Archive for the ‘Unsolved Genealogical Mysteries’ Category

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Murphy & Aspery

I feel pretty confident on what I’ve found so far with the Murphy and Asperys.  A summary of the Murphy timeline from 1810 to present can be found here: Murphy Ancestry and my 3rd Great Grandfather William Murphy.  This line includes the surnames: Murphy, Quinn, Aspery, and Perchase.  The Murphys moved out of Ireland in the early 1800’s and were always on the go throughout Wales, England, and then finally ended up in Pennsylvania. Their movements seem to be guided by the rise and fall of various ironworks around the UK.  I’d love to find more information about their original whereabouts in Ireland, but searching for anything before 1810 on such a common name is difficult.

Richards & Williams

Margaret Ann Richards (husbands James Joseph Murphy and James Paterson) had a sister named Bessie and parents John Richards and Ann Williams. Family lore is that Ann died when the girls were young and John moved them with their step-mother to Pennsylvania from Yorkshire, England in 1882.  I’ve found a potential 1881 census record of a Margaret, Bessie and parents John and Ann in Yorkshire.  But, it also includes other siblings Polly, Joseph, and Elizabeth.  As far as I know, Margaret never mentioned having any other siblings, other than Bessie.  I’m still trying to figure all this out since there are many records with the possible name combinations.

Duncan & Rostron

This line includes surnames: Duncan, Glass, Ford, Rostron, and Cain.  I’m looking for a descendant of either James Duncan (1769-1861) or Hugh Duncan (1799-1870) to compare DNA with. Also looking for an obituary for Jennie Salina (Ford) Duncan who died in 1936 in Effingham, Illinois.

Zillifro

Definitely need to find a descendant of Samuel Willis (abt 1823-?) or Sarah Jane Hilliard (abt 1818-?) to compare DNA with because I have NO IDEA if these are the correct grandparents of Loretta Alice (Zillifro) Hutchinson. She claimed that her “real” mother was a native american that died during childbirth – which, I know, is very unlikely, but I think it’s still possible that her real mother did die during childbirth and her father, Egbert Zillifro, remarried very quickly after. I’d really like to connect with someone from the supposed step-mother’s line to get to the bottom of it.

Hutchinson

I spent so much time on this line, almost an entire year exclusively, that I barely look at it anymore. It includes the surnames: Hutchison, Moorhead, Campbell, Patton, Jamison, Shryock, Anderson, and Blackstone.  They are Irish and Scottish immigrants from the late 1700’s and ended up in the area of Indiana, PA and Butler, PA. This is the line that connects to Fergus Moorhead, our Revolutionary War ancestor and would qualify the women in my family to join the Daughters of the American Revolution. Unfortunately, the application rules are so stringent that I completely lost interest.

Updegraff

The Updegraffs are well documented back to the late 1500’s.  It’s my oldest line and they have interesting connections to the creation of the Mennonite church, William Penn, and early Philadelphia. But, I have little to no information on any of the women that married into the Updegraff family (it’s a very lopsided tree!). I’m particularly interested in the Millers of Hagerstown, MD and Somerset, PA.

Pirolt & Rauscher

Oh, my Austrian ancestors!  I feel like I will never know their story. I have a couple leads. One is that my grandfather’s brother supposedly died in WW2 at the Battle of Monte Cassino. If I could be on the show “Who Do You Think You Are,” I would definitely want to do this family line.

Henry Miller Hutchison

WHY did Loretta divorce her husband after 20 years of marriage and leave her two youngest girls mostly unsupervised while she took an extended trip to visit family in another state?  WHY and where did James Joseph Murphy contract typhoid?  And HOW did all ten Davis family members survive the Johnstown flood, floating on the roof, when their house was near Washington Street – the area that was hit the hardest?

I’ve accepted the fact that I’m a bit of a busy-body.  Sometimes the most frustrating part about genealogy is not having a lot of context for certain relationships and events.

But when you have enough details on paper, you can fill in the blanks with your imagination.  And that is one of the best parts of genealogy.

Here’s a good example.

Alexander Campbell Hutchinson (my 2nd great grandfather, Cametta Marie’s father) had three unmarried aunts that lived together for the better part of 85 years: Esther, Isabelle, and Margaret. They reached the marriage age 3-5 years before the Civil War, so that may have something to do with why they never got married.

I was doing some research at the Butler County Courthouse a couple years ago and came across Esther and Isabelle’s will.

Esther Hutchison b. 1938  d. 8 Sep 1900

“Sarah C Wackers son Henry Miller is not to git one dollar of my money as land whaver it may be those that is not scaefied with this my will can git nothing of myen”

Isabelle M Hutchison b. 20 July 1840  d. 27 May 1907

“i have not fixed my mind on who i will leve what money i have left to but if any thing should hapen to me before i have things fixed i wont some friend to see that i get a respectable burial and monument.  friends that has wronged me is not to get any of my money Miller Hutchison is not to get one dollar”

Isabelle’s will was never filed at the courthouse, but was found months after her death stuffed in the chimney.  The newspaper article says that Margaret found it “while ransacking thru the house.”

So, who is this Henry Miller Hutchison?  And I definitely need to find Margaret’s will to see if she also mentions him.

(Margaret J Hutchison b. 22 July 1825  d. 2 February 1910 – if anyone in the Butler area wants to take a trip to the County Courthouse)

It turns out that Henry Miller Hutchison was their nephew.  He was the oldest son of their brother Robert J Hutchison, who died at the young age of 35 in October 1865.

Did Henry Miller do something terrible to his aunts or were they just three crotchety old women?

I can only imagine!

Cursive Handwriting Mysteries

I’m terrible with cursive writing.  We only spent a couple weeks on it in elementary school, then moved on. My 8 year old self thought it was a complete waste of time.

My least favorite part of genealogy is deciphering handwriting.  For goodness sakes, why weren’t most vital records printed, neatly?

Here are my current hang-ups.

Slave, Kane, Cain

Margaret A Rostron was born September 1879 in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.  She’s my 2nd great-grandmother, grandmother to Charles Duncan.

Margaret A Rostron’s parents were Annie Nora and James Rostron.  Margaret’s marriage certificate from 9 August 1901 gives both her parent’s names and her mother’s maiden name.  But, her mother’s maiden is not so clear (to me at least).

Margaret Rostron Marriage

Margaret Rostron Marriage Clip
For the longest time, I thought her mother’s maiden was Slave, but it’s not very common and didn’t lead to anything.

Then I found James Rostron’s death certificate (Annie Nora’s husband) from 1925 which listed his wife: Nora Cain. Instead of “Slave” is the first record actually “Kane?”

Nora_Cain_Clip-2

Her death certificate also lists her father as a Cain, but it’s the same informant on both certificates.

SONY DSC

Hannon in Chester

My next mystery is from the death certificate of my 3rd Great Grandfather, William Murphy.  Thanks to the Pennsylvania State Archives opening up death certificates to the public, I’ve had a ton of great breakthroughs.

Everything on the death certificate matches up, his address, occupation, age (range).  But I can’t figure out who the informant is.

WMurphyInformantHe passed away at the home of his daughter, Sarah Davis.  He had two other daughters that I don’t know what happened to, so I’m curious if this is one of them.  I’m also curious because Chester is on the other side of the state so this couldn’t be just a neighbor.

It’s something like Mrs. Nod Hannon? I have no clue.

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.  🙂

Hutchinson Mystery Men

 

William Hutchison – 3rd Great Grandfather (for family reference, this is Robert Lee Updegraff’s great grandfather)

  • Missing 1900 census
  • Unknown death date (estimate 
  • Unknown birth date (estimate 1821-1825)
  • No actual sources for connection to parents (DNA has confirmed though)

Williams parents were Forgus Hutchison (1798-1860) and Jane Campbell (1800-1872).

William appears in the Census from 1850-1880 and is living with his wife and children.  His birth years range from 1815-1825.  There are multiple un-sourced ancestry.com trees that list a 1904 death date and the nickname “Fox Bill” or “William Fox,” but no one has any idea where it came from.

I couldn’t find William’s will at the Butler County office, but I did find his father’s *very long* one with lists of items for various people, but never mentioning specifically his son William.  The 1900 Census would certainly provide more information, but I haven’t been able to find it.

William Hutchison married Ann Marie Jamison and had the following known children:

  • Forgus M Hutchison 1846-1912, m. Eliza Fleming
  • Mary Elvira Hutchison 1848-1915, m. John Elliott Snowden
  • Thompson Jamison Hutchison 1851-1907, m. Alice Brady
  • Margaret A Hutchison 1853-1920, m. — Thompson
  • Amanda Jane Hutchison 1857-1916, m. Gilbert Ewing
  • Alexander Campbell Hutchinson 1858-1940 (2nd great grandfather), m. Loretta Zillifro
  • Euphemia E Hutchison 1860-1906, m. Edward M Dieter
  • Rosetta Hutchison 1864-1910, m. Lincoln Saylor
  • William Hutchison 1869-bef 1880

 

Alexander Campbell Hutchinson – 2nd Great Grandfather (for family reference, this is Robert Lee Updegraff’s grandfather)

Update February 2017: Alexander Campbell is less of a mystery thanks to finding his death certificate, obituary, and release of the 1940 census.  Updated blog post: Alexander Campbell Hutchison.

 

*Originally published October 2011, updated February 2017

 

Friedhof Pörtschach

Greetings from Austria!

What better time to research my dad’s family history, then while on vacation in his hometown!  I’m really starting from scratch  and was hoping to visit the church archive and interview some older family members while on vacation.  Upon contacting the Archiv der Diözese Gurk (Catholic Church Archives), I found out that you must make a FOUR month in advance appointment to do research – a huge disappointment.  This was confirmed over the phone with the church archivist.  So, the archives will have to wait.

One of the first things we did was visit my Oma’s grave in Friedhof Pörtscach.  I loved my Oma very much.  We visited the cemetery many times with her, as most of her family is buried there.  On these visits, she had no interest to explain who was who and I had never had the interest to ask.  But times have changed and now my Oma’s name appears on the headstone with her husband’s, and I have lots of questions.

Who are these other two people: Matthias and Juliane Feicht?  My dad recalls that Oma would explain that Juliane was her aunt (…who liked to flirt with younger married men).  Aha! That tells me so much!  But who is she really?  She could be my great-grandfather’s sister; I have a photo with three mystery women one of which could be her.  Which of the three looks more flirtatious?  🙂  Then again my great-grandmother could have had 12 sisters for all I know!  As my dad said to me leaving the cemetery “that’s for you to figure out!”

The cemetery visit still provided a lot of information.  All of my Oma’s siblings are buried there and I now have all their birth dates and spouse names.  We will return once more to the cemetery for further reflection.

To view photos of the headstones, visit the family photo album here.

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?