Posts Tagged ‘family photos’

Harry Murphy and the Photo Mystery

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the discovery of a brother to my 2nd great grandfather, the elusive James Joseph Murphy.  This brother, Harry Murphy, had immigrated a couple years after his parents and siblings to Sharon, Pennsylvania.  The only way I found out about him is because my great grand aunt had his obituary with a large pile of old photos which was then passed on to her niece who recently passed the photos on to me.  Many of the photos are of unknown people; my mom and relatives have gotten lots of  “who are these people?” emails.

There are 6 photos with nice little captions on the back, all written by the same person in a somewhat affectionate way.  One in particular stands out.

“Bob’s wife Barbara, taken only two months ago with their new car a Ford Victoria”

Stylish woman, new car, and a huge cat! I love it.  I must be related to her.

“This is the only picture I have of Jim. From right to left they are myself, Harry Luse, and Jim my brother. This was taken about three years ago.”

The caption of the three men below tells me that the recipient probably didn’t speak or visit those in the picture on a regular basis.  Maybe they are cousins of my great grand aunt’s husband?

In this big pile of old photos and obituaries is also an envelope from H. Letson in Huntington Beach, CA to Mr. Harry Murphy.  That’s Harry Letson, Harry Murphy’s son that lived in Huntington Beach. Nothing in the envelope though; I wonder why it was saved.

As I was scanning some photos today, I realized that the return address handwriting is strikingly similar to the handwriting on the back of these photos.

The “to” address is written in big block generic letters so it never stuck out, but the return address gives the clue.

Bingo!  Harry Letson was sending these photos to his (estranged?) father.

Another clue: the date on the stamp is June 13, 1956.  Harry Murphy died in 1956.  Was his son sending him photos because he knew his father was dying soon?  I can only wonder.  All the captions are very kindly written and I get a sense that they were selected specifically to let the recipient a view of the immediate family living in Huntington Beach.

“This is me the old man and my two gals the best in the world”

Luckily, I found a descendant of Harry’s brother Jim on ancestry.com.  Hopefully they can provide some context. Meanwhile, I need to find the exact date of Harry Murphy’s death.

A Few Of My Favorite Things

Old Newspapers

How else would I know that my 4th great grandfather died at at 90 with all his teeth?

The Library of Congress Chronicling America is a great starting point for old newspapers.  Not all newspapers are digitized, but keep checking as more are added everyday.  You can search for an ancestor’s name or event; I got lucky a couple times with digitized copies of the Pittsburgh Dispatch.

If you are interested in a newspaper that has not been digitized, the database gives a list of possible locations to search in person.  Click on the link for US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present and make your selections based on city, county, state and you will get a list of all the newspapers from that location.  Click on any of them for more information and then at the bottom of the page click on “view complete holdings information.”  You may find the newspaper in a more convenient location if you’re unable to make a long-distance research trip.  For example, I’m interested in looking through the Advance Argus of Greenville, PA 1887-1917 which happens to also be located in Harrisburg, PA (for me, four hours less of a drive).

Always check with the local library directly to see if they have indexed any local papers.  One of my favorite resources for old news articles and obituaries is the Butler County (PA) Public Library.  They have an excellent online index and the staff responds pretty quickly to paper copy requests.  Other great indexes I often use are the New Castle Public Library’s Marriage/Obituary Database and the Rutherford B Hayes Library Obituary Index.  If the local library does not have an index (most do not) you may try to find a librarian or local genealogist that doesn’t mind looking up a specific date for you.

I also use newspaperarchive.com, which is a paid service for access to an unbelievable amount of digitized newspapers.  When I first started using it, it was pretty costly, but since then the price has gone down.  It has definitely paid for itself many times over in saving me request/research fees and travel costs.

Old Photos

You don’t get any vital details out of an old photo, but they certainly provide some great context to your relatives and the time period. This photo is of my grandfather in the late 1930′s. I can make certain assumptions (and generate more questions) based on the instruments, clothing, and facial expressions.

I’ve created family photo albums on flickr so that everyone can view and comment. Old family photos are great conversation starters, especially to those relatives that “aren’t into genealogy.”

History Detectives 

“Just like watching the detectives…”  If you haven’t seen the show History Detectives on PBS, you are really missing out.  Each episode starts off with an artifact, story, or photo that very little is known about.  The History Detectives then investigate to find the real story behind the object.  Oftentimes, they will incorporate genealogy in their investigation.  From their website “History Detectives is devoted to exploring the complexities of historical mysteries, searching out the facts, myths and conundrums that connect local folklore, family legends and interesting objects.”  Every episode is fascinating and I always think “wow, I wish I had learned this in history class.”

Family History Books & Google Books

This is my favorite thing to just mess around with.  Just go to Google Books and type in a name or event you’re researching.  I’m currently doing research on my Updegraff lineage and by typing in Updegraff (or Op den Graeff) and then filtering for the 19th century, I get a list of interesting books that range from religion to historical accounts and biographies.  What is great, is that most of these books have been out of print for decades and the information and context you get is pretty unique.

Many Universities also contain old digitized books and lineages, including The University of Michigan Making of America Digital Library.  Each archive contains different books, so you should browse through various search engines.  FamilySearch.org has made it easy to sort through some of the collections here, which includes databases from Brigham Young University and the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research.  The lineage books contain lots of great clues and while it’s not recommended to copy other people’s trees, they may direct you to to the actual source.

Sunday’s Obituary – Harry M. Murphy

I had seen a photo of “Uncle Harry,” as my mom identified him, but she didn’t know exactly who he was.  His name was Harry Murphy and he appeared in a couple photos with other Murphy family members.  I actually assumed that he was a neighbor that shared the same last name.

While visiting family in Youngstown a couple months ago, we were sitting around looking at old photos and obituaries, when I came across Harry’s obituary.

Surprise!  This mysterious Harry Murphy is the brother of my 2nd great grandfather.  The obituary states his parents were John Murphy and Catherine Asberrie (all of my records use the spelling Katherine Aspery).  I believe there are 8 siblings total and 6 have now been identified: William, Harry M, John, James Joseph, May, and Sarah T.

It also gives the location of where the family came from: Mayo County, Ireland.  That’s interesting because while the Murphy family always associated themselves to be of Irish descent, on nearly all records I have they put their birthplace as either England or natural born citizen.

Another intriguing detail is that Harry left two sons that happened to have different last names and lived in another state.

I love it when one clue leads to more mystery!

Harry Murphy appears in the 1900 Census in Sharon, Mercer County, Pennsylvania with Celia Murphy and sons Harry and James Murphy.  He is living with his wife’s parents and brother-in-law, but Celia indicates her status as divorced.

In the 1910 Census, Celia is remarried to a LaVerne Letson with sons Harry and James last name changed to Letson.  In 1920 the Letson family is living in Huntington Beach, California.

Harry Murphy moved to Youngstown in 1909.  He was a self-employed handyman, just like his brothers.  He occasionally lived with his sister-in-law, Margaret Richards-Murphy.  I don’t believe he ever remarried, but I also haven’t been able to find Harry in the 1910-1930 censuses.  I look forward to finding out more about Harry Murphy!

An Unusually Attractive and Popular Girl

On occasion, while researching my family history, I’ve come across a person, photo, or event that touched me personally.  Often it was completely unexpected, and mostly about ancestors that I wasn’t even that closely related to.  One such instance occurred while reading about my great grand aunt Alma Catherine Updegraff.  Thanks to the New Castle News archives at the New Castle library, we can piece together some fantastic details of Alma’s life.  She is mentioned nearly 50 times in the Society Section during the time of her childhood and adult life.

Alma Catherine Updegraff

Childhood
5 February 1895:  Alma Catherine Updegraff was born in New Castle, Pennsylvania to Henry Herman Updegraff and Margaret H Davis.  She was much younger than her three older brothers: Clarence David, Royer Howard, and John “Jay” William. (1900 Census)

2 June 1900:  Five year old Alma was living with her parents, three older brothers, and Aunt Rachel Davis (her mother’s youngest sister) near 257 West Washington Street, New Castle, Pennsylvania. (1900 Census)

Adolescence 
20 March 1908:  A large meeting was held by The Protected Home Circle and the Ladies League, with a great number of members being present.  For entertainment, Alma performed a duet, “Star of the East” with Charles Isaacs.

7 February 1911: So that Alma’s 16th birthday would not go unnoticed, her friends at the L.B.G. Club planned a surprise party.  Alma’s mother furnished the music and entertainment and decorated the house with red and white ribbons, flowers, and hearts.

29 November 1911: Alma and her brother Jay spent Thanksgiving with their Aunt Susannah Davis-Schultz (mother’s sister) in Alliance, Ohio.

31 Jan 1912:  While visiting their home at 135 North Beaver Street, New Castle, Alma’s Aunt Annie Hughes-Davis died of dropsy.  Annie Hughes-Davis was the wife of Alma’s mother’s younger brother Luther John Davis.

11 March 1912: Alma and her brother Jay visit for a couple of days to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, possibly to see their Aunt Rachel Davis.

17 January 1913: Just before her 18th birthday, Alma was appointed Pianist at the Protected Home Circle, New Castle Circle No. 5 (a fraternal insurance organization).

Adulthood
11 July 1913:  On this day she participated in a motor party to Youngstown with some friends, her brother Jay, and future fiancé Leon Claire Taggart.

15 August 1913:  In honor of a friend visiting from New York, Alma hosted a 6 o’clock dinner at her Front Street home.

30 October 1913: Alma participated in a “progressive party” in which party attendees change houses for each course.  Alma’s house was the last stop and was co-hosted by her cousin Irene Davis (Uncle Luther John Davis’ daughter).

28 July 1915:  Alma attended a “Supper at Park” in honor of her sister-in-law’s cousin visiting from Pittsburgh.  Those in attendance included her brother Clarence David and sister-in-law Minnie Colgan, brother Jay, and future fiancé Leon Clare Taggart.

31 August 1915: Alma hosted a “Corn Roast” with four of her friends.  The event was decorated with japanese lanterns and Alma’s mother served the refreshments.  Music and dancing occurred later in the evening.

Engagement
16 February 1918:  Alma was described in her engagement announcement as “unusually attractive and popular.”  The engagement party was held at the home of Alma’s parents and was hosted by her mother, sister-in-law Minnie Colgan, and Aunt Rachel Davis-Fischer.  A basket of red tulips decorated with red, white, and blue ribbon hung from the chandelier.  The favors to guests included miniature ships filled with red and white candy and the message “will sail in the spring.”

Marriage
13 January 1920: Renting at 179 Cleveland Street, Youngstown, Ohio with husband Leon Clare Taggart. (1920 Census)

16 April 1920:  The J.B.G. Girls held a farewell dinner at the Leslie House in honor of Alma who was moving to Akron, Ohio.

5 July 1921: Alma and Leon visit with her parents in Youngstown because of the serious sickness of Irene Davis-Shaffer -Alma’s 1st cousin.

17 February 1925: Mr. and Mrs. Leon Clare Taggart celebrate the birth of their son, Leon Russell Taggart.  (Family called him Russell, my Uncle Rusty Updegraff was actually named after him!)

7 April 1930:  Living at 35 Erskine Avenue, Youngstown, Ohio with husband and five year old son. (1930 Census)

Tragedy
20 November 1930: Funeral services for Alma Updegraff-Taggart occurred at the family residence 35 Erskine Avenue.  The house was filled with beautiful flowers and many friends in mourning.

I was absolutely shocked when I read the last article.  Happiness seemed to surround Alma and it was so enjoyable reading each article.  The last thing I was expecting to read was her obituary.

Alma died during childbirth at the age of 35.

Unless otherwise noted, all events have been gathered from the New Castle News archives.

Family Photo Album

Hello!  I’m just getting back to civilization after a very busy work week/weekend and am desperately trying to manage my “flourishing” genealogy to-do list.

First things first, do something with the growing collection of family photos.  Thanks to family members that have posted photos to Facebook and a recent trip to my parent’s house, I now have quite a collection of old family photos.  So that everyone may browse freely, I’ve created a flickr account that can be viewed here.  Once on the flickr page, you can select specific photo albums or browse through all of them together.

I still have many more photos to add so please keep checking back!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/katiesgrove/

Who is this?

I had this photo labeled as James Joseph Murphy, but I’m starting to think this may be someone else.  James J Murphy died in 1917 at 36 years old.  This man looks a little older, don’t ya think?  To give some comparison, the photo on the right is actually James J Murphy.

The hair part is different, but the eyes and cheeks are very similar.  Could be him, his father, or someone completely different.  What are your thoughts?  Does anyone know where the photo on the left came from?

Murphy Reunion Photo

One of my favorite family photos.  The Murphy family in Youngstown, Ohio 1955.  Let me know if I have misidentified someone.
1. Patty Ann Gallagher
2. Margaret Arnaut
3. Owen W Gallagher
4. Mildred Elaine Murphy
5. Unknown
6. Unknown -possible friend of Mildred Elaine Murphy
7. Edward Murphy
8. Mildred Whitacre
9. Robert Lee Updegraff
10. Katherine Irene Murphy
11. Leo Arnaut
12. Margaret Ruth Arnaut
13. Margaret Beake
14. Terrence Arnaut
15. William James Arnaut
16. Ruth Louise Haney
17. Cheryl Arnaut
18. Virgil Leonhart
19. Delores Jean Murphy
20. Dennis Wellington
21. Margaret Murphy
22. Charles Wigton
23. Sharon Lynn Arnaut
24. Margaret Richards
25. Daniel Charles Updegraff
26. Elizabeth Lou Updegraff
27. Pearl Murphy
28. Barbara Lynn Updegraff
29. Elizabeth Murphy
30. Diane Kathy Gallagher
31. Dennis Murphy
32. William Arnaut (Leo Arnaut & Margaret Beake’s son)
33. Robert Lee Updegraff, Jr.
34. William Arnaut (William James Arnaut & Ruth Louise Haney’s son)
35. Lottie Ann Leonhart

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