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?

6 Responses

  1. katy,

    My Aunt Eileen Murphy Slavin is on Facebook you might contact her cuz your Great uncle Jimmy Murph is her dad, she is my moms only living Sibling. She lives in Palm Springs…might want to try Good luck


  2. Ken Wigton

    Pearl Murphy married Charles Wigton who was my great grandfather. As a genealogist (25+ years)I have researched my tree heavily. It is not uncommon for dates to not match for many reasons. Info often gets passed down wrong, there were many illiterate people in the past, stories change over the years, much is hearsay, etc., etc., etc. I have hundreds of people on my tree with different dates for different events. Many people didn’t even know their own birth years and I imagine they didn’t celebrate like we do now. I have 2 sisters (grgr grandmother & sister) that only aged 5 years from the 1850 census to the 1860 census! I will check my tree for Murphy info. Ken Wigton

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