Posts Tagged ‘unsolved mystery’

Another Reason Why I Love Genealogy

I’ve recently been in contact with a cousin of my father’s, who is also interested in genealogy and still lives in my dad’s hometown. He is older than my dad and has more first-hand accounts of my Oma’s generation.

His recent email included an interesting little story – my Oma’s father (my great-grandfather) Valentin Stossier had 12 unmarried children.  TWELVE.  His wife, being a good-natured and social woman, sent the single mothers care packages of food and clothing each month.  According to my father, adultery in rural Austria was somewhat common back then.  But, TWELVE unmarried children is a little over-the-top.

My Oma had TWELVE half-siblings. To think of all the things I would have never known, had I not become interested in genealogy…

Valentin Stossier

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 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


James Joseph Murphy-Part 2

Update February 2017: James Joseph Murphy is no longer the biggest mystery in my tree 🙂  In fact, I ended up tracing his ancestry back to 1810.  Original post is below, but more up-to-date info can be found: 


Original Post July 2011:

Continued from James Joseph Murphy-Part 1

Here’s how my investigation went:

1.  Called the Mercer County Historical Society to inquire about Margaret Richards and James Joseph Murphy’s marriage record.  The historical society contains indexes of vital records stored at the Mercer County courthouse.  The marriage certificate would likely list parent’s names, birthdate, and birth location so it’s a very useful document when doing genealogical research.  Since 1885, marriage licenses were required by Pennsylvania law and maintained by the county issuing the license.  Unfortunately, there were no records of Margaret and James’ marriage in 1901. But, it would certainly help to spend more time searching the indexes at the Historical Society and the local library.

2.  Checked the Ohio Historical Society, Online Death Certificate Index.  There are NO James Murphys in the death index for 1916, as Margaret’s obituary states.  But, there is a James J. Murphy that died 30 May 1917 in Mahoning County, Ohio.  This is what the death certificate tells us about this James J Murphy:

  • Born in England 1 January 1881 (same country, but 3 years off his 1910 census birth year)
  • Laborer (same occupation), Married
  • Father: William Murphy, Ireland
  • Mother: Katherine Aspery, England (one of his daughters was named Katherine)
  • Died 30 May 1917 of Typoid (year conflicts with Margaret’s obituary stating James died in 1916)
  • Address: 328 Adams Street (not the same street they lived at in the 1900 census)
  • Place of Burial: Sharon, Pennsylvania (same county that Margaret and James lived before moving to Youngstown)

I’m not convinced that this death certificate belongs to “my” James Joseph Murphy.

3.  To further investigate the possible death certificate, I found the James J Murphy (from the death certificate) in the 1900 census:

  • William Murphy, Father, Born July 1851 in Ireland
  • Cathrine Murphy, Mother, Born May 1854 in England
  • William Murphy, Son, Born September 1872 in England
  • John Murphy, Son, Born June 1879 in England (Could this be James’ “twin” brother? Born two years apart, family might have referred to them as twins?)
  • James Murphy, Son, Born October 1881 (Conflicting birthdate by 3 years), Occupation: Day Laborer (that’s a match)
  • May Murphy, Daughter, Born May 1884 in England
  • Sarah Murphy, Daughter, Born May 1884 in England (actual twin sisters)
  • Immigration Year: 1892 (conflict with the 1885 date given in the 1910 census)
  • Naturalized Citizen (James was a naturalized citizen in the 1910 census, Margaret was not)

Still not convinced that’s him.

4.  Tried to find James J Murphy (from the death certificate) in the 1910 census in Sharon, Pennsylvania or Youngstown, Ohio but couldn’t get an exact match.  If I did find him in the 1910 census, that would completely rule out the death certificate, as it would differentiate from  “my” James Joseph Murphy, who I already have the 1910 census for.

So, that still leaves the possibility open that the death certificate  is my James Murphy, but doesn’t solve the mystery either.

5.  Went to the Youngstown Vindicator obituary archives.  Found some great articles, but nothing about James Joseph Murphy.

6.  Searched more census records and found a possible 1900 census of a James J Murphy serving in the 9th Infantry, U.S. Army during the Philippine Insurrection.  Luckily, I live near the National Archives in Washington, DC and was able to visit and search through the Philippine Insurrection military records (fascinating!).  I found 9 possible James Murphys serving during the Philippine Insurrection.  It took TWO full days looking through those 9 records and did not find a match (The National Archives is VERY complicated but definitely a treasure chest!).  For example, one of the Murphys died during service so that’s not him; I was certain another record was my relative, until I found an enclosed letter from his father discussing his own service in the Civil War; another was serving in the Calvary, instead of Infantry; another enlisted under the name James Murphy, but changed back to his real name William; others were too old or from the wrong states.

7.  Searched immigration records.  Because the name James Murphy, even with the middle name Joseph, was so common and immigration/naturalization records before 1900 don’t offer any genealogical information, there’s no way I could determine which record is his.

So, this is where I end my search.  Every once in a while I’ll get a hunch and try something new, but so far (as you can see) nothing budges on this mystery.  My next step will probably be to search the Mercer county records and local library, but given I live 5.5 hours away, I’m not sure that will happen anytime soon.

Any thoughts?