Update: I broke my brick wall!
ORIGINAL POST: I have been unable to identify any records relating to one of my ancestors, Caroline America Hobbs, prior to her 1889 marriage in southern Illinois. Her 1900 census record places her birth as April 1868 in Ohio and suggests her parents were also born there. She died in 1907 so there are no additional census records to corroborate those details. Her marriage record does not identify her parents and I have not been able to locate a death certificate. I have, however, largely managed to rule out the two men who are most commonly postulated to have been her father.
The first candidate, James Hobbs, had a daughter, Caroline May Hobbs, who would have been about the right age and even passed through southern Illinois in the 1880s. Many researchers have assumed the two similarly named women were the same person and appear unaware of the marriage, census, and death records which demonstrate they were actually two distinct individuals.
The second candidate, James Stark Hobbs, moved from southern Indiana to Kansas with his family by 1870. I can find no evidence that he had a daughter named Caroline or that he or any of his children ever returned east. Frankly, the only connection I see is that, like the first candidate, he is also named James, though I have seen no particular reason to believe her father was even named James.
My current unsubstantiated speculation is that Caroline America Hobbs may have been the daughter of Squire Timothy Hobbs. His sister, Hannah Hobbs, lived in the same southern Illinois town listed as CAH's residence on her 1889 marriage record. Hannah even appears to have fostered at least one her brother's daughters, Hannah Jennie Hobbs, after the death of his first wife.
Is anyone able to identify any relevant records that I am missing or have suggestions for additional places to look?
UPDATE: I just found my missing link to Squire Timothy Hobbs! A death notice on page 6 of the Centralia Evening Sentinel from 18 March 1907 identified Caroline Maneese of Ina, IL as a sister of Jennie Farrell of Centralia. Jennie (or Hannah Jennie) was an older daughter of Squire Timothy Hobbs, who I had already identified in the home of his sister in Centralia.