My Top 5 Genealogy Brick Walls

Every once in a while, it is time to review some brick walls in the old family tree. Actually, I am perfectly happy to spread the frustration around, so I’ve included a couple of candidates from my husband’s ancestral branches, too. Their homes, and available record sets, represent very wide geographical locations – New England, Canada, Maryland-North Carolina, and Germany.

Let’s see what we have and hope that readers (distant cousins?) might have new clues to chip away pieces of these walls.

#1 – Susannah (MNU), wife of Thomas Burnham of Ipswich, Essex, Massachusetts. Thomas Burnham was born 19 January 1666 in Ipswich. Given the span of their children’s birth years, Susannah was likely born between 1673 and 1682. I wrote multiple posts last year about my search for Susannahs born in Massachusetts in the right time period, but had no success proving that any of them married Thomas Burnham. The best candidate is Susannah Cross, born 27 November 1673 in Boston, the daughter of John and Susannah Cross.

A Stephen Cross and Robert Cross lived in Ipswich by the 1630s. Whether or not they were related to John Cross, I have no idea. However, Robert Cross, who lived in Chebacco Parish (then part of Ipswich, but today Essex and the same neighborhood where the Burnhams lived) was involved in a land dispute that dragged through the court for over 30 years. Robert Cross Sr. appealed a verdict which had gone in favor of JOHN BURNHAM JR. in 1693 and the disputed land had been owned at one time by THOMAS BURNHAM. That is definite proof that the Cross family and Burnham family at least knew each other. However, it provides but a flimsy possible connection to John Cross of Boston.

So, in spite of the fact that Massachusetts probably has the single best set of vital and historical records of anywhere in the U.S., Susannah is still without a proven maiden name.

On the other hand, Maryland and North Carolina aren’t known for their early vital records, although a few exist, and they didn’t disappoint:

#2 – Elizabeth Gwinn Spear (1817- 1878) who married James Dulworth and lived in Cumberland County, Kentucky is one of my husband’s earliest non-German ancestors with a middle name. As with Susannah (MNU) Burnham, I wrote about an in-depth search I did trying to find the Gwinn connection to the Spear family, as I am convinced that Elizabeth was likely named for a grandmother. The Spears first settled in the Baltimore area and then migrated to Surry County, North Carolina about the time of the Revolutionary War. While I did find several mentions of Guinn and Gwinn families, both in Maryland and North Carolina, no likely family connection was found between the Spears and Gwinns.

Let’s move on to a new country – Canada:

#3 – Catherine (MNU) who married Loyalist Robert Carlisle is a double descent for me, making it even more annoying that I can’t find her maiden name. Catherine was undoubtedly a member of a Loyalist family and married Robert probably in Parr Town (St. John), New Brunswick, Canada in the summer of 1785. There are two land deeds involving sales by Robert Carlisle that summer. In the first, no wife released dower rights, but a couple of months later, Catherine released her rights. A 1785 wedding date fits with the birth of their first child, Robert, about 1786. There were “only” about 15,000 residents of St. John by 1785, so the pool of possibilities is limited, but the pool is more like an ocean.

#4 – Jane (MNU) who married Daniel Astle, son of another of my Loyalist ancestors, James Astle. This family lived in Ludlow on the Miramichi River in Northumberland County, New Brunswick, Canada. Daniel was born c1783, probably in Sorel, Quebec, before the family made its way into New Brunswick. They had previously lived in Schenectady, New York.

A quick search online shows many trees showing Daniel’s wife as Jane PARKER. I can take credit for that, I believe, as I compiled a quite complete list of the descendants of Loyalist James Astle back in the 1990s and contributed a copy of my heavily footnoted work to the Family History Library and several other repositories. I noticed that, like most others of their era, the Astles had relatives by marriage who served as witnesses on land conveyances and marriages and served as godparents to babies. Daniel Astle died in 1817 and I noticed that widow Jane and their children often appeared in government records with Parkers, specifically Christopher Parker. I also noticed that the Parkers had no ties to any of James Astle’s other children. Therefore, I posited that Daniel married Jane (possibly Parker.) Well, you know how that goes and the online trees conveniently leave out that very important word – POSSIBLY.

I still think it is very possible that Jane is a Parker, but no smoking gun has been found.

For my last brick wall, let’s head to Germany:

#5 – Johannes Stoppelbein, born c1600, is the only male on this list. He happens to be the first known Stoppelbein and lived his adult life in Langenlonshiem, Germany. He married Elisabetha (MNU) and they had one known child, Hans Valentine Stoppelbein, baptized 12 January 1633/34 in Langenlonsheim.

My curiosity is piqued because not only is Johannes the first man to be called Stoppelbein, any and all others are descendants of Hans Valentine. The name has not been found anywhere before Johannes.

Furthermore, Stoppelbein means stubble leg, which makes me wonder if Johannes was either born with a deformed leg or suffered an accident to his leg and any other surname by which he might have been known was lost to Stoppelbein.

The obvious answer to  this brick wall is a Y-DNA test (which my husband has taken with not a single close match), in the hopes that Stufflebeans today might all also match up to some other surname that originated in the area around Langenlonsheim.

Those are five of my current most frustrating brick walls. Please share one of yours in the comments!

3 thoughts on “My Top 5 Genealogy Brick Walls”

  1. Ann River, my fourth great-grandmother – all I know for certain about her is that she married my 4th great-grandfather, Isaac Ferdinando on September 16, 1776 at St. Botolph without Bishopsgate. The two witnesses were: Ann (illegible) and Elizabeth Clarke. I have found several possible baptisms for her, but without corroborating evidence on that marriage record, really can’t be certain which is the right one.

    She and Isaac had seven children together between 1778 and 1790…and then she disappears again…so far, no burial record or death registration (post 1837)

    I have seen others name her father as Matthew, but again, with no direct link on that marriage record, I’m not confident enough to go with that, though I have obviously made note and continue to pursue that connection.

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