Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Emma Anna Murphy - An Illegitimate Child?

Nova Scotia - Emma Anna Murphy Mystery - NewEnglandGenealogy.net
Since I've decided to spend this year focused on Emma Anna Murphy as the research project of 2018, I thought I would share the information I've gathered thus far. This goes beyond what I already know and delves into a possible family. This is still a work in progress.

Over the past 10 years, I've shared the frustration I've felt about my great-great grandmother, Emma Anna Murphy who married a man named Mr. Re(a)gan sometime between 1877 and 1888, and then married my great-great grandfather, Erastus Bartlett Shaw, in Middleborough on 17 November 1888.

Much of Emma's known life is full of inconsistencies. From her 1888 marriage to my great-great grandfather, which produced one child (my great-grandpa Harrison Clifford Shaw) until her death in Taunton, Massachusetts on 14 March 1945 and even beyond, everything reported on or about Emma is full of conflicting information.

In my last post, we jumped in our way-back machine to review the timeline of Emma's life. For more visual people, this table shows the conflicting information on her place of birth:

1888 Marriage
1889 Son’s birth
1900 U.S. Cens.
1910 U.S. Cens.
1920 U.S. Cens.
1930 U.S. Cens.
1940 U.S. Cens.
1945 Death & obit
1970 Son’s death
Nova Scotia






The official record "closest" to Emma's past is the marriage register in Middleborough, Massachusetts for her marriage to Erastus B. Shaw. The original handwritten register indicates that her maiden name is Murphy. It was the second marriage for both parties. Emma gives her birth as 25 years old, her birthplace as Nova Scotia, her father's name as Patrick Murphy and her mother's name as Mary. This puts her birth year around 1863, while her death record puts it around 1861.

A Nova Scotia Emma

After searching the 1880 and 1870 censuses in both Maine and Massachusetts time and again, as well as the 1881 Canadian census, and turning up empty-handed, Barbara Poole commented on one of my previous posts many years ago, saying she found an Emma Murphy in the 1871 census in Manchester, Guysborough, Nova Scotia. I've examined that census entry many times since. Emma is, indeed, the right age to be "mine" - about 10 years old.

However, this Emma was living with Johannah and Nicholas Flavin. Now, I already conclusively ruled out the Emma Murphy found in the 1881 census in Ward 1, Halifax City, Nova Scotia, because that Emma married and remained in Nova Scotia for the rest of her life.

As for my Emma? Well...

A Guysborough Murphy Family

I found a Patrick and Mary Murphy family in Manchester, Guysborough, Nova Scotia in the 1871 census as well. However that still didn't tell me that the Emma living with the Flavins was their child or my Emma. Still, she was a "maybe" and the only potential maybe I had between 1860 and 1888.

One day I dug deeper on Family Search and ran a search for anyone with a father named Patrick Murphy and a mother named Mary Frasher, Frasier, or Frazier, this being the surname of Emma's mother according to Emma's death record and obituary. I didn't actually expect to find anything in this search.

But I did.

A Potential Sister

I found the death record of Margaret Murphy in Boston, Massachusetts, December 21, 1890. Her parents' names were listed as Patrick Murphy and Mary Frazier, her husband's name as William Murphy.

Naturally I clicked it out of curiosity. Death registers weren't always perfectly detailed, of course. I figured at best, it might say Margaret was born in Nova Scotia or Canada, but not give me a town. I was right, but it turned out the death register listed her place of birth as Nova Scotia, so there was a possible connection.

It felt too good to be true. Could this be Emma's sister? A much older sister, considering Margaret was born about 1842, but a sister nonetheless?

A Family Comes Together

The next place I checked were the records of St. Ann's parish, a Catholic church in Guysborough, Nova Scotia. I have no idea if Emma was Catholic, because she attended First Congregational Church in Middleborough (aka The Church on the Green) with my great-great grandfather, where they are now buried. Still, it was the only set of early baptisms, marriages and deaths available for the county.

There I found a baptism for Margaret, daughter of Patrick:

24 Apr 1844 baptism Margaret Murphy,
age [blank], sex [blank], father: Patrick Murphy, mother: wife [blank], sponsors: Laurence Marah & Mrs. Laurence Marah; clergyman: R. J. Meighan PP. Scan: 002_01_X1_0023; pg 33, item no. [blank].

I also found it interesting that her sponsors were the Marahs, because I noticed that Nicholas Flavin's wife, Johannah, was a Marr/Marra/Marah herself. There were also baptisms for other children of Patrick Murphy, as well as marriages, which I began to put together in chronological order.

As I worked my way to the 1860s, wondering if I might find an Emma, I found the most tantalizing clue yet.

An Unexpected Baptism

Well, if there was an Emma Murphy living with the Flavin family in 1871 in Manchester, surely I would find a baptism for her around 1861-1863, right? After all, she was born. She existed. So I poked around the St. Ann's baptisms for those years and found an Emma. Only one, in fact, and this is what I read:

4 Jul 1863 baptism Emma Ann Wallace,
age [blank], sex [blank], father: Francis Wallace, mother: Eliza Murphy, sponsors: Laurence Shea & Julia Tobin; clergyman: Thomas Sears, PP. Notes: Illegitimate. Baptised by Rev. Edmond Doyle. Scan: 002_01_X1_0080; pg 145, item no. [blank].

Hmm... Alright then. This Emma Ann is the right age to be my Emma Anna Murphy... only it's her mother who is a Murphy, not her father. And who was Eliza Murphy?

Well, as it turns out, Patrick and Mary Ann, parents of Margaret, also had a daughter named Elizabeth in 1838:

10 Apr 1838 baptism, Elisabeth Murphy,
age [blank], sex [blank], father Patrick Murphy, mother Mary Anne Lowery;
sponsors: Thomas Henesey & Mary Whelan; clergyman Simon Lawlor.
Scan: 001_01_X1_0119 pg. 241 item no. 20

A woman born in 1838 was certainly old enough to give birth to baby in 1863 or before. Elisabeth/Eliza would be 25 in 1863. But there was another sticking point: Mary Ann, wife of Patrick, was a Lowery/Lowry, not a Frasher/Fraser/Frazier:

Patrick Murphy & Mary Lowry
10 Feb 1835 marriage:
[groom] Patrick Murphy, parents: [blank];
[bride] Mary Lowry, parents: [blank];
witnesses: Roger Purcel, Micl. Delahunty & Bridget Doheny; clergyman James Grant.
Notes: [The year is probably 1835; "five" is clearly visible with something else under it. The record above is dated 1834; the one below is undated; then the following record is dated 1835.]
Scan: 001_01_X1_0143 pg. 290 item no. 3

Still, I persevered. Patrick's death record supported Margaret's death record in Boston, which stated he was born in Ireland, not to mention the occasional record on Emma's life that says the same thing:

Patrick Murphy, age 80 yrs,
burial date [blank] 1873, death date 24 Sep 1873, parents: [blank], spouse: [blank]; clergyman: M. Tompkins, P.P. Notes: Native of Wexford Ireland. Scan: 002_01_X1_0199, pg. 9, item no. [blank]

And Mary's death record, well, it doesn't tell me much of anything except this:

Mary Murphy, age 76 yrs,
burial date [blank] 1882, death date 23 Mar 1882, parents: [blank], spouse: Patrick Murphy; clergyman: M. Tompkins, P.P. Notes: Of Reserve. Native of South Shore Guysboro. Scan: 002_01_X1_0170, pg. 306A, item no. [blank]

At this point, I know I'm still making a huge leap in assuming two things:

1. This is the Patrick Murphy and Mary Ann couple I'm looking for and

2. That Emma Anna Murphy is not actually their daughter, but their granddaughter, illegitimate through their daughter Elizabeth.

Of course I had to step back and reassess this, so I gathered more information.

A Potential Family Tree

First, I found out Patrick and Mary Ann had two sons as well - Laurence and James. This interests me, because my great-grandfather Harrison (son of Emma and Erastus) had a son named Laurence.

My grandmother (Barbara, Laurence's twin and Emma's granddaughter) named her second son Lawrence in honor of her twin brother, who died as a toddler.

According to Patrick Murphy's official death record at Nova Scotia Vital Statistics, his father's name was Laurence.

Fine, we've got a bunch of Laurences. So?

So I pursued the sons and found a death record for James Murphy:

Name James F. Murphy
Event Type Marriage
Event Date 25 Oct 1882
Event Place , Gloucester, Massachusetts, United States
Gender Male
Age 22
Birth Year (Estimated) 1860
Birthplace Nova Scotia
Father's Name Patrick
Mother's Name Mary Lowrie
Spouse's Name Annie Fitzpatrick
Spouse's Gender Female
Spouse's Age 19
Spouse's Birth Year (Estimated) 1863
Spouse's Father's Name Patrick
Spouse's Mother's Name Agnes A.Hearch

Again, I see the mother's name is listed as Lowrie, not Frasher. Still. this family seems to be coming together. This confirms that this James Murphy is "mine" because, apparently, I've adopted this family as a hypothesis, at the very least. Poor James lost his life on the schooner Virginia Dare:

14. Sch. Virginia Dare 89.41 tons, built in Essex in 1883, owned by Pool, Gardner & Co., lost with all on board in the Christmas or New Year's Eve gale on a Grand Bank halibut trip. Loss $9500, insurance $6120 on vessel and $1700 on outfits by the Gloucester Mutual Fishing Insurance Co. She had a crew of fourteen men, all natives of the British Provinces, for some years engaged in fishing from this port, as follows:
"Fabian Nolan, master left widow and three children in this city, native of Chepstow, P. E. I.
Elijah Nolan, brother of master, native of Chepstow, P. E. I. , single.
Daniel McDonald, of P. E. I., single.
Daniel McKinnon, of P. E. I., single.
Angus McKinnon, single.
Daniel McMaster, of Queensfield, C. B., single.
Leverett Tinker, Campobello, N. B., single.
Michael McLean, P. E. I., single.
William Roper, Sydney, C. B., single.
Stephen Steward, Lunenburg, N. S., single.
Joseph McDonald, Chepstow, P. E. I., single.
Frederick O. Spinney, cook, Argyle, N. S., single.
James Murphy, of Guysborough, N. S., left a widow and one child in this city.James Murphy, a native of Straits of Canso, N. S., left a widow in this city."
I went on to find James Murphy's child, John Joseph Murphy, born 30 May 1886 in Gloucester, Massachusetts. John had at least 2 children himself: Harold James (1908-1917) and Gerald J. (1910-1980).

Gerald's obituary told me he also had a sister, Geralyn. I am currently pursuing her family, trying to determine if she has living descendants as part of trying to figure out if Emma Ann Wallace is actually my Emma Anna Murphy.

A Habit of Illegitimate Births

Since I have no further information on Eliza - no marriage or death date yet - and nothing on Francis Wallace, either, I looked at Margaret and found what I thought could be an illegitimate child for her:

11 Apr 1862 baptism Eliza Mc Eachern,
age [blank], female, father: Louchlan Mc Eachern, mother: Margaret Murphy, sponsors: Angus Gillis & Mrs. Ruth Lawlor; clergyman: Thomas Sears, PP. Notes: Father is from Judique C. Breton, mother: from Salmon River. Illegitimate. Scan: 002_01_X1_0075; pg 134, item no. [blank].

Interesting. This is before 1871, when Margaret is found with her family in the 1871 census in Manchester, Guysborough, Nova Scotia.

I looked further into this particular Eliza and saw that she used her mother's name, Murphy, and married Charles McAlister in Guysborough in 1889. She had at least 2 sons with him, both baptized at St. Ann's.

This is where the wheels really started turning, because if Eliza was the illegitimate daughter of Margaret and her father's name was known but she used her mother's maiden name of Murphy, I started to also wonder about Emma Ann Wallace.

After all, if Emma Ann Wallace is the daughter of Eliza (the elder one), and Eliza's sister, Margaret had an illegitimate daughter who used her surname instead of the paternal surname...

You see where I'm going with this conclusion that Emma Ann Wallace, daughter of Eliza/beth Murphy may then be my Emma Anna Murphy.

A Theory

Thus, this would not make Emma the daughter of Patrick and Mary Ann Murphy, but rather their granddaughter.

But there is still the sticky point about Mary Ann's last name. When Mary Ann married Patrick Murphy, her surname was Lowery. So why is it listed as Frasher or Frazier in Emma and Margaret's death records, but as Lowrie in James's? Is it the wrong family entirely?

I don't think so. In fact, here's what I think:

1. Mary Ann Lowrie/Lowery was married previously sometime after 1827 (when a Mary Fraser witnessed a marriage at St. Ann's), and Lowrie/Lowery is not her maiden name, but actually her first married name. If she was 76 when she died in 1882, that puts her year of birth around 1806. She was 29 when she married Patrick Murphy, so she certainly could have been on her second marriage.

2. Emma Ann Wallace is her granddaughter and was sent to live with the Flavins because she is illegitimate. I notice Eliza Murphy (the younger) never lived with her mother, Margaret, after her birth either. Emma, however, did use her mother's surname - Murphy - rather than her actual father's name.

3. Emma went to Maine and/or Massachusetts sometime between October 4, 1879 (when she sponsored a baptism at St. Ann's as Emma Murphy) and 1881 (when she does not appear in the Canadian census). I think she managed to travel after the U.S. 1880 census enumeration, but before the 1881 Canadian census enumeration.

4. Her marriage to Mr. Reagan is still out there somewhere, still estimated to have occurred when Emma was 16 (per the 1910 census, so sometime in 1879 or 1880). Perhaps she was married in Maine, where there is more of a gap in records.

5. The stories she told her grandchildren about her family "owning ships" and being a wealthy trading family might have been fabricated to cover up the fact that was, in actuality, an illegitimate child. After all, the 1940 census shows that Emma received zero years of education. Why is that? Children received an education in the 1860s and 1870s, didn't then? Then why didn't she?

DNA is still an important factor here, especially as I have other name/descendant possibilities to compare to! The fact also remains that locating the record of Emma's first marriage is the next baby step in this process, possibly the next inevitable record that will lead me closer to her origins.

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

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