There's only so many brick walls that drive us crazy. At this point, I'm going to alter my take on this particularly genealogical meme and present some genealogical proof summaries of ancestors. I will present the preponderance of the evidence to show how I've connected people where such evidence is less than certain. My first example will be Mary Chamberlain Wallis, my great-great-great-grandmother.
Mary married at New Durham, N.H., on 27 April 1840, as his second wife, Luther Hale Pinkham 1815-1873, son of Jonathan and Alice (Runnels) Pinkham. His ancestry is covered in my article: The Pinkhams of Strafford County, New Hampshire, New Hampshire Genealogical Record, Vol. 22 (2005):1-7, 63-67, 115-25, 164-71, 23 (2006):27-76. This marriage is recorded at the state level but gives no parents for either bride or groom. She is listed as Miss Mary Wallace residing at New Durham. The intention for marriage was filed on 8 March 1840 and the marriage was performed by Nathaniel Berry, minister [and cousin of the groom, a grandson of Thomas and Bridget (Berry) Pinkham]. Luther and Mary appear in the 1850 U.S. Census on 30 September at New Durham (p. 596) as Luther H. age 36, farmer, b. N.H.; Mary age 34, b. Me., Charles L., age 10, George H., age 7, and Nathl. E., age 4, all born, N.H. Luther and Mary next appear in the 1860 U.S. Census on 29 June at Alton (p. 81) as Luther H. age 44, day laborer, Mary, age 44, Charles L., age 19, shoemaker, George H., age 16, Nathaniel E., age 13, Horace J., age 9, Seth T., age 6, the entire family all born in N.H. This is the last record for Mary. Her death on 22 January 1866 is from a secondary source: A Genealogy of Runnels and Reynolds Families in America; with Records and Brief Memorials of the Earliest Ancestors, so far as known by Rev. Moses Thurston Runnels (Boston, 1873), p. 208. This seems likely since Luther remarried on 20 August 1869 [N.H. Vital Records]. No primary source has been found to corroborate this date.
Mary's identity is then given as Mary C. (---) b. Newfield, Me. in her son George's marriage certificate in 1869; Mary C. Wallace in his death certificate of 1888; Mary Wallace in her son Charles' death certificate in 1903; Mary Chamberlain Wallace in Charles's obituary in the Dover Morning Star of 11 February 1904 as well as his biographical entry in The Native Ministry of New Hampshire by Rev. Nathan Franklin Carter (Rumford Press, Concord, NH, 1906) p. 542. The death certificates of sons Nathaniel (1907) and Seth (1919) do not list any parents. This is all we truly know of Mary.
The Runnels Genealogy claims she was of Moultonborough, N.H. Because the write-up of Luther and his family was written within his lifetime and I've been able to verify all the other information contained in the sketch, I trust this as good source. Additionally a Nathaniel A. Wallis married Luther's sister Hannah Avery Pinkham at New Durham on 6 March 1850 [N.H. VRs, which again do not list parents for either bride or groom]. He may very well be a brother or some other relation.
There is a large Wallis family in Moultonborough at the time in question. Unfortunately the baptisms at Moultonborough no longer exist, only the marriage records survive. Nathaniel and Deborah (---) Wallis had possibly nine children, seven of which were sons [of which only five can be identified] and possible fathers of Mary. The eldest, Samuel is ruled out since he had twelve known children by his wife Lois Huckins [NEHGR 67 (1913):271-72]. Nathaniel, Jr. married Phebe Whipple in 1800. In 1820 he is listed in the U.S. census at Moultonborough with a boy 10 to 16, a man 26 to 44, a girl 10-15, one 16-26, and a woman 26 to 44. In 1830 he is listed in the U.S. census with just a man and woman aged 40-50. According to those census returns, he can be ruled out. The next son Joseph is noted below. Son Jacob married Bethia Chandler and abandoned his family. Only two children are given in the Chandler Genealogy (1883), pp. 667-68, but the entry is written by one of the children, who would have known all his siblings. Lastly, son Isaac married Mehitable Whitman on 27 February 1819, too late to be considered a possible father. This family, however, did move to New Durham.
Joseph married at Moultonborough, on 4 September 1808, Rebecca York, daughter of Benjamin and Rebecca (Coffin) York. In the 1820 U.S. census he is listed with a boy under 10, a man 26 to 44, three girls under 10, two 10-16 and a woman 26-44. The 1830 census show Joseph next to his father Nathaniel and with a household of one boy under five, one 5-10, one 10 to 15 and a man 40-50, 2 girls 10-15, 1 girl 15-20, one girl 20-30 and a woman 40-50. Lastly, in 1840, Joseph is still at Moultonborough with a household consisting of 2 males 15 to 20; one 20 to 30; one 50 to 60; two females 20 to 30; one 30 to 40; and one 50 to 60. Based solely on these census returns, this is the only male Wallis in Moultonborugh that could be Mary's father since she would be under ten in 1820, about 14 in 1830, and about 24 in 1840.
The Wallis family has never been studied nor written about in length. None of the Wallis sons leaves any probate papers. They don't appear in land records past the year 1818 when Joseph and Nathaniel deed their land away to pay a lost court case. There are no Wallis/Wallace families in Newfield, Maine. Any smoking gun document to help out would be greatly appreciated.