Saturday, September 1, 2018

Catherine (Murphy) Linklighter: 52 Ancestors, #61

Previously, I posted a three-part series on each of two of the four "tentative" third-great aunts and uncle in my Murphy line, "Mysterious Mary" (Murphy) (Bowlen) (Green) Bamber (starting here) and Daniel Murphy (beginning here). Since then, several 4th-cousin autosomal DNA matches to descendants of both Daniel and Mary have shown up in the match lists for me and/or my brothers, leading me to believe that my tentative addition of these two to my tree was indeed justified.

That still leaves two more potential Murphy sisters, Catherine and Elizabeth, living in Newburyport, Mass., during the same time period, late 1800s to early 1900s. Catherine Ann (Murphy) Linklighter is by far the most tenous identification of the whole bunch.

As with her (possible) sister Mary, I haven't found a birth record for Catherine Murphy on Prince Edward Island, and if the 1900 census can be believed, she immigrated in 1860 – not as early as Mary, but still long before PEI's first fully nominal census. (The lack of an 1871 census for PEI is fully as frustrating as the lost 1890 U.S. census.)

Unlike Mary, who first showed up (albeit as an ostensible Campbell rather than a Murphy) in Newburyport marrying George Bowlen in 1853, and can be found in the census and city directories thereafter, Catherine doesn't make an actual appearance there until 1880. Even then, we don't have her first name – just an initial – or her maiden name.

In the somewhat messy 1880 census listing for the John Burns household,1 "C Linklighter" (female, age 40, widowed) is identified in the Relationship column as House Keeper, which is scratched out. Born in "P.E. Island," her parents were born in Ireland and Scotland. With her is 10-year-old Walter Linklighter, "son of H[ouse] Keep[er]", thus distinguished from the subsequent Burns children, each listed as "son of John" or "dau of John". Walter, himself born in Massachusetts, has both parents born in P.E.I.

1880 U.S. census, Newburyport, Essex County, Massachusetts, C Linklighter
and Walter Linklighter in John Burns household
Thanks to that missing 1890 census, we only get to see Catherine in the census one more time, in 1900.2 This time we have her first name, a birth date of May 1840 (consistent with her age of 40 of 1880), and the information that she has had only one child (presumably Walter), and that she immigrated to the U.S. in 1860. She now states that her parents, like herself, were born in Prince Edward Island. Walter, now 30 (born Jan 1870,3 Massachusetts), is still with her, still single, and working as a "boucher" in the shoe industry.4

1890 U.S. census, Newburyport, Essex County, Massachusetts, Catherine Linklighter household
The Newburyport city directories5 from 1884 through 1904 list Catharine Linklighter (Kate beginning in 1894), widow, first at 174 Merrimac Street (rear) – the same address where she was enumerated in the 1880 census – and later on Atkinson Street (her 1900 enumeration address). Walter was also listed at her address beginning in 1891, when he would have been 21. His occupation was given as "morocco dresser"6 until 1904, when he is listed as a clerk.

The Newburyport and Amesbury Directory, 1891 (top) and 1904 (bottom), Linklighter entries
And then, they both disappear from the directories. Kate, at least, was still in Newburyport at the time of her death on 4 Jan 1909, but Walter seems to have disappeared utterly. He was not the informant for his mother's death, as one might have expected; I have been unable to find any trace of him in the 1910 census; and there is no death certificate for him in Massachusetts, unless it's grossly mis-indexed. For that matter, there is no record of a Walter Linklighter born anywhere in Massachusetts any time around 1870, despite what the census says. It's as if mother and son had been beamed down by aliens to Newburyport in 1880, and the son was beamed up again in 1905.

Where, you may ask, did I get the idea from all of this that Catherine was even a Murphy at all, let alone one of my Murphys, and the sister of Mary? From her death certificate.7 Granted, details on death certificates are notoriously suspect, and I have yet to identify the "Miss McDonald" who was the informant (she could have been a hired nurse who didn't really know her). Catherine's age is off compared to the census (64, implying a birth year of 1845), and I'm suspicious of the 40-years-dead husband's name being Walter (it may have been assumed that her son was named for his father).

Catherine Ann Linklighter death certificate, 4 Jan 1909, Newburyport, Mass.

However, it's doubtful that any informant would give Catherine's maiden name as Murphy at random. It seems certain that someone present knew that was her maiden name. And it seems equally unlikely that the informant would pull the specific name Michael Murphy out of a hat for Catherine's father; if she didn't know, wouldn't she simply have left it blank, as she did the mother's name?

The final link in my tentative identification chain is the address of Catherine's residence at death: 41 Market St. If you happened to read my 2014 posts about Mysterious Mary, you might recall that Mary Green, along with assorted husbands, children, and sons-in-law, lived at 41 Market Street – as Mrs. Daniel W Green, Mary A Greene, and Mrs. Mary A Bamber – from 1874 right through her death in 1918. Now, Mary did seem to have an occasional unrelated boarder, and Catherine was never listed as a resident at that address, but I can't believe it was a coincidence that she died there after living on Atkinson Street with her son for over 10 years.

My guess is that Walter either left town or died (although the absence of a death record is puzzling) around 1905, and Catherine moved in with her sister Mary, perhaps after Mary's husband Samuel Bamber dropped out of sight around 1906. Being unemployed and not a head of household, she probably would never have been "enumerated" for the city directory. This doesn't, of course, explain why Catherine's father's name was known but not her mother's.

It also can't explain the curious lack of documentation for this woman and her son, aside from two census records, a death certificate, and a series of directory listings. There is nothing before 1880, no marriage record, no birth record for Walter, no death record for Mr. Linklighter, no 1870 census. Linklighter is a somewhat unusual spelling variant of the surname Linkletter, associated with Prince Edward Island but fairly uncommon in the U.S. Either variant should stick out like a sore thumb in the records, but they're just not there. I have to wonder if Catherine (presumably a Catholic judging by her place of burial) had decided that alleged "widowhood" from a non-existent Mr. Linklighter was more acceptable than admitting to, say, unwed motherhood, abandonment, or divorce. If such was the case, then it's no wonder I can't find any records.

Unfortunately, it appears unlikely that I'll find any verification of Catherine's ancestry via DNA matches, as there is no indication that her only child Walter ever married and had children, or even if he survived his mother. So probably Catherine will remain in the "likely but unproven" category in my tree.

(This post was inspired by Amy Johnson Crow's 2018 "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.)

  1. 1880 U.S. Census, Essex County, Massachusetts, Newburyport, ED 227, p. 2 (penned), dwelling 12, family 19, C Linklighter and Walter Linklighter in John Burns household; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 13 Feb 2014). 
  2. 1900 U.S. Census, Essex County, Massachusetts, Newburyport, ED 422, sheet 7A, p. 129 (stamped), dwelling 129, family 146, Catherine Linklighter household; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 13 Feb 2014).
  3. Note that if Walter was born in Massachusetts in Jan 1870, he and his mother, at least, ought to be found in the 1870 census. They're not; I've searched for various combinations of Catherine and Walter, with and without ages and birthplaces, with surname Linkl*, Murphy, and none.
  4. Darned if I can figure out what that is – "boucher" is French for butcher, and I can't find any connection to the term in the shoe trade, even in the detailed listing of "semi-skilled operatives" in shoe factories and tanneries in U.S. Bureau of the Census, Classified Index to Occupations (n.p.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1921), pp. 109-112.
  5. The Newburyport Directory, 1884... (Boston: Sampson, Davenport, & Co., 1884) and The Newburyport and Amesbury Directory, [year]... (Boston: Sampson, Murdock, & Co. 1886-1904), entries for Catharine Linklighter (1884, 86, 89, 91), Kate Linklighter (1894, 96, 98, 1900, 02, 04), and Walter Linklighter (1891, 94, 96, 98, 1900, 02, 04); database and digital images, "U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989," Ancestry ( : accessed 22 Feb 2014). 
  6. Morocco leather was a fine goatskin used for, among other things, gloves and the uppers of ladies' shoes. A morocco dresser was one who tanned or otherwise prepared the leather. for use. This may, perhaps, shed some light on Walter's "boucher" occupation in the 1900 census; possibly someone who cut up the leather before or after the tanning process was considered to be a "butcher" of sorts?
  7. New England Historic Genealogical Society, "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910," database and digital images, American Ancestors ( : accessed 22 Feb 2014); vol. 1909/73 Death, p. 296, death of Catherine Ann Linklighter, Newburyport, 1909, bizarrely mis-indexed as Catherine A. [Murphy] Linkovitch.

1 comment:

King of Rochester said...

By the way, LinkLETTER is a very common name in PEI...perhaps the married name was a derivation.