Saturday, June 4, 2011

My New York Brick Walls

Lately I have switched from conference organization and speaking mode to deep-research mode.  While both are fun, let me tell you it feels good to get lost in research for awhile.

I've been traveling all over the state of Massachusetts visiting Registry of Deeds, Probate Courts, libraries, cemeteries and whatever else I can find for my house history research.  I have been particularly lucky to have visited the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) several times in the last few weeks. 

NEHGS is an exciting place to research because they have so many resources that span many geographic locations.  For the first time in a long time I actually got some research done on my own family thanks to NEHGS.  Many of my ancestors come from New York, a place I can't get to very often.  Luckily NEHGS has New York records available that I can't easily get access to.

It seems that my visits to NEHGS have really got me considering my own family history again.  I've been so inspired that I'm going to attempt to tackle two of my biggest brick walls.

The Immigrant Ancestor

Brick wall #1 is my immigrant ancestor William Edwards.

William came to America some time before the Revolutionary War from Wales so the story goes.  He is said (according to a DAR application) to have served as a patriot in the Revolution but I've never seen any conclusive evidence that separates him from others also named William Edwards.  I have no birth, marriage or death records for him.  I do however, have baptism records for his first three children, Elizabeth Edwards (born on 6 Apr 1788), William Edwards (born Oct 1789) and my ancestor John Edwards (born 6 Jan 1792).  All three were born in Germantown, New York.  William appears in the 1800 US Federal Census in Charleston, NY but not in 1810.  More children were born in Montgomery County New York with the last one being born in 1808.

  1. Did William die before 1810 and is that why there is no further trace of him?
  2. There  is so much information about his eight children, yet there is virtually no oral history passed down about him or his wife, Christina. Why is that?
  3. Did William arrive in America alone or with other family?
The Quest

My research strategy, given the sparsity of information about William is going to be to focus on his children.  I will attempt to hunt down every bit of information, including migration patterns and fans (friends, associates and neighbors) in my attempt to find clues about William.  I anticipate this will be a long, slow process. 

The Young Mother Who Died too Soon

Brick Wall #2 is my great, great grandmother, Charlotte (Hill) Learned.

There is a very old Learned family Bible that provides marriage and death dates for Charlotte who married William Chandler Learned in 1855.  Charlotte had two daughters before she died in 1862.  While I have a death date and location for her I have yet to discover where she is buried. I believe Charlotte to be the daughter of Orange Hill of Pompey, Onondaga County, New York.  There is quite a bit of information about the Hill family but I have found nothing to link Charlotte to her father.  The Hills came from Massachusetts a few generations earlier and I'd like to be able to link her to them conclusively.


  1. When was Charlotte Hill born and where?
  2. Where is she buried?
  3. Is there a document or enough indirect evidence that proves her connection to her father, Orange Hill?

The Quest

My research strategy with this brick wall is going to be focused on location-based research.  I will learn everything I can about Pompey, NY.  In addition I will try to track down every document possible associated with the Hill family in Pompey for three generations back from Charlotte in an attempt to prove the connection between Charlotte and the Hill family.  If I'm lucky, perhaps her grandfather left a will that makes mention of her.

The Road Ahead

I'm excited about researching my own family for a change.  It's going to be fun to try to chip away at these brick walls.  Hopefully it will take me into some uncharted territory. I imagine my quest for Charlotte Hill's father is going to be easier than my search for William Edwards.  I'll share thoughts on my research process on my blog along the way.


  1. Looks like you have a research plan outlined. Keep us informed!

  2. I'm looking forward to reading about your progress and methodology that you use.

  3. Good for you carving out some time to research your own family again. I can't wait to see what you find. Happy searching!