24 May 2022

Brickwall Tip: Prove It Can't Be Anyone Else

Do you have ancestors who you think belong to one family or another, but don't have proof of it? This is where I am with my Daniel Fenn brick wall and finding who his father was. 

A few years ago my husband and I went on a New England research trip. While he was at Sam Adam's brewery I was at the library of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. I paid for a consultation with Rhonda McClure and her ideas have helped me further my research.

One of her suggestions was to show how it can't be anyone else but the person you think it is. What did she mean by that? I took it to mean that I needed to research all the Fenn's in the area where I knew they were living. Chances are that if they were living in Shoreham, Addison county, Vermont in 1808, other Fenn's are related. I needed to show that there isn't any other Fenn that could be Daniel's father. 

I started with the 1800 U.S. Federal Census. I discounted anyone living outside of the New England area. I have never found any existence of my Fenn family in Philadelphia, Georgia, Maryland, or Mississippi. I can always come back to these Fenn's if none are found in New England.

That left me with Benjamin, Edward, Gideon, John, Austin, and Joseph (Fenne). These six men were living in Vermont and found in the 1800 U.S. Federal Census or the Vermont, U.S., Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1778-1840. I transcribed these Fenn families on an 1800 census form found at Ancestry.com. I knew that Daniel Fenn was born around 25 November 1787. I used the information from his death age of 49 years, 3 months, 13 days. 

That meant that I was looking for an entry that had at least one free white male between the ages of 10 and 15. Edward, Gideon, John, and Austin were candidates because they were all living in Rutland county, Vermont. Joseph was in Windsor county, Vermont. Benjamin and Edward couldn't be found in the 1800 Census. Who had children of those ages ?
  • Gideon had 2
  • John had 0 
  • Austin had 1
  • Joseph had 1
Now, I am looking at three candidates, Gideon, Austin, and Joseph. I could repeat the process for the 1810 U.S. Federal Census, looking for Free White Males between 20-25 years old, but Daniel married Huldah Rowley in 1808. I believe Daniel and Huldah are enumerated in the home of Hopkins Rowley in the 1810 Census.

You would think narrowing the choices down to three men would make it easier to find Daniel's father. I could not find any clues from naming patterns. Daniel had a son, Daniel C., but no Gideon, Austin, or Joseph to be found. I have no clue if Daniel had any brothers or sisters.

Further research on Gideon, Austin, or Joseph has not proven who Daniel's father was. I am still searching. I need to find out where the Fenn's came from prior to Vermont. I have a feeling it is Connecticut, but don't have definitive proof for this.

There are forty Fenn's in Connecticut in the 1800 U.S. Federal Census and I am in the process of narrowing down the candidates. It would be so much easier if they had listed all the family members.

Although, I haven't proven it couldn't be anyone else, I did narrow it down to three in Vermont and I am working on Connecticut. I have faith that this brick wall tip will work. I will keep trying to prove that Daniel Fenn's father is...

Do you have a brick wall tip for finding parents? If so, please share in the comments.


  1. Probate and land records may provide direct evidence of a relationship.

  2. Thank you Randy. Thank you for your comment. It is very good advice. I have looked at so many land records on microfilm. There are clues but no direct evidence. Shoreham Vermont probate records were burned. I even looked at the traces that were left. I need to check on Rutland county ones.