Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Patrick Murray and Ellen McCusker: From County Down to Massachusetts


The location of Ballintlieve, on the Western edge of Ballyculter in County Down


Patrick Murray and Ellen McCusker were my third great-grandparents. Their son, John Bernard Murray, was my second great-grandfather.

Patrick Murray was born in Ballintlieve, near Ballyculter in County Down, Ireland.  It is now Northern Ireland.  He was the son of Patrick Murray, Sr. and Rose Smythe.  His birth date may have been July 12, 1787, but this isn't proven.

Ellen McCusker was born between 1800 and 1802 in Banbridge, County Down. She was likely the daughter of Laughlin McCusker. Her full name may have been Eleanor, but she is listed as Ellen on most paperwork.

Patrick and Ellen were married in Banbridge in 1823, when Ellen was about 23 years old and Patrick possibly about 36. They settled in Banbridge and had children there. I reviewed paperwork my grandmother had copied from the Dromore, County Down Register of Baptisms and Marriages 1823-1845 and turned up the names of eight children born to Patrick and Ellen.

Patrick Murray (b. 1823)
Bernard Murray (b. 1825)
John Bernard Murray (b. 1834)
Eleanor Murray (b. 1836)
Michael Murray (b. 1838)
Margaret Anne Murray (b. 1840)
Elizabeth Jane Murray (b. 1844)
Matthew Murray (b. 1846)

There are some confusing things here. Firstly, the 9-year gap between the second and third children is extremely unusual, especially when the other children were born at two-year intervals, for the most part. There are a couple of possible explanations. There may have been other children born during that gap whose baptismal records were lost, or who died prior to baptism. I see some mentions in other family trees of a child named Catherine Murray born in 1832, so it's entirely likely I just haven't found all the records for the Murray children. It's also possible that there was more than one couple with the names Patrick and Ellen/Eleanor Murray in Dromore Parish and we're confusing the records from two families.

Another thing that raises an eyebrow is the multiple births well into Ellen's forties and Patrick's late fifties. If Ellen was truly born in 1800-1802, then her youngest child was born when she was either 44 or 46 and her husband around age 59. While this is not impossible, it's unusual.

Patrick and Ellen immigrated from County Down, Ireland to Boston, Massachusetts.  I am not sure if they came with some or all of their children, or if they came later.  I have not been able to find details of their move.

This family is a perfect example of how writing a genealogy blog helps you dig deeper into your research.  When I started writing this post, I assumed I had a lot more information about Patrick and Ellen than I actually do.  The narrative about them has been passed down in my family, but it turns out there is little documentation to support the stories that have circulated about my third great-grandparents.  When you actually have to write down the story of an ancestor, with facts and sources, the holes in your research suddenly loom large. Here are the things I cannot currently prove about Patrick and Ellen:

  • Dates of birth
  • Date of immigration to the USA
  • Place of arrival in the USA
  • Census records placing them in Boston (or Charlestown)
  • Death records

Those are some pretty big missing pieces of the puzzle.

I found death records for a Patrick Murray in San Francisco in 1884.  It's possible that Patrick followed his son John Bernard Murray west, but this death date makes him 97 years old at the time of his passing.  That's impressive by today's standards, and nearly unheard of at that time.  I'm not convinced this is the correct Patrick.

I've also found death records for an Ellen Murray in Charlestown, Massachusetts in 1875.  I believe this may be the correct person for several reasons. The Ellen who died in 1875 was about seventy-six years old and was married to Patrick Murray.  This is the correct age and spouse for my Ellen.  Also, we know that some of the Murray children settled in Charlestown, so it would make sense that their parents lived there, too.  In a newspaper article detailing Ellen's death, her husband Patrick is said to be seventy-six years of age, and a former tailor who had moved to Charlestown from "the old country" just four years prior to his wife's death.  Our Patrick was a tailor and an immigrant, so that is correct.  The article places Patrick's year of birth around 1799, while I'd heard that Patrick was born in 1787. However, 1799 makes so much more sense for a number of reasons, including his age at the time of his marriage and the births of his children, so I think it's possible we've had his birth date wrong.

So, what do we really know about Patrick Murray and Ellen McCusker?  We know they were from County Down, Ireland, that they married and had children there and then the family moved to America.  I'll have to continue to search for more information about them.




Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Murray Family

Six of the Murray siblings with their mother, Kate Daly Murray

My grandmother left me this wonderful photo of the Murray family.  She and I looked at it together many times before she died, but she was never sure who all of the people in the photo were. The Murrays were my grandfather's family, and my grandmother never knew most of them.

She was certain about two of the people pictured, and I have other photos of them that confirm their identities. Catherine "Kate" Daly Murray is at far right, in the black dress.  The woman above her is her daughter, Julia Murray.  This photo must have been taken prior to 1904, when Julia died at age 23. The rest of the people in the photo are assumed to also be Kate Murray's children.

The woman in front, in the white dress, is Gertrude Murray, according to a note I found on the back of a small reprint of the photo. Her eyes and smile look similar to another photo that I have of Gertrude at an older age, so I think this is accurate.  That would make the woman in the back row Frances Murray.  There were four Murray sisters, and my great-grandmother Genevieve is not pictured, so this makes identification of the women a little easier.

There were four Murray brothers, and there are three men in this photo.  I don't know for certain which man is which, unfortunately.  The brothers were John Aloysius, William, Frederick and Frank. A note found on a photo reprint claims that the man at front left may be John Aloysius, but doesn't mention the others.

Although I wish I knew exactly who was who, it's still great to have this photo of some of the Murray siblings and their mother.  They were always described to me as a happy, lively family with a lot of Irish wit and spirit.  That certainly comes through in this picture.