It all started when I pulled a death certificate for William Murphy at the Pennsylvania State Archives. You never know when you’ll get what you’re looking for, especially when researching a name like Murphy.
I got lucky this time though. William Murphy, my 3rd great grandfather, lived at 307 McClure Ave in the 1920 census with his daughter Sarah and son-in-law John J. Davis. 307 McClure was the address listed on the death certificate. It was a match!
William Murphy died 11 February 1923 of atherosclerosis. The death certificate says he was “about 75” which I found out later is off by 8 years; he was really 83.
He worked as a watchman at the Steel Carnegie Works and the National Malleable Castings Co in Sharon for 23 years up until his death.
According to the death certificate, William’s parents were Edward Murphy and Martha Quinn.
Surprisingly, Edward and Martha Murphy with child William were easy to find. They stuck out at me because they also had two daughters: Sarah and Mary. William had twin daughters named Sarah and Mary. Maybe he named them after his sisters? With more investigation, it became clear that this was “my” William Murphy family.
As I followed William and his parents, Edward and Martha through the years, history became much more personal (as what usually happens when you do genealogy). The Great Famine occurred in the 1840’s when one million people died of starvation and another one million emigrated.
Edward and Martha moved to Monmouthshire, Wales most likely in search of work and better living conditions. Their first (known) son, William was born in Wales when Edward and Martha were 28 years old. For the 1840’s, that was a very late age to be starting a family, but in Ireland it was difficult to form new households and the average marriage age increased.
Here’s their census timeline:
Edward Murphy’s occupation was a puddler. At 12 years old, William worked with his father at the Iron Mill as a “roller.”
Sisters, Sarah and Mary disappeared after 1841; they may have died or gone into servitude.
The family then moved to Durham, England, again in search of better living conditions and work, specifically to the Witton Park Ironworks. William worked as a puddler.
He married his wife, Catherine Aspery, in Escombe in the 1860’s. The family continues:
In the 1871 census, William had three children: William, Edward, and Martha. Exactly like his parents in 1851.
William’s father, Edward Murphy, Sr., now a widow, was living in the household in 1881 . William’s sister, Martha was also living with them and her daughter, Mary Quinn.
The Witton Park Ironworks closed in 1884, which probably explains the move to Grangetown.
His oldest son, William, is not listed in the 1891 census with them because he had already moved to Pennsylvania, one year ahead of his family. Then in 1892, they immigrated to America.
William’s wife Catherine died in 1902 of “liver troubles.” He lived with his daughter Mary and then with his other daughter Sarah until he passed away in 1923.
He had ten children total, nine we know of: Edward, Martha, William, Henry “Harry,” Thomas, John, James, Mary, and Sarah. As of right now, I’m not sure whether Edward, Martha, or Thomas came to America with their family.
Harry married Celia Mable Luce and had two sons: Harry William and James Russell. They were divorced after only a couple of years. Harry moved in with his sister-in-law in Youngstown until his death in 1956.
John worked as a machinist at the National Malleable and Steel Castings Co. He married an Irish immigrant named Katherine.
James was a laborer who married Margaret Richards, a Welsh immigrant. James and Margaret had six children (including my great grandmother Elizabeth). James died at a young age in 1917 of typhoid.
William’s family moved a lot; Ireland to Wales to England and America. He worked from the age of 12 until his death at 83 years old. Despite being born in Wales he always listed his birthplace as Ireland. His children were born in Durham, England but they often listed Ireland as their birthplace.
The paper trail on William is fascinating and gives a lot of insight into the Irish migration, working conditions, and life in the 1800’s.
My next to-do is to find obituaries. :)