Thursday, September 22, 2016

Chasing Daniel Murphy, Part 1

A couple of years ago, for the 52 Ancestors challenge, I wrote about my third-great-grandpa Michael Murphy of Prince Edward Island, and noted the existence of four tentative offspring – three women and one man, natives of Prince Edward Island, who dwelled in Newburyport, Massachusetts, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and who seemed to be connected to each other and to Michael and Magdelen (Morison) Murphy. I later posted the three-part tale (starting here) of one of them, the thrice-married "Mysterious Mary" who was either my third great aunt ... or a total stranger.

Lately I've been looking at the other three "possibles" in an attempt to firm up the connections among them, in particular, Daniel Murphy. I figured at least with him, I didn't have to worry about his surname changing if he married! But his records are so spotty – and there are so many other Daniel Murphys in Newburyport – that it's hard to track him.

So, why did I think this particular Daniel Murphy in Newburyport might be one of "my" Murphys in the first place? It began with a marriage registration. In 1885, Daniel Murphy, 42, married Anastasia Welch, 40; his second marriage, her first. Both were born in Prince Edward Island, and Daniel said his parents were Michael Murphy and "Martha" Morrison.1 (As I explained in part 3 of "Mysterious Mary," the Murphy children variously name their mother as Magdelen, Martha, Matilda, or Margaret, but the last name is always Morrison.) The given age of 42 would mean he was born in 1843, which is plausible for a child of Michael and Magdelen (the youngest known child was born in 1842), though there's no telling how reliable this is.2

Marriage of Daniel Murphy and Anastasia Welch, 1885, Newburyport, Mass.
The catch here is that there seem to be no further records of this couple, as a couple. Given Anastasia's age, it's not surprising that there are no children found in the Newburyport birth registers, and of course it would be 15 years before there was a chance of finding them in the census... but they weren't in the 1900 census, either. At least, I can't find any sign of Anastasia; however, I did find this census record for a Daniel Murphy, in the household of his sister, Elizabeth Mason, at 6 Elbow Lane.3

1900 U.S. census, Essex County, Mass., Newburyport, Elizabeth Mason household
Now there are some possible problems with this being the same Daniel who married Anastasia Welch. First, his birth date is given as Aug 1851, a full eight years later than implied in the marriage record. (However, see footnote 2.) Second, he's purportedly a widower. But... while Anastasia can't be found in either this census or in 1910, a "Mrs. Anastasia Murphy" is listed in every Newburyport city directory from 1904 to 1914, no occupation but also not listed as a widow.4 Furthermore, a 1915 death certificate for Anastasia (Welch) Murphy seems to match up pretty nicely with the Anastasia who married Daniel – born in P.E.I., birth year off by only three years (in Murphy terms, that's virtually identical), residence Newburyport, married.5, 6

Death certificate, Anastasia (Welch) Murphy, 1915, Danvers, Mass.
So it appears that Daniel and Anastasia may have been separated, but not divorced. Of course, Daniel did say it was his second marriage, which presumably meant his first wife had died (these folks were all Roman Catholics and unlikely to be divorced), so technically he was a widower, albeit a remarried one.

If Mary was "mysterious," Daniel might best be described as "elusive." I couldn't find any candidate for "my" Daniel in the 1910 census. Elizabeth Mason died in 1906, so clearly he wasn't with her; so I tried checking her daughter Mary Jane (seen as "Jane" in 1900) and her son John T., who was already married with his own household by 1900. No Daniel with either one – but Mary Jane Mason did provide another potential lead: in 1910, she was living at 27 Oakland Street in the household of Peter Murphy, listed as his cousin.7 And Peter, like Mary Jane, was born in English Canada, which includes Prince Edward Island. If Peter Murphy was her cousin, there's a good chance his father was her mother's brother – and thus either Daniel's brother, or Daniel himself.

1910 U.S. census, Essex County, Mass., Newburyport, Peter Murphy householdSo
So next time, it's onward to check out this Peter Murphy.

  1. New England Historic Genealogical Society, "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910," database and digital images, American Ancestors ( : accessed 25 Oct 2015); Newburyport, vol. 361, p. 323, marriage of Daniel Murphy and Anastasia Welch, 1885.
  2. You have to take any stated ages/birthdates for this entire family – beyond their actual birth or baptismal records – with a whole barrel of salt. I'm convinced that the Newburyport Murphys either didn't know, or didn't care, just when they were born, and when asked for an age for an official document just pulled any semi-plausible number out of their hat. Accepting this cavalier approach to ages is key to sorting out the Murphys: you just have to rely on other bits of evidence to identify them.
  3. 1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Massachusetts, Essex County, Newburyport, enumeration district (ED) 419, sheet 2-A, p. 87 [stamped], dwelling 16, family 21, Elizabeth Mason household; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 22 Feb 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623.
  4. The Newburyport and Amesbury Directory [varying subtitles], for 1904-05, p. 155, 1906-07, p. 163, 1908-09, p. 163, 1910-11, p. 177, 1912-13, p. 170, 1914-15, p. 167, entries for Mrs. Anastasia Murphy; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 22 Feb 2014). 
  5. New England Historic Genealogical Society, "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1911-1915," database and digital images, American Ancestors ( : accessed 21 Sep 2016); Danvers, vol. 1915/17 Death, p. 226, death of Anastasia (Welch) Murphy, 1915.
  6. True, the parents' names listed are completely different from those in her marriage record, but I haven't found either set of parents in P.E.I. records, so I suspect they were both pulled out of the same hat where the Murphys got their ages.
  7. 1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Massachusetts, Essex County, Newburyport, enumeration district (ED) 438, sheet 3-A, p. 2145 (penned), dwelling 47, family 52, Peter Murphy household; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 11 Sep 2016).

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