In genealogy there are always dead ends, or brick walls. Some of our dead ends right now include Alexander Eastlick, Caleb Lewis, Jacob Conner, Mary (Ward) Goodykoontz, Nancy (Carr) Spencer and Ephraim Leasure. But in recent months and years we have successfully broken through other brick walls. Mary (Reeves) Crouch, Ann (Wylie) Young and Lucinda (Parrish) Smith are all examples of brick walls that have been knocked down and carried back one or more generations. In some cases, this has resulted in a flood of information which in retrospect had been held back by one weak link.
For years, Wilson Spencer’s mother Polly Smith was a dead end for us. Where to start, with a name like SMITH? We knew the Spencer family came from Herkimer County, NY before moving to Crawford County, PA, but had nothing on the Smiths (well, we did have a transcript of the information in Polly Smith’s Bible, but this did not show her parents and siblings, only her own marriages and offspring).
Fortunately, amongst the various slips of paper I inherited from Cousin Vera Spencer in the 1970s was a scrawled note handwritten by her grandfather (my great-great grandfather) Wilson Spencer, listing his mother’s brothers and sisters:
My mothers Brothers name
Grandma Smith 85 years
Sisters of my mother
Mrs Elig Hotun Manda
Polly Spencer my mother
Although it took a little deciphering and some trial and error, from this scant information Dad and I were able to follow up on the siblings of Polly (Smith) Spencer. We found Amanda (Smith) Houghton, Roswell P. Smith, John Smith, Rufus Smith and Elisha K. Smith in various census records around Herkimer County, New York. This established a rough chronological record of the Smith family. Then we found an elderly woman named Lucinda living with Elisha K. Smith in 1850, and with Rufus Smith in 1860. Although census records before 1880 do not reveal relationships to the head of household, we suspected Lucinda was the mother of the Smith siblings, the “Grandma Smith” that Wilson Spencer mentioned in his list. Those two census enumerations gave us her birth date (ca. 1777) and birthplace (Connecticut) but not her maiden name or her deceased husband’s first name.
Over Christmas break in 2008 while on vacation at Mom and Dad’s, I stumbled upon online cemetery records of Herkimer County, New York. Finding a John Smith and Lucinda his wife was pretty exciting! Now Mr. Lucinda had a name, John. It took a whole year after that, Christmas break 2009 to go even further. Once again at Mom and Dad’s, we decided to dig further on Lucinda. Because her eldest son was named Roswell P. Smith, I had begun to suspect that perhaps her father might be Roswell P., with the P being the first letter of their last name. I consulted the 1790 census index (Ancestry.com) for Connecticut and looked up all the Roswell P. names. There were eight or ten listed, from Roswell Palmer to Roswell Prior. Then I performed a vital records search within Connecticut using one of those surnames, Parrish, attached to Lucinda. Up came the 1797 marriage record for Lucinda Parrish of Preston to John Smith Jr. of Chatham, New York. BINGO!
With this exciting discovery, and the wonderful Barbour collection of records out of Connecticut, I nosed around to see if I could flesh out Roswell Parrish’s family, including daughter Lucinda Parrish. There were baptism records of some Parrish and Parish famiy members shown on the LDS site, FamilySearch.org. That led me to order microfilm records through our local LDS Family History Center. In the Congregational Church records from the Preston/Griswold area, I found Lucinda’s christening record, along with four siblings, as well as the original marriage record and the death record of Lucinda’s mother Anna. Either these records on the Parrish family have not been spread widely, or no one else is seeking them; my online tree became the first on Ancestry.com to post a public tree that contained a surname for Lucinda.
Once we figured out that Lucinda’s maiden name was Parrish, and proved her link to father Roswell Parrish, we were able to access his ancestral lineage in published sources.