I've been working here and there on Montvill Harness who "appears" as an adopted child in an ancestor's household. I've found where Montvill homesteaded in New Mexico and where he died in New Mexico as well. His life between the late 1880s and 1910 is something of a mystery. I have some unresolved research issues with his second wife and apparently Montvill and his second wife had unresolved issues as well. However, I need to think about what it is I really am trying to find and focus my exhaustive research efforts in that direction--not in the direction of any piece or paper or document that I can find.
Montvill was the adopted son of my great-great-great-grandparents James and Elizabeth (Cheney) Rampley of Hancock County, Illinois. He was in their household in at least the 1870 and 1880 census enumerations. The question is, did he know who his parents were and did they have any connection to the Rampley family?
Montvill's death certificate lists "unknown" for his parents and his marriage in Adams County, Illinois, did not provide any additional information on his origins. Montvill does not appear to have used the Rampley surname after the 1880 census--and of course since he was a youngster in the Rampley household in 1880 he really didn't provide the name on his own anyway.
Here's where reviewing previous research and clearing out old cobwebs is necessary. There are adopted children in the Rampley household in 1860, 1870, and 1880. I discovered the entries early in my research (translation nearly thirty years ago) and for some reason concentrated on the Lobb name and not the Harness name. After reviewing the entries I'm not even certain the three enumerations are referring to the same person--just that they have a similar first name.
For now, I'm operating under the premise that Lobb and Harness are different people. And, I'm focusing on Harness for the time being.
There won't be any adoption records for Harness--it's simply too early for that. But, there could be a guardianship for him, especially if his parents were deceased and had any estate at all or if he inherited something from his biological family while in the Rampley's care.
Harness apparently owned property in Adams County, Illinois. It's unclear how that property was obtained.
To refocus on Montvill, I've decided to work on obtaining the following materials:
- Adams County, Illinois, deeds to determine how Montvill obtained the property (my premise is that it was through his first wife, but I could be incorrect).
- Santa Fe, New Mexico, deeds to determine how Montvill "unobtained" his homestead (did he sell it, or was it transferred after his death).
- Probate for Montvill Harness in New Mexico (this should assist in tracking down descendants who may shed some light on Montvill's origins).