After months of searching I am at loss trying to locate early records on my great-great grandfather. He is William F. Simmons born 1853 - 1858 (depending on the source). His obituary states he was born on Block Island, Rhode Island, USA but vital records there has no indication of him being born. In fact there are no Simmons families on the Island at that time. The nearby mainland is loaded with Simmons families. I do have him in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1878 until 1899. He and his second wife moved to Hartford, Ct. in 1899 and he lived there until about 1919 when he married his 3rd wife and moved to Winsted, Ct. where he died in 1921. He worked on various railroads his entire life. I know he was a Mason for most of his life but their records offered no further information.
Census records show he and his parents were born in Rhode Island. I can find no Simmons family anywhere in the USA that moved from Rhode Island at this time. There is a promising family in Rhode Island but the mother is listed as being born in Connecticut on several occasions. Also their child William has the wrong middle initial and I find no ties on either side to New Jersey.
I find no William Simmons anywhere that moved from Rhode Island and was born around this time. I've tried very broad generic searches and read thousands of pages and nothing ever looks mildly close. There is a slight chance of a relationship to a Hiram Simmons who lived in Winsted at the same time and came from Pine Plains, NY. I've not found a connection, even one that would take a huge leap at 3AM and very blurry eyes.
Our family records have no information on him and he was never talked about. My father didn't even know his name until a few months ago! OR that he grew up just miles from his grave. I'm in touch with the family of his 3rd wife but even they have little information. I find no record that he owned any property in any of the 3 places he lived. I've not found a will or probate records - if they existed at all. His third wife went to the Masonic home and I assume they (Masons) received the estate.
I have no pictures and only one artifact - his railroad watch. The U of Conn has many records from the railway he worked on here in Ct but it is mostly poorly cataloged ( at best) and covers over 100' of shelf space. I've not found anything as yet.
I am just plain stuck and looking for help. Any ideas on where to go next are greatly appreciated.