Friday, September 7, 2018

Elizabeth (Murphy) Mason: 52 Ancestors #62

The final player in my "tentative third great aunt/uncle" Murphy lineup is at least a bit more straightforward than the others: only one marriage that I know of; findable in both PEI and Newburyport; and no inexplicably vanishing children. Still, she's not without her mysteries.

First is the question of her age. Like her presumed sisters, Mary and Catherine, no baptismal record has been found for Elizabeth Murphy. I'd be inclined to think she was born around 1841-42, based on her age in the 1881 census and her death certificate, were it not for the difficulty fitting her in among Patrick (Dec 1838 – baptismal record), Catherine (tentatively May 1840), and James (May 1842 – baptismal record). Moreover, there's an inviting empty slot in 1934 between Mary (tentatively 1832) and Daniel (1836 – baptismal record), but then that's even earlier than her 1900 census reported birth date of June 1836. Still, considering that Mary's and Catherine's birth dates are questionable as well, I suppose it's futile to try to fit them all together rationally. (For that matter, there could even be a set of twins among the three women.)

The first time Elizabeth actually appears in a record is 11 Nov 1869, when she marries Demas [Nicodemus] Mason, by license, at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Georgetown, P.E.I. They are noted as bachelor (B) and spinster (S) respectively, presumably indicating a first marriage for each.1

Marriage of Demas Mason and Elizabeth Murphy, 1869

The only baptismal record found for children of the couple is one for a daughter, Mary Jane, born 6 Jun 1873 in Charlottetown and baptized on 22 Jun at St. Dunstan's Basilica (Catholic Church).2 Yet when the 1881 census rolls around, we find Demas and Elizabeth in Charlottetown with not only 8-year-old Mary Jane, but also a 19-year-old son, John!3

Baptism of Mary Jane Mason, 1873, St. Dunstan's Basilica

1881 Canada census, Prince Edward Island, Queens County, Charlottetown, Demas Mason household

Two things immediately jump out at you here: First, John's implied birth year of 1863 is a full six years before the couple's marriage. (Although his age at first appears to be 14, examination of other 4s and 9s on the sheet shows that the numeral is actually an unclosed 9; all 4s are decidedly angular, as in Elizabeth's age of 40.) Second, if Demas's age of 32 is correct, John can't possibly be his son. Possibly he's adopted, or else he is Elizabeth's from an earlier relationship. Demas was born in Nova Scotia and John in P.E.I., so it's unlikely he's a younger brother. (There is also a 3-month-old boy in the household, George Thomas Burns, with no clue as to his origin. He's not seen again.4)

Moreover, we'd typically expect to see at least four more children between the 1869 marriage and the 1881 census for a Catholic family in that era. (The Anglican Church marriage notwithstanding, all members of the family are noted in the census as Catholic, as would be suggested by Mary Jane's Catholic baptism.) And indeed, in the 1900 census,5 Elizabeth indicates that she had borne a total of ten children, only two of whom (presumably John and Mary Jane) were living. The question is why there are no other extant baptismal records.

1900 U.S. census, Massachusetts, Essex County, Newburyport, Elizabeth Mason household

While Elizabeth and the children in later censuses report their immigration as occurring, variously, anywhere from 1870 to 1885, it's likely that the actual year was about 1883, as Demas and John first appear in Newburyport city directories in the 1884 edition.6 (Oddly, that is also the year of Catherine's first directory appearance, despite being listed in the census in 1880.) John lived with his parents until marrying Sarah O'Grady in 1891. Demas worked as a laborer, and died from gastritis on 12 Mar 1895.7

1884 Newburyport city directory, entries for "Demes" and John T. Mason at 60 Marlboro St.
1894 Newburyport city directory, entries for Demas and John T. Mason
1896 Newburyport city directory, entries for Demas (died), Elizabeth (widow), and John T. Mason
1900 Newburyport city directory, entries for Elizabeth Mason and Daniel Murphy at 6 Elbow Lane
1906 Newburyport city directory, entries for Elizabeth (died) and John T. Mason

Elizabeth continued to live with her daughter at 6 Elbow Lane following Demas's death. Her brother Daniel boarded with them at least for a while, as he was enumerated there in the 1900 census and is listed there in the 1900 directory. Elizabeth died of "exhaustion from cancer" on 1 Feb 1906, and was buried in St. Mary's Cemetery in Newburyport. According to her death certificate, her father was William Murphy and her mother's name was "unknown."8

Death of Elizabeth (Murphy) Mason, 1906, Newburyport, Mass.

After her mother's death, Mary Jane (who never married) lived for a time with her cousin Pius (Peter) Murphy, son of her uncle Daniel.9 She died from pulmonary tuberculosis on 18 Oct 1913, and was buried in St. Mary's Cemetery.10 John and his wife Sarah had two daughters, Honora A. and Elizabeth Mary. Sarah died in 1930 and John in 1942. Neither of their daughters married.

I have no direct evidence that Elizabeth's father was Michael Murphy. However, indirect evidence (a brother Daniel Murphy residing with her in 1900, and Mary Jane living with Daniel's son, her cousin, in 1910) ties her to Daniel, and my (and my brothers') DNA matches strongly indicate that Daniel and my great-great-grandfather William have the same parents.

It's also interesting to note that both Elizabeth's son John, and Mary's daughter Annabelle, as informants on their mothers' death certificates, reported the deceased's father's name to be William, 12 years apart.11 Perhaps a misconception on John's part (stemming from William Murphy's residence in Newburyport at that time) got passed along to cousin Annabelle? Again, DNA matches indicate a link between Mary and my great-great-grandfather.

Unfortunately, since both Elizabeth's daughter and her two grandchildren died without having children of their own, I won't be finding any DNA matches to confirm Elizabeth's place in my family tree. Like Catherine, she will remain as a likely – but unproven – third great aunt.

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

  1. "Prince Edward Island, Canada, Baptisms, Marriages, Burials, 1780-1983," database and images, Ancestry ( : accessed 5 Sep 2018); Various Church Records; Mount Stewart, Georgetown; 1842-95, 1911, 1918, 1946, 1977 > image 64 of 290, p. 15, Demas Mason and Elizabeth Murphy, 1869; citing FHL film 1630110.
  2. "Prince Edward Island Baptism Card Index, 1721-1885," database and digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 14 Feb 2014); baptism of Mary Jane Mason, 6 June 1873; citing St. Dunstan's Basilica, record book no. 3, p. 341.
  3. 1881 census of Canada, Prince Edward Island, district 2, sub-district A, Queens County, Charlottetown, p. 30, dwelling 135, family 135, Demas Mason household; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 14 Feb 2014).
  4. I can't help but wonder if there is any possible connection to Catherine Linklighter's residence in the John Burns household in Newburyport in 1880. The timing makes it seem unlikely.
  5. 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).
  6. The Newburyport Directory, 1884... (Boston: Sampson, Davenport, & Co., 1884) and The Newburyport and Amesbury Directory, [year]... (Boston: Sampson, Murdock, & Co. 1886-1906), entries for "Demes" or Demas Mason (1884, 86, 89, 91, 94, 96), John T. Mason (1884, 86, 89, 91, 94, 96), and Elizabeth Mason (1896, 98, 1900, 02, 04, 06); database and digital images, "U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989," Ancestry ( : accessed 22 Feb 2014). 
  7. "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910," database and digital images, American Ancestors ( : accessed 22 Feb 2014); Newburyport, vol. 454, p. 530, death of Demas Mason, 1895; citing "original records held by the Massachusetts Archives".
  8. "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910"; Newburyport, vol. 1906/68 (death), p. 189, death certificate, Elizabeth Mason, 1906.
  9. 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).
  10. "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1911-1915," database and digital images, American Ancestors ( : accessed 14 Feb 2014); Newburyport, vol. 1913/75 Death, p. 481, death certificate, Mary Jane Mason, 1913.
  11. "Massachusetts, State Vital Records, 1841-1920," database and digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 19 Jul 2014), Newburyport, death certificate #220 (registered #152), Mary A. (Green) Bamber, 18 Jul 1918.

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