for their own offspring.
  • Do a thorough review of all the neighbors from early census records, and also those mentioned in the deeds.
  • Look at the spouses of her children for possible connections.
Transcription of Nancy's mark on the 1817 deed to Nathan F. Dixon.  So, Nancy was not able to write her name.

Transcription of Nancy’s mark on the 1817 deed to Nathan F. Dixon. So, Nancy was not able to write her name.

8. Rachel Smith (1734? – ?).   I estimate that my 7th great grandmother Rachel was born around 1735 (based on first child born mid-1750’s), and signed a deed in 1768.  She may have been a Smith.  She married Thomas Arnold around 1754 and they had 5 children that I know of: Lucy, Asa, Catherine, Aaron, and Philadelphia. My most recent clue is that Thomas Arnold purchased some property from John and Mary Smith very early on in Smithfield.  The children ended up in Cumberland, but the story of Thomas and Rachel seems to end around 1775 and although the children stayed in Cumberland, I can find no further trace of Thomas and Rachel – perhaps they died young.  Truly, this one may never be solved which, of course, just seems like a fun challenge.

My latest research track:

  • Pursue the early, local Smiths
  • Keep looking for the exact John and Mary Smith that sold land to Thomas Arnold, following clues in the deed, which I now have.
  • Try looking at town council records for Smithfield.

 

Smithfield records, held in Central Falls, will probably be the best source of Rachel's family.

Smithfield records, held in Central Falls, will probably be the best source of Rachel’s family.

9. James Anderson (1748?-1796).  With the help of some fellow researchers I know so much about my 5x-great grandfather James Anderson of Fells Point, Baltimore, later Chester, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia.  Usually, knowing this much should have led, long ago, to knowing about his origins, but not so in this case.  His original family and place of birth remain a mystery.

My latest research track:

  • My cousins and I are focusing on DNA at this point.
  • Of the latest clues uncovered here and there, the ones that seem the most realistic are for other, earlier Anderson privateers off the coast of Maryland.  I may be able to explore those clues further in Maryland court records online, or at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
  • Think about how to acquire further records which may be held in England.

New York No 759. These are to Certify that Capt James Anderson was by a Majority of Votes regualrly admitted a Member of the New York Marine Society at a Meeting held the 11th day of June A.D. 1781 Given under my hand and the Seal of the Society this 11th day of June - Annoque Domini 1781.  Geo. Fowler Sec. [illegible] President.

New York No 759. These are to Certify that Capt James Anderson was by a Majority of Votes regualrly admitted a Member of the New York Marine Society at a Meeting held the 11th day of June A.D. 1781 Given under my hand and the Seal of the Society this 11th day of June – Annoque Domini 1781. Geo. Fowler Sec. [illegible] President.

10. Nathaniel Brown (1741? – 1798).  The last one is from my neglected line of Haydens/Parmenters, a closely intermarried family in Sudbury, Massachusetts that has not been that difficult to trace.  Nathaniel Brown married Elinor Hayden in 1761 in Sudbury and was “of Framingham” but I know the neighborhood where my ancestors lived was right on the border between Sudbury and Framingham, so he may have been very close by.  Nathaniel and Elinor had 11 children, and he died rather young in 1798.  There is a strong theory that he is the son of Thomas Brown and Abigail Cheney, originally of Cambridge, but no real proof.  And Brown was a common name in early Sudbury so anything is possible.  Deeds and probate have not solved this yet.

My latest research track:

  • Keep looking through probate records for local possible fathers of Nathaniel, to see if they mention him
  • Go through Nathaniel’s earliest land transactions more carefully.  He took over the farm of Elinor’s father, so the transactions are not that revealing.  Could he have been a cousin?  How did he have money for a purchase?
  • Learn more about the early history of Sudbury and the place of the Browns in it.
An early Sudbury house built by the Parmenters, in a line more closely related to Midge's husband than to mine.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

An early Sudbury house built by the Parmenters.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

In closing

It’s possible I wrote this so I could choose my next project.  Still not sure which it will be.

The post you are reading is located at:  https://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/10/17/my-top-ten-genea-mysteries/

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