Archive for the ‘Murphy’ Category

The Story of William Murphy

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 with a death certificate for William Murphy at the Pennsylvania State Archives. 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, Pennsylvania for 23 years up until his death.

According to the death certificate, William’s parents were Edward Murphy and Martha Quinn.

Murphy Lineage

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 from their home in Ireland 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 Family

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:

William Murphy Family

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.

Murphy in Pennsylvania

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. 🙂

Related Posts:
Catherine (Aspery) Murphy
Harry Murphy
James Joseph Murphy
Murphy Family Album

The Original Catherine

Grandma Kate

I was named after my Grandma Kate, born Katherine Irene Murphy. She passed away before I was born, but I’ve always felt a special connection with her.

Grandma Kate was named after her aunt, Katherine Murphy-Arnaut, who died unexpectedly at 29 years old.

Katherine Murphy-Arnaut (right)

I was pretty excited to find that Katherine Murphy-Arnaut’s grandmother was also named Catherine! (spelled with a “C” instead)

I didn’t think I would learn much about Catherine Aspery, after all, she is my 3rd great grandmother who spent very little of her life in America, was likely very poor, and whose married name was incredibly common: Murphy.

After exchanging info with some other Aspery-Murphy descendants and a serendipitous visit to the Pennsylvania State Archives and Library, I was able to make some interesting conclusions (don’t ever understimate the importance of your 3rd and 4th cousins!).

Catherine Aspery was born in Erdington, Shropshire County, United Kingdom May 1844 to Henry Aspery and Sarah Perchase. She was raised in Escomb, Durham County (Northern England) with her six siblings: William, Henry, John, Thomas, Sarah and Phoebe.

Catherine married William Murphy around 1872 and they had eight children, six of which I know: William, Harry, John, James, May and Sarah. Her children’s names resemble closely with her siblings’; I wouldn’t be surprised if the two missing children were named Thomas and Phoebe!

Her husband, William worked at the ironworks in Witton Park. He had moved there from Ireland in search of work.  But, after a significant industrial boom and years of poor working conditions, the Witton Park ironworks had gone into a serious decline and closed by the 1880’s.

Catherine and William immigrated to America in 1892 and settled in Sharon, Mercer County, Pennsylvania. Some of Catherine’s siblings had already come to Pennsylvania many years earlier. Their son William arrived in Sharon one year earlier (1891), most likely to arrange a housing situation before the rest of his family arrived. The Murphy family lived at 86 Sharpsville Street.

The Sharon Eagle, Wednesday, January 29, 1902

Catherine passed away on 21 January 1902 from “liver troubles,” having been ill for three weeks. She was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery managed by the Sacred Heart Church. She left her husband and eight children.

I really look forward to finding more about Catherine, her husband, and children.

Relationship: Catherine Aspery –> James Joseph Murphy –> Elizabeth Murphy –> Katherine Murphy –> Barbara Updegraff –> Me

(Note: Is it a “C” or a “K”?  Almost all of Catherine Aspery’s records, multiple census, birth and death certificates list her name as Catherine – except for the obituary above)

Catherine Aspery – Solved?

I think I may have actually figured out who her parents were and where she came from.  Here’s how it went:

Thomas Aspery
I started researching Thomas Aspery a couple weeks ago, from the list I made of possible relatives (see previous post).  He had the same uncommon last name, was born in England, same generation as Catherine, and lived in Sharon, PA.  They must have been related!

New Castle News 3 Sep 1917

First, I ordered a couple obituaries for Thomas.  This one lists a father named John Aspery and a sister, Phoebe Talbot of Youngstown.

Phoebe Talbot
Luckily, Phoebe Talbot was not a very common name combination, so it was pretty easy to find her death certificate on familysearch.org.

Phoebe (Aspery) Talbot’s Death Certificate

The father is listed as Henry Aspery, not John as Thomas’ obituary said.  Both records are secondary though… maybe the father’s name was “John Henry?”  Another possible issue is Phoebe’s birth year of 1861, making her 22 years younger than brother Thomas.  Either way, the mother’s name is extra helpful: Sarah Perchase.

Sarah Perchase
I began searching England census records for a Sarah, married to either a John or Henry, with children Thomas and Phoebe (and maybe my Catherine!). One census record was particularly promising.

Here we have Sarah with husband Henry and children Thomas, Phoebe, and a Catherine! The grandson named “John Henry” fits with my theory about the father’s name.

Thomas’ age is only slightly off from his obituary, but Phoebe’s is about 8 years off her death certificate age and if this is my Catherine, her age is off by 9 years compared to the 1900 US census.

I found Phoebe in 4 more census records, all of which were consistent with the birth year of about 1853 (within 2 years), so it’s likely the informant on her death certificate just didn’t know exactly.

At this point, I decided that the Thomas and Phoebe in the US is the same Thomas and Phoebe in England, and that they were children of (John) Henry Aspery and Sarah Perchase.  But that still left the question, is this “my” Catherine?

I was at the Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg pulling some death certificates and found they have a microfilm of Mercer County death records for 1898-1906.  Catherine died sometime between 1900 and 1906, so I started looking and here’s what I found:

Of course I was on the microfilm machine that doesn’t make copies, so here is a cell phone photo of the image.  That’s my Catherine Aspery-Murphy and her parents were Henry and Sarah!  She died 21 January 1902 at 52 years old (or 56, or 59 depending on who you’re asking!)  With all this I now know lots about Catherine, her parents, siblings, and birthplace.  I may be inferring too much, but I think it all makes perfect sense.  🙂

Using Inferential Genealogy for Catherine Aspery

Earlier this year, I attended the Fairfax Genealogical Society Spring Conference and there were two lectures by Thomas W. Jones that were particularly helpful: “Using ‘Correlation’ to Reveal Facts that No Record States” and “Inferential Genealogy: Deducing Ancestors’ Identities Indirectly.”

I learned that I was not doing nearly enough to get past my brick walls.

Leaving the conference with fresh ideas and enthusiasm, I decided tackle the Catherine Aspery-Murphy family line.

Catherine Aspery

In a nutshell, Catherine was the wife of John William Murphy; mother to William, Harry M, John, James Joseph, May, Sarah T and four additional unknown children.  She was born about May 1854 in England and arrived in America in 1892 with husband and children. They moved to Mercer County, Pennsylvania.

Most of what I know is from the 1900 census and I hate only using one record for her birth year.  Catherine’s maiden name comes from three of her children’s death certificates all with independent sources.  Her own death certificate has not been located and I suspect she died between 1900 and 1906 (the year death certificates were required in PA).

Reasonably Exhaustive Search

As the Genealogical Proof Standard states, we must “search beyond the person, family, event, or record of most-direct impact on the project.” So, I’m going to investigate all the other Aspery families in England and the Mercer County area.  I can do this because the name Aspery is not very common. This method probably wouldn’t work for my Murphy relatives!

A quick search for Asperys in the 1861 U.K. census on Ancestry.com & FamilySearch.org comes up with 150-200 Aspery hits.  A search for Asperys in the 1900 U.S. census on HeritageQuest comes up with less than 20 hits and most of them are in the same area as “my” Catherine Aspery-Murphy. One of them must be a sibling or cousin!

I’ve started a spreadsheet with possible relatives (about 30 long now, some overlapping) and will keep it growing and ruling out those that don’t match. So far there are no obvious connections to Catherine.

I’m interested to hear if anyone has a best practice or recommendation on deducing ancestors’ identities indirectly? Any thoughts on this strategy?

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.

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!

Thanksgiving Traditions

My mom grew up in a large family. She always talked about the big traditional family gatherings where everyone traveled to one house and celebrated together. Growing up we still had a traditional dinner, but it usually was a small group. I never quite understood the big production of Thanksgiving, but I knew my mom was continuing a tradition that was very special to her.

My grandparents have both passed and my mom’s four siblings live very far from each other. We won’t be spending these holidays together, we won’t be sitting around the table reminiscing, but I thought it still to be a great opportunity to find out more about those big traditional Updegraff family dinners.

Thank you to my mom, Uncle Rusty, and Aunt Betty for taking the time to answer my questions. I combined them together below:

1950’s Ohio
When the family lived in Youngstown, Thanksgiving was held at Nana’s (Elizabeth Murphy) house at 554 Ridge Avenue. Nana’s dining room had a crystal chandelier with a china closet in the corner and the tablecloth was Quaker lace. There was always a beautiful tablecloth. My mom recalls opening the china closet and smelling the wood.

Nana baked homemade pies and rolls that would melt in your mouth. On the table would be turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, cranberry, candied yams, stuffed celery, and chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles.

Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and friends would come over. Uncle Eddy and Aunt Mill would eat dinner at their house earlier in the day and then would come over afterwards to visit with the family.

There was so much food and everyone would be stuffed. Some of the men would comment, “I’m so full, I need to roll into the living room.” The men would watch football, while the women cleaned up.

1960’s California
After Grandma Kate and Pop Pop (Katherine Murphy & Robert Updegraff) and the six kids moved to Cudahy, California in the spring of 1963, the Thanksgiving tradition continued. The house was small already with 8 people, but there were always many visitors.  Nana would come out from Ohio a week before so that she could bake the pies and rolls. Grandma Kate would add tables to extend and make one big table.

Food on the table included the chicken soup with homemade noodles, a pickle and olive plate, stuffed celery with pimento /pineapple cream cheese, salad, two kinds of cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes with oranges, mashed potatoes, french green beans with tomatoes and sautéed onions, yellow wax beans with Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, turkey, stuffing, rolls, and gravy.

Nana and Grandma Kate did all the cooking with Aunt Betty and my mom helping.  The boys were not allowed in the kitchen. Washing all the dishes afterwards was a lot of work, even after they bought a dishwasher it still took 3-4 loads!  But they would sing in the kitchen all their favorite Patsy Cline songs and others like Dean Martin’s ‘Everybody Loves Somebody’ and Jeanne Pruett’s ‘Satin Sheets’. When all the work was done, they would join the men in the living room and watch Lawrence Welk or another holiday special show.

1970’s California
As the six kids got older and  moved out, they still gathered for the holidays.   Usually Nana, Grandma Kate, Pop Pop, Uncle Bobby, Aunt Betty and her husband Dan, my mom, Uncle Danny and his girlfriend Susan, Uncle Richy and his wife Debbie, Uncle Rusty, and the grand kids Jamie, Chad, Michelle, and Christy would all be in attendance.   Sometimes Uncle Dick and Aunt Arlene would come out from Ohio with their kids Mark, Dawn, Dirk, and Marla.

Aunt Betty moved to Alaska when her husband Dan took a job in 1978 and it was hard to get together for Thanksgiving.  Grandma Kate passed away unexpectedly in 1980 and after that it seems like the family all started to celebrate on their own.  My mom and Aunt Betty have continued the traditional Thanksgiving dinner with their families.  Uncle Rusty has started his own tradition of a modern Thanksgiving with close friends.  They are all thankful for the hard work Nana and Grandma Kate did and will always remember those big traditional dinners.