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

Hopefully the Vital Records Bill SB-361 gets passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives because I need some vital records! Pennsylvania is super restrictive on their vital records and is one of only eight states that doesn’t offer death certificates and/or indexes online.  For more information, go here: People for Better Pennsylvania Historical Records Access.

Until then, my list of records from PA I’d like to have will just keep getting longer.  Here are two ancestors that I would love to know more about:

William Hutchison
3rd Great Grandfather
Mystery: Missing in 1900 census, unknown death date, unknown birth date, no real source for connection to parents, and an unexplained nickname.

Born around 1821 in Butler, Pennsylvania to Forgus Hutchison and Jane Campbell
Married Ann Marie Jamison and had the following known children:

  • Forgus M Hutchison 1846-1912
  • Mary Elvira Hutchison-Snowden 1848-1915
  • Thompson J Hutchison 1851-1907
  • Margaret A Hutchison-Thompson 1853-?
  • Amanda Jane Hutchison-Ewing 1857-1916
  • Alexander Campbell Hutchinson 1858-1940 (2nd great grandfather)
  • Sarah B “Euphemia” Hutchison-Dieter 1860-?
  • Rosetta Hutchison 1865-?
  • William Hutchison 1869-?

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 had any idea where it came from when messaged.  It had to originate somewhere!  Maybe he served in the Civil War?  I couldn’t find William’s will at the Butler County office, but I did find his father’s *very long* one that leaves lists of items to various people, but never mentioning specifically his “son” William.  The 1900 Census would certainly provide more information, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to find it.

Alexander Campbell Hutchinson
2nd Great Grandfather
Mystery: Missing in the 1930’s census, possible unknown 2nd wife

Born April 1858 in Butler, Pennsylvania to William Hutchison and Ann Marie Jamison.
Married Loretta Alice Zillifro 14 July 1893 and had 8 children, 5 lived to adulthood:

  • Oscar Bower Hutchinson 1893-1973
  • Roscoe Campbell Hutchinson 1897-1948
  • Victor Harold Hutchinson 1899-1950
  • Cametta Marie Hutchinson 1902-1954 (my great grandmother)
  • Rose Ellen Hutchinson 1904-1982

Alexander Campbell (went by “Cam”) and Loretta were divorced in 1912.  I was so curious why they were divorced as most were only granted under circumstances of cruelty or abandonment.  But, after finding the record in the Butler County Prothonotary office, it just states that Loretta filed for divorce and it was granted a couple months later.  In the 1920 census, Cam is a boarder with an older woman.  He died 23 October 1940; when the PA vital records become public, this is the first death record I’m ordering.  Cam is buried in Concord Cemetery in Butler, but doesn’t have a headstone (the church does not have any older records of the cemetery either).  His obituary states that he leaves a wife at their home in Butler.  I wonder if that is a misstatement, if Cam actually remarried, or if Loretta had moved back in.  The 1940’s census will certainly help with that.

Here’s how we’re related: Forgus Hutchison -> William Hutchison -> Alexander Campbell Hutchinson -> Cametta Marie Hutchinson -> Robert Lee Updegraff -> Barbara Lynn Updegraff -> Me

James Joseph Murphy-Part 2

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?