Archive for the ‘Murdock’ Category

Before I started genealogy, if I had had to take a guess about the origins of my mother’s family, I would have said maybe they arrived in Rhode Island in the mid 1800’s, from England.   Research quickly showed me that was not true; many had been in Rhode Island and Massachusetts since the earliest settlements in the 1600’s.  But for mom’s great grandparents Louis and Jessie (MacLeod) Murdock (the parents of my great-grandmother, Eva Louise Murdock Darling), their story actually does come close to the guess I had in mind.

Both Louis and Jessie experienced some form of adoption when they were young – in both cases, I suspect one parent was an actual parent, or closely related to an actual parent.  I also suspect that Jessie left her Pictou, Nova Scotia family (my post about that HERE) and came to Rhode Island to be with relatives — Louis’ family.  So I am researching Louis’ family BOTH for evidence of his origins, and for evidence of Jessie’s.  Before I can tackle the Pictou questions, I am compiling all the details I can about their early years in Rhode Island.

Louis and Jessie Murdock in 1933 on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary, with their three daughters, the husbands, three grandchildren and twin great-grand-daughters, my mom and her sister.

Louis and Jessie Murdock (center) in 1933 on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary, with their three daughters, two grandchildren and three great-grand-daughters, and various spouses.

The Murdocks

I explored the family that adopted Louis Rufus Murdock in an earlier post.  William and Eliza (Coghill) Murdock came to Rhode Island from New Glasgow, Pictou, Nova Scotia in the 1860’s.  They had five daughters.  After wife Eliza died, William married in 1865 Margaret “Maggie” Lawrence in Providence.  The couple had one additional child in 1867, William Clark Murdock.  Louis was in the household from the beginning.

The Lawrences

I had glossed over Maggie’s family, the Lawrences, for several years because of the well-known “adoption” of Louis, known as a family story and also from his marriage license.  I didn’t understand what my relationship to them should be, other than gratitude.  But that all changed recently when I found Louis living in the Lawrence household in 1865, age 1, with Maggie, some siblings of hers, and her parents.  The parents were clearly beyond the child producing years.  Maggie didn’t marry William Murdock until the following October, obviously bringing the toddler with her.

Louis Rufus Murdock, 1863-1949, as a young man

Louis Rufus Murdock, 1863-1949, as a young man

I think Louis is either Maggie’s son by a mysterious first marriage, for which I have not yet found a marriage or divorce record (but it was mentioned on her marriage license when marrying William), or is the son of one of Maggie’s siblings. Being war time, if Maggie’s husband died, I don’t see why that would forever be referred to as “adoption”.  It’s hard to picture Maggie voluntarily adopting a child when she was single. In fact I’m not sure if she would have had a legal right to do that.  And I just don’t see the Lawrences taking in the neighborhood foundling — for one thing, the net worth of the Lawrences in the 1870 census was below that of the neighbors. Also, Louis became a machinist like his grandfather James Laurence … could that be nature, or nurture?

Here is the closest thing I have to proof: in the 1900 federal census, Maggie’s entry reports 2 children born, and two living.  Her 1910 entry says one child born, and one living, however, I think son William Clark Murdock completed her 1910 entry, because the responder didn’t seem to know where Maggie’s parents had been born (something she would clearly have known). This seems like the only real evidence I have so far that Maggie considered herself to be Louis’ mother, but others didn’t. I actually feel that I might someday determine what the story was.   For now, I am realizing that I am likely to be descended from the Lawrences.

So, I am only now researching my ggg-grandparents.

On America Street

Maggie’s parents were James Lawrence (1807-1882) and Ann Shortridge (1810-1897), both born in England.  The first evidence I found for them was a R.I. state census record from their Providence home, taken in 1865:

Places fo birth:  England, South Carolina, North Carolina, Connecticut, Rhode Island.  My father was right.  My mother DOES descend from a long line of gypsies.

Places of birth for the Lawrences: England, South Carolina, North Carolina, Connecticut, Rhode Island. My father was right. My mother DOES descend from a long line of gypsies.

I was surprised to see that the parents were born in England.  I was even more surprised to see that the children were born in South Carolina, North Carolina, Connecticut, and Providence.  What a road map to a family’s journey!  At other times I have also seen Georgia, Maine and Virginia given as birth places for the children.

When I realized that parents James and Anna were born in England, I found it especially touching that my immigrant ancestors lived at 28 America Street, in Providence.  Did it ever strike them as a symbol of the life they had made? This neighborhood is to the immediate west of downtown, between Atwells and Broadway.  Over the years the Lawrences stayed in that neighborhood; and at the time of James’ death in 1882 their address was 38 America Street.

28 & 38 America Street are a parking lot today.  These houses are across the street.  I'm not sure if these houses are reminiscent of the street back then, or more recent.

28 & 38 America Street are a parking lot today. These houses are across the street. I’m not sure if these houses are indicative of the street back then, or more recent.

I visited the neighborhood.  The area of 28 – 38 America Street was now a vacant lot.  I believe the America Street School, built in 1905, was once in the spot, but apparently burned in the last decade or so, and the land has been leveled.  Back in 1865, there would have been large factories in Providence, and no doubt James, a machinist, was employed nearby.

James Lawrence and Ann Shortridge had five children that I know about:

  • Margaret A. “Maggie” Lawrence (1838-1921), married William Murdock in 1865 and then Jeremiah Johnson Knight in 1896.  Clearly she was born in the south, although I’m not sure in which state.  She may have had a first husband prior to these two.
  • John Lawrence (1840 – ).  I can’t seem to trace him after the 1860 census.
  • William J Lawrence (1845-1865).  Sadly, young William died of Typhoid fever in Providence at age 20.
  • Elizabeth Jane Lawrence (1849-1937), married John Thayer Scott, a house painter, in 1867. “Lizzie” and John Scott were living with her parents in 1870. They had several children in Providence.
  • Ella J. Lawrence (1852-1923) married machinist Sidney Goldsworthy Stamp in 1870, after he had been a boarder in her parents’ home.  They had at least two children, Sidney and Ella (who died at age 7).  There is evidence that Ella ended up at the Rhode Island State Hospital for the Insane for many years.

I have found nothing yet about James Lawrence’s origins in England.

At the NEHGS Library

In the midst of this, I traveled to Boston on a bus trip with some Rhode Island Genealogical Society members.  I spent the day at the New England Historic Genealogical Society Library on Newbury Street.

After getting through some other research I turned my attention to the Lawrences. I knew from various death records I had for the children that Ann Lawrence’s maiden name was Shortridge.   I had seen on Ancestry.com in a transcription of some marriage records from Dorchester, Massachusetts (today a section of Boston) that James Lawrence married Ann Shortriggs on May 16, 1835.  That date would correspond reasonably with the birth of Maggie in 1838.  But Shortriggs seemed like a bit more than a normal spelling variation of Shortridge, and finding them in Boston would add yet one more stop to their dizzying criss-cross years on the east coast.  I thought I would like to see the original records from Dorchester, in case there was more information.

A possible marriage record for James and Ann Lawrence, in Dorchester, Mass.

A possible marriage record for James and Ann Lawrence, in Dorchester, Mass.

I approached librarian and genealogist Marie Daly with my question about Dorchester records, possibly on microfilm.  There were no other versions available, but as Marie asked questions about the marriage she became curious about the immigration of the couple, and in particular, of Ann Shortriggs and her family.  Let me point out several smart strategies that she used:

  • she took the spelling “Shortriggs” seriously.  I had sort of dismissed it because I had seen “Shortridge” so many more times.  But thinking about it, Shortridge was used by the children later, when recording their own life events.  The Dorchester marriage record was more contemporary to the arrival from England.
  • She knew offhand that Shortridge and Shortriggs do not index the same in a Soundex indexing system, so we should avoid Soundex in any search we were using (she opted for phonetic matches).  That’s not something I think about enough.
  • When searching in Ancestry, she used the “Match all terms exactly” box and then entered very limited search criteria.  When you are searching in your own tree the search screen doesn’t normally come up that way, so I don’t try that nearly enough.
  • She used “Shortr*” to search for the last name, but when that failed us (Ancestry indexing can be unpredictable) she went to a first name + ship name search (since by that time we knew the name of the ship), using the Immigration & Travel / Passenger Lists category.  She may have added the year to that search.  It worked.  Ancestry.com had it indexed as “John Shorterrgs”.
  • She paid attention to the name of the minister, hoping it could lead to further church records.  I am still researching that.

She managed to find the original passenger list on the “Hibernia” which sailed from Liverpool (according to the abstract on the prior page), arriving in New York January 3, 1832, in the New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 collection on Ancestry.com (Roll M237, 1820-1897, Roll 015, sheet 768 of 897).

New York Passenger Lists document for the Shortriggs family on Ancestry.com

New York Passenger Lists document for the Shortriggs family on Ancestry.com

John Shortriggs was listed as a Labourer, belonging to Great Britain, intending to inhabit the United States.  Since I had seen on her death record that Ann’s parents were John and Margaret, this seemed likely to be her family.

The Shortridges

Marie Daly got curious about their origins in England and managed to find the marriage license as well as the birth records for the Shortriggs children in Irthington, Rockcliffe and Stanwix, near Carlisle, Cumberland, England.  It’s in the north, not that far from Gretna Green, Scotland.

A 1745 view of Carlisle, showing its history as a fortified city near the Scottish border.  By the early 1800's it was more industrial. From Carlisle in 1745 by George Gill Mounsy, 1846, p. 40.

A 1745 view of Carlisle, showing its history as a fortified city near the Scottish border.  From Carlisle in 1745 by George Gill Mounsy, 1846, p. 40.

Here is what I know about the Shortridges (Shortriggs) so far.  John Shortriggs married Margaret Balmour on May 16, 1807 in Saint Mary, Carlisle, Cumberland, England.  In 1832 they came to New York on the Hibernia, from Liverpool, with their six children.  Daughter Ann married in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1835 so perhaps they were living there, perhaps not.  In 1841 Margaret was a widow, living on Field Street (?) in Providence.  In 1865, widow Margaret was living with daughter Mary.

  • Mary, birth details unknown, married William Bamford.  According to the 1850 federal census record, their children were born in England, South Carolina, and Maine.  William was working as a mule spinner at that time.  By 1865, he and Mary were running a saloon at 92 Point Street in Providence.  Mary died in 1883.
  • William, born 1808 in Rockcliffe, Cumberland, England, was not on the list (above) on the journey to New York in 1832.  I know nothing further.
  • Ann (1810 – 1897), born 1810 in Irthington, Cumberland, England, married James Lawrence in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1835.   Their children were born in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Connecticut, and they lived in Providence by 1860.  James was a machinist.
  • Jane, born 1813 in Irthington, Cumberland, England, was on the list for the 1832 trip to New York.  I have nothing further.
  • Margaret, born 1815 in Irthington, married William Hardman, machinist, in 1845, in Providence.  There is a 14 year old Hardman child in the household, as well as 3 small children, in 1850 so possibly William had been married previously.  She died in 1892 in Rhode Island.
  • John, born 1817 in Stanwix, Cumberland, England, came on the ship with the others to New York.  I have not been able to distinguish the various John Shortriggs records yet to know what happened to John, but I do not believe he settled in Rhode Island.
  • Elizabeth, born 1822 in Irthington, married Archibald McMillan, a Scottish cotton mill worker, in 1844 in Providence.  He later became a painter. They had daughters who in turn worked in the cotton mills.  Elizabeth died in 1882.

I am hoping, eventually, to find that siblings Mary and Ann were near each other in the various states where their children were born in the 1840’s-50’s.  So far, I am having trouble retracing those moves.

In conclusion

Previously, my only immigrant ancestors were those trekking back and forth between Nova Scotia and New England, an activity that, in terms of records, brought a big yawn from the immigration authorities and a “yea, it’s time for my lunch anyway.”  So prior to my day at the NEHGS, I don’t think I really saw anything like that passenger list and the careful birth records to match.  A quick search has not turned up naturalization records yet, but they may exist and I will keep trying.  At last, I could walk into the National Archives with a real mission.  Maybe someday.

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My great-great grandmother Jessie Ruth (MacLeod) Murdock was born in Pictou, Nova Scotia around 1861.  She came to the United States as a teenager and married, in 1883, Louis Rufus Murdock, my great-great-grandfather.  They had three daughters of which my great grandmother, Eva Louise (Murdock) Darling, was the oldest.

gr-gr-grandparents, Louis and Jessie Ruth (MacLeod) Murdock

Louis and Jessie Ruth (MacLeod) Murdock. I assume this is around the time of their wedding, 1883.

Jessie Ruth MacLeod Murdock

Jessie and her husband Louis present some special challenges for the family historian.  Lewis was always known to be adopted, in Providence, R.I., by William and Maggie (Lawrence) Murdock.  And Jessie, although known to be from Pictou, was hard to research, and I had no evidence about what might have brought her to New England.  Her father was listed on her marriage record as William MacLeod, and her mother, as Rachel. Although I was unable to find such a family in Pictou, I discovered that William Murdock, Louis’ adopted father, was from Pictou.  That seemed like it might be too much of a coincidence, but still, I couldn’t make much of it, because the name William Murdock is about as hard to pin down in Nova Scotia as William MacLeod was.

My first big break came in 2012 when a 5th cousin on the MacLeod side contacted me to let me know about a family history book published by Jessie’s nephew, in Pictou, in 1958.  That post is here.   But imagine my surprise when the book claimed that Jessie was adopted by William MacLeod and his wife, Mary.  And yet, since she was pretty clear on her marriage record that William MacLeod was her father, and Rachel her mother, and since she had been missing from William and Mary’s 1871 Canadian census record in Hopewell, Pictou (when she would have been around 10 years old) I can only assume she was related to these people in some way, and perhaps she had spent her early life with her mother, Rachel, before arriving in the William and Mary MacLeod family, for whatever reason.  William and Mary lived and died in Pictou and never relocated to the U.S.  So clearly, Jessie had other connections somehow, somewhere.

Lewis and Jessie Murdock. c 1930

Lewis and Jessie Murdock. c 1930

The strategy for researching Jessie

This is an unusual case where I think my best bet for unlocking Jessie’s story is through her father in law.  I wonder where William Murdock was from in Pictou, and if he had any relations named Rachel.  No birth place or point of origin has surfaced in my direct research on him.  So I am going to try and locate all his children, hoping that their c1900-1920 death records will give some additional information.

Ironically, I do not believe I am related to William Murdock at all through his adopted son, Louis.  I have a theory that Louis may be Maggie (Lawrence) Murdock’s relation showhow, but that’s a story for another day.

Learning more about William Murdock

William Murdock was born on Christmas day, 1822, perhaps in Pictou, Nova Scotia, the son of Robert and Mary Murdock.  He married Maggie Lawrence in Providence in 1865.   He was a shoemaker, but later worked as an expressman, and finally, in 1880 purchased a small farm in Seekonk, Massachusetts.  Looking at the 1870 census record, you can see William and Maggie with 3 children – Annie (11), Louis (7) and William (3).  Only William Jr. was born after the marriage, and since Louis always said he was adopted, I wondered if the couple had married a little late in life and adopted two children, and also gave birth to one.

This is a family photo of, I believe, William and Maggie Murdock's farmhouse in Seekonk, Mass.  My great grandmother was born there.

This is a family photo of, I believe, William and Maggie Murdock’s modest farmhouse in Seekonk, Mass. My great grandmother was born there.

There were several William Murdock families in the Rhode Island area around this time, and it took many, many clues before I put together that William had another marriage before marrying Maggie.

The second Jessie Murdock

My first solid clue about other children in William’s household came when I discovered the 1875 R.I. state census record for William Murdock.  The three children I knew about were there, plus another, Jessie.  Jessie was given as a 15 year old daughter in the Murdock family, born in Nova Scotia.  It occurred to me briefly to wonder if she was my great-great grandmother, a cousin perhaps, arrived to live with the family from Nova Scotia and misclassified as a daughter.

Three records made me realize that there was indeed a Jessie who was William’s daughter, and there was an earlier family:

  • I finally found the 1860 census record for the family, which was mis-indexed in Ancestry.com as “Mondock”.  The parents are William and Eliza Murdock.  There are four daughters:  Mary (11), Martha(8), Anna(4), and Jessie(5/12).  They were all, even the baby, born in Nova Scotia.  If accurate, that gave a good indication of a recent arrival in the U.S.
  • Once I had the children’s names to search for, I quickly located an immigration document on Ancestry.com. It was in the U.S., Atlantic Ports Passenger Lists, 1820-1873 and 1893-1959 (Rhode Island, Providence).  On June 19, 1860, William (occupation Shoemaker), Eliza, Mary, Martha, Ann and Jessie Murdock arrived in Providence, Rhode Island on the Brig Diamond of the Deep from Pictou, Nova Scotia.

    Part of deed selling share of William Murdock property to widow Maggie in 1891.

    Part of deed selling share of William Murdock property to widow Maggie in 1891.

  • Since the Massachusetts Land Records collection came online on FamilySearch (unindexed, but browsable) I have been pulling some out and filing them on my computer.   So when I reviewed my Murdock files I realized that a deed that had been hard to understand 6 months ago was now very clear.  In 1891 the widow, Maggie, was given, for the price of one dollar, the other half of William Murdock’s property in Seekonk, Massachusetts (see my post on finding that property, here).  The sellers were Peter King, his wife Martha King, Alick Holmes, his wife Jessie Holmes, Mary Foster (all of Newport, R.I), and William C. Murdock.  The property described was identical to, and referred to, the deed I had found for William’s purchase.  Angus MacLeod was a witness.

William Murdock’s first and second families

So I now had evidence of William Murdock’s six children and two wives.  With the evidence already mentioned in hand I thought I could quickly find some details of their lives, looking for middle names and especially death dates so I could find their death records at the Rhode Island State Archives, looking for their exact birthplace in Nova Scotia.  However, this was not quick, because their lives were absolutely fascinating.

His wives

  • William’s first wife Eliza (Coghill) married him in Nova Scotia and they had four children by the time they came to Rhode Island in 1860.  They settled in Providence, where William pursued his occupation, shoemaking.  Eliza died in 1864 in Providence, of consumption.
  • Margaret A. (Lawrence) Murdock, known as Maggie, was William’s second wife, married in 1865.  Reportedly born in the south around 1838, the daughter of English immigrants, Margaret was living with her parents in Providence in the 1865 Rhode Island census, and when she married William shortly thereafter the marriage record listed her as “divorced”.  Margaret and William were married until his death in 1890.  After that, Margaret married once again, in 1898, to Seekonk neighbor Jeremiah Johnson Knight, a 68 year old man whose second wife had died, leaving him with a couple of young children.  They were only married two years before his death, and during that time he may have been ill.  Maggie lived until 1921.

His children with Eliza

Mary Tanner Murdock

Born in 1849, oldest daughter Mary was 11 when the family arrived in Providence.  She would have been 15 when her mother died.  She married young, to Theodore W. Foster.  Theodore was a talented and hard working entrepreneur, with an interest in the manufacture of jewelry, a growing industry in Rhode Island.  Theodore and Mary settled in Pawtucket, and soon he was able to start his own manufacturing company, with some partners: White, Foster & Co., later Foster & Bailey.  By 1899 he bought the partners out and renamed the company Theodore W. Foster & Bro. Co.  The company, at 100 Chestnut Street was a major manufacturer of silver giftware such as jewelry, trays, pins, shoe horns, vanity sets, and desk accessories. Along the way Theodore, always the inventor, secured dozens of patents, and instituted a cleaner and safer work environment.  His beautiful products can still be purchased, as antiques, on the web.

The Jewelers Circular, August 10, 1898, p.2

The Jewelers Circular, August 10, 1898, p.2

Mary, Theodore and their family of five children enjoyed growing wealth and prominence. And then something very strange happened. The family moved to Providence, and attended the Methodist Church on Chestnut Street.  The couple was very friendly with the handsome minister, Rev. Charles L. Goodell, and his wife, Louella.  Theodore was director of the Sunday School.  When Mr. Goodell was assigned to his next church, the Trinity Methodist Church on Broad Street, the Fosters obtained a pew and switched their membership there.  In 1886, newspapers in the eastern U.S. were reporting that Mary was being sued for divorce by Theodore, on the grounds of her affair with the minister.  In fact both couples filed for divorce and the cases were heard in the Rhode Island Supreme Court during the same week in 1887; Theodore Foster obtained his divorce, but Louella Goodell, wife of the minister, faced counter-claims of infidelity and her divorce was denied at that time.  The Methodist church exonerated Rev. Goodell and he did not lose his job.

In that parish was Mrs. Mary T Foster, a preposessing lady, whose husband, Theodore W. Foster, is of the manufacturing jewelry firm of Foster & Bailey.  Mrs. Foster lived in elegant style at the corner of High and Brigham Street, her house being richly furnished throughout with every comfort at command. She had a most interesting family of children, lovable and attractive, and many an envious eye was turned toward their carriage as it rolled along toward the Chestnut Street church Sunday mornings. The Goodells and Fosters became very intimate, as Mr Foster was superintendent of the Sunday School and Mrs. Foster was prominent in church work, and between the two families of bond of friendship appeared to have been formed … — Boston Herald, September 2, 1886, p.5.

A home at the corner of Bridgham and Westminster (formerly High) Streets, Providence.  Any 1880's houses from the other three sides of the intersection are now gone.

A home at the corner of Bridgham and Westminster (formerly High) Streets, Providence. Any 1880’s houses from the other corners of the intersection are now gone.  This could have been the Fosters’ home, or not.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Mr Foster took the stand and told of his wife’s confession in a broken voice, and with tears running down his cheeks. His wife’s confession was that one day in the vestry of the church Goodell took her by the hand, retained his gaze, and almost seemed to magnetize her. A few days later he came to the house, kissed her hand, and then placing his arm around her waist, asked her to be his sister, as he never had had a sister. The next advance and the first direct overture, was when he came to her house, told her that she did not love her husband and that he did not love his wife. Therefore they were in the eyes of Heaven married. The remainder of the testimony was too indecent for publication.  — Cleveland Leader, December 16, 1886, p.2

One day Mr. Foster told his story to the newspapers.  “My wife”, said he, “began to act queerly. She seemed disturbed, and said that she had a confession to make. With amazement I heard her story. She told me that she had been unfaithful to her marriage vows, giving the name of Dr. Goodell, my pastor and my bosom friend, as her paramour. I was thunderstruck. I took her face in my two hands and begged her to say no more then. Mary, said I, let me think … let me think over it. From that hour she ceased to be my trusted wife and companion. She besought me piteously to condone her sin, but I told her that henceforth she might occupy  our residence, but we must be as strangers.”  — New York Herald, December 19, 1886, p. 8.

Theodore remarried in 1894. I am unsure of what became of Mary after her divorce.  There is some evidence she went to her sister in Newport, and may have remained there since she was “of Newport” when she signed the 1891 deed, above.    The Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Transcription Project has Mary T. Murdock Foster, 1848-1899 buried in the North Burial Ground, Providence. Her death record at the R.I. State Archives indicates that she died of “La Grippe” (flu) on February 12, 1899 in Rodondo, Los Angeles, California, age 50.


Theodore W Foster & Bro. Co. Plant, Providence, from Biographical History of the Manufacturers and Businessmen of Rhode Island (Providence: J.D. Hall, 1901).

Martha M.  Murdock

Born in 1852, Martha arrived in Providence at the age of 8.  In 1878 she married Peter King, a Scottish immigrant who was a rising clerk at The Boston Store in Providence.  Around this time Peter King and a fellow clerk, Angus MacLeod (also a Scottish immigrant, from Lewis) decided on Newport, Rhode Island as a suitable spot to open a dry goods store of their own.  They named it The Boston Store, (see a photo of the store here) but the was no real connection to the original Boston Store.  The King-MacLeod partnership thrived, encompassing the popular and growing department store as well as some other interests.  The Boston Store was, eventually, located at 153-157 Thames Street, Newport.  Peter King and Angus MacLeod (who was witness to the deed, above) became financial leaders in the Newport community, chairing the boards of many leading institutions and participating widely in church, hospital, political and fraternal activities. Martha and Peter had nine children, and sent many of them to college, and several of the boys pursued business interests begun by their father.  They owned a beautiful Victorian house at 10 Kay Street, Newport, near Touro Street and the Hotel Viking.  Peter died in 1932 and Martha passed away in 1940.

A view of Kay Street, c1905, from Newport and its Points of Interest, page 21.

A view of Kay Street, Newport,  c1905, from Newport and Its Points of Interest, page 21.

Annie Murdock

Annie was born in Nova Scotia around 1855 and arrived in Providence at the age of 5.  In the 1865 R.I. State Census, at age 9, she and Jessie Murdock were living on Mountain Street near Atwells Avenue in Providence, in the home of Daniel and Hannah Coghill, both age 37, and Thomas A Coghill, age 17.  All household members were born in Nova Scotia.  Since Coghill was their mother Eliza’s name I can only assume the two sisters were staying with relatives after their mother’s death in 1864.  Annie appeared in the 1870 and 1875 census records with William and Maggie.  By 1875 she was 19, but not working, which is a little unusual – many daughters in my family at that time clerked in stores, or packed jewelry.  In 06 May 1876 this item appeared in the Providence Evening Press:  “DIED.  MURDOCK – In this city, 6th instant, Annie Murdock, daughter of William and Elizabeth Murdock, in the 21st year of her age.  — Funeral on Monday, at 2 o’clock, from 192 Clifford Street.  –  Nova Scotia papers please copy.”  The Providence death record gives the age as 20, and the mother as Eliza.

Jessie McIntosh Murdock

Jessie was an infant when the family arrived in Providence in 1860; in fact her birth in Nova Scotia was so recent that the parents entered it on the birth records of Providence (found on FamilySearch.org).  The town cited was “New Glasgow” in Pictou.    In 1875 Jessie was living with William and Maggie on Spruce Street in Providence.  In January 1880 she married Alexander McIntyre Holmes, a wheelwright, originally of Prince Edward Island.  By the 1900 census the family had six children. They spent their married life in Newport and in 1919, when Jessie died, the family resided at 9 Newport Avenue, Newport.

his children with Maggie

Louis Rufus Murdock

My great-great grandfather Louis believed himself to be adopted. Louis married Jessie Ruth MacLeod from Pictou in 1883, and they had three daughters. Louis worked for 50 years as a machinist at Brown & Sharpe, a machinery company in Providence.  I have no idea what his relationships were among these relatives mentioned here.  Since Maggie Lawrence’s father was a machinist, I suspect Louis got his start in life from that grandfather.

Louis Murdock as a young man

Louis Murdock as a young man

William Clark Murdock

William and Maggie Lawrence had one child after their marriage, William Clark Murdock, born 1868.  William Clark, a silversmith, married Susan Lydia Fairfield in Seekonk in 1894.  They had three sons and divorced shortly after 1900. William must have been fond of his brother, Louis, because he named his third son after him, Louis Rufus Murdock, born 1898.  In 1910 William Clark was living at 101 Mitchell Street in Providence (the address today is an older, nondescript, narrow 2 family house on a small lot near Elmwood & Potters Ave.) with his mother and a boarder. His son Earl Forrest Murdock graduated from high school in 1913, and from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1915 (according to Earl’s obituary in the Springfield, Mass. Union-News, 21 Nov 1992; Earl lived a long life in Franklin County, Mass. and left many descendants).   In 1915, the state census showed William Clark living with sons Earle and Louis, and with niece (brother Louis’ daughter) Chris, and her husband, Charles Faulkenburg.   In 1920, he was still on Mitchell Street with his mother and sons Earl and Louis.   In 1920, his son Louis was employed as a student in a dental office.  In 1930 William Clark was running a boarding house on rented property on Beacon Street in Providence, with son Louis living with him, no employment listed.  Sadly, the younger Louis spent the 1930’s as an inmate in the Rhode Island State Hospital for Mental Diseases at Sockanosset in Cranston. William Clark Murdock died in 1933.

The third Jessie Murdock

There is one more Jessie Murdock, who was Jessie and Louis Murdock’s daughter Jessie Ellen Murdock, born 23 December 1889 in Providence.  Jessie, known to my mother as Aunt Jay, married Alonzo Daniel Billington (Uncle Lon) in 1911.  They had no children, and Jessie died too young in 1939.

Jessie Ellen Murdock Billington, 1889-1939.

Jessie Ellen Murdock Billington, 1889-1939.

Next steps

  • I’m not sure if I have checked well enough for a probate record for William Murdock.
  • I would like to see Jeremiah Johnson Knight’s (Maggie’s third husband) probate records.  I wonder where his children went after his death.
  • A visit to the R.I. State Archives may reveal the remaining middle names and I am hoping  to see a place of birth on several death records to really feel confident that I know where the family was from (possibly New Glasgow in Pictou).
  • With all this new information, move on to the Nova Scotia portion of the research. Knowing, now, of a possible sibling for Eliza Coghill Murdock will help.
  • I think the next post on this subject will be about William’s parents, Robert and Mary Murdock, and Eliza Coghill’s family, and any connections I can find to a Rachel who might be Jessie MacLeod Murdock’s mother.
  • Head south with my research and explore the early life of Maggie Lawrence.  There is evidence they lived in several southern states before arriving in Rhode Island; perhaps their lives were disrupted by the civil war.

The post you are reading is located at:  https://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2016/02/02/the-two-jessie-murdocks/


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I found two opportunities recently to access the Rhode Island State Census records of 1865 and 1875: the State Archives, and through my subscription at Ancestry.com.

A Visit to the Rhode Island State Archives

I visited the Rhode Island State Archives recently, at 337 Westminster Street in Providence.  I parked on the street at a meter, but it turned out I could have parked in the valet lot next door and had my parking ticket validated (for up to two hours only) at the archive.  The web site is not extensive, but once you get there, staff are helpful and available.

Card index of the 1875 RI state census, and part of the collection of city directories

Card index of the 1875 RI state census, and part of the collection of city directories

The Archives is a good place to access both the Rhode Island State Census of 1865 and 1875.  The 1875 State Census has a large card file index; the 1865 census has an index housed on 16 mm microfilm.  Once you find an entry, the actual census record can be viewed on microfilm.  You just never know how things will be in an archive, but using these census records was very easy.  I printed out 27 pages at a cost of  15 cents per page.

The 1865 R.I. state census and 1875 R.I. state census

First of all let me say these are very detailed census sheets, including all household members, street name and number, place of birth, parentage (nationality), occupation, and, if in school, a code for the school.  There is a compiled census report at the archive which may give the school names, I haven’t checked.

There were some huge surprises in the 1865 & 1875 state census for me:

An older Aunt Jenny with her twin great nieces, my mom and Ann

An older Aunt Jennie with her twin great nieces, my mom and Ann

  • My grandfather’s Aunt Jennie (Anna Jean Bennett; a story I started two years ago) had moved to Providence by 1875 and was living on Broadway with her first husband, a druggist.  That explains how Aunt Jennie made it to Providence from Newton, Massachusetts, something I never understood before, and will help me uncover the rest of her fascinating story (she has no descendants).
Lewis M., age 1

Lewis M., age 1

  • Looking at the 1865 census record for Maggie Lawrence and her parents (James and Annie Lawrence), I was surprised to see a baby “Lewis” living with them, who seems to0 young to belong to Maggie’s parents (and, indeed, is gone from the parents’ household by 1870).  This was shortly before Maggie’s second marriage, and the baby could have been hers, but that’s not clear on the census and Lewis was enveloped in the “Lawrence” last name.  Could my adopted gg-grandfather Louis actually have been his mother’s son?  or his mother’s nephew?  I have never found an adoption record for him, his birth around 1863 falls before the court mandated an adoption record.  I may never know more than this, although it did give me some new names to try in the birth records, but I found nothing. I don’t yet know the name of Maggie’s first husband, and I suspect she did not marry him in Rhode Island.
  • In 1875 my ggg-grandparents William Murdock and Maggie (Lawrence) Murdock were living with several children after 10 years of marriage (they had both been married previously).  Their son William was 8, and the other children were Lewis 11, Jessie 15 and Annie 19.  Jessie and Annie were born in Nova Scotia, as was the father, William Murdock, but Lewis was listed as born in Providence.  I already knew about Lewis and Annie, who were supposed to be adopted, but the name Jessie really threw me and made me wonder if she could perhaps be my gg-grandmother with the mysterious parentage, arriving in the U.S. as a teenaged relative of some sort.  Now after viewing more vital records I think Jessie and Annie may both be William’s children from the first marriage in Nova Scotia.  I am now busy finding out what happened to them; the vital records are suggesting the first wife may have been named Eliza, and died in 1864.
  • In the 1875 census, Russell and Hannah Lamphere had moved back north from Alabama and were living in Johnston, R.I., where Russell was a “Manufr of Cotton Goods”.  I assume he was trying to start a mill operation of his own, although I know by 1880 he was in Providence, working as a supervisor in one of the larger cotton mills there.   I think I might find more information in Johnston, perhaps in tax records, about that business.
  • As I suspected, my gg-grandfather Addison Darling, age 19, was in Providence in 1875, working as a “Designer in Silver” and living with his sister Sarah and her husband, the silversmith William H. H. Swan.  Previously, that idea had been based on indirect evidence.

NEW THIS WEEK – It’s also on Ancestry.com

Since I found these census entries I have realized that they are now on Ancestry.com, with full pictures of the census records — newly arrived this week, I think. These include the 1865 census, the 1875 census, as well as the 1885, 1905, 1915, 1925 and 1935 which were already on FamilySearch.org.   In future I will be careful to always check out that possibility on the Ancestry site (although I am already noticing the indexing is not as good as the state archives version).

What else is at the State Archives

Microfilm station at the State Archives

One of 3 or 4 microfilm stations at the State Archives

I plan to explore the state archives more in the future.  They have  a convenient index of Rhode Island vital records from 1853-1900, as well as hard-to-find 1850-1853 records.  The index volumes lead to the microfilm of the state copy of the records, which would have been gathered from the towns.

I plan to explore their resources more in the future, for instances where my ancestors’ lives would have intersected with state government, for instance, through a state legislature bill, or a job, etc.  The staff were helpful and I can’t wait to go back with more questions.

The post you are reading is located at:  https://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/06/11/r-i-state-census-of-1865-1875/

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I’ve been curious for a long time about the house where my great-grandmother Eva Louise Murdock was born.  The house was located just over the Massachusetts border in Seekonk.

We have a faded picture of the house:

The house where Eva Murdock was born

The house where Eva Murdock was born

Family stories have it that this house was in Seekonk, and belonged to Eva’s grandparents, William and Maggie (Lawrence) Murdock.  And sure enough, Eva’s birth record is from Seekonk:

June 1st  Eva Louise Murdock  F(emale)   L(egitimate)  Lewis & Jessie Murdock

June 1st Eva Louise Murdock F(emale) L(egitimate) Parents: Lewis & Jessie Murdock

Occupation of Father: Machinist, Birthplace of Father: Providence, RI, birthplace of mother: Nova Scotia, reported by: Grandfather

Occupation of Father: Machinist, Birthplace of Father: Providence, RI, birthplace of mother: Nova Scotia, reported by: Grandfather

Eva was born to Louis and Jessie Murdock on June 1, 1884 (1), approximately nine and one half months after her parents married (2).  Louis was working as a machinist at Brown & Sharpe in Providence, but evidently Jessie was staying with his parents when the baby was born.  Jessie was from Nova Scotia and may have had no close family around.  By the 1885 Rhode Island State Census (5), Louis, Jessie and baby Eva were back in Providence.

The Deeds

I explored the deeds for this property a few years ago in the Bristol County Deeds office in Taunton, Mass.  Staff at the deeds office were ill at ease and hovering during my visit.  They kept smiling nervously, asking what I wanted next, and it was clear they would never leave me alone to peruse the volumes, and I seemed to be keeping them from something.  It was incredibly tense. I left not having seen all the documents I intended to see.  I heard on the radio on the way home that someone  had set fire to the nearby city hall, and vanished, shortly before my arrival.  Well, that explained a lot.

Recently, FamilySearch.com made over 5 million Massachusetts deeds available online.  That gave me the opportunity to revisit this question.  I am more experienced with deeds now, which helps a lot.

I hadn’t understood why William and Maggie were able to purchase the property for $10 on September 3, 1880 (3):

We Stephen G Easterbrooks and Julia A Easterbooks his wife of the City and County of Providence, State of Rhode Island, in the right of his wife, in consideration of Ten (10) Dollars paid by William Murdock of said Providence and Margaret Murdock wife of said William Murdock the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, do hereby give, grant, bargain sell and convey unto the said William Murdock and Margaret Murdock One certain lot or parcel of land containing two and one half acres 2 1/2 acres more or less, situated in Seekonk in the County of Bristol and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, on the southeasterly side of the highway leading from Benjamin Walker’s to Hunt’s Bridge so called, with the dwelling house and all the improvements thereon, and is bounded and described as follows, viz, Beginning at the northeasterly corner of said lot in the line of said Highway … by the land of T.H. Read (formerly) … by the land of Wm H. Hopkins and Leak  … And for the consideration aforesaid I, Julia A. Easterbrooks do hereby release unto the said grantees and their heirs and assigns all right of or to both dower and homestead in the granted premises …

But this time, as I took my time at home, I realized that the next page was a mortgage for this property taken out that same day by William and Maggie Murdock, from David F. Goff of East Providence, Rhode Island for $350.  I guess that’s how they paid for the house, although that payment to the Easterbrooks seems not to have been officially recorded.  Seekonk at that time was a farming community, at an easy distance from the busy industrial city of Providence, Rhode Island.  William had been an “Expressman” in Providence in the 1880 census, just prior to the move to Seekonk.  I wonder if, rather than starting a farm exactly (at age 50) he was engaged in transporting his and others’ products to the Providence market.

William Murdock passed away in 1890.  There are several subsequent deeds relating to the mortgage for the property, and I am guessing the property left the family in 1903 (Maggie had remarried, and lived until 1920), but I am not sure.  The mortgage changed hands so many times that I’m finding it impossible to know for sure.

Examining the Clues

I examined the picture, above, for any clues as to distance from the road, or any other landmarks. I also reviewed the clues found in the deeds (noted in green above, on the first deed) about the location of the house.  All my earlier exploration had really taught me was that the property was on a road leading to Hunt’s Bridge.  I had located Hunt’s bridge but that didn’t tell me much; lots of roads lead to any given bridge.

To check those clues, I would need an old map of Seekonk.  I was able to locate three online:

  • An 1858 map available from the Boston Public Library (4) shows an early shape of Seekonk (the border with Rhode Island was frequently disputed and shifted).  Seekonk is just to the east of Providence, over the border in Massachusetts.

Seekonk map

  • an 1871 Beers map of Seekonk on the HistoricMapWorks website.  Through careful investigation I was able to determine the location of Hunt’s Bridge (which was not specifically marked on the map), and “B. Walker” (to match “Benjamin Walker” from the deed) who apparently owned a blacksmith shop.  The road between them is now called Ledge Road.  I can’t reproduce the old map here, but here are the elements mentioned, and their location today:
Items from 1871 map shown on current map, courtesy of Google Maps

Items from 1871 map shown on current map, courtesy of Google Maps

It was about this time that I made the big discovery.  I was looking at the 1895 map, and there was the Murdock house, listed on the road between B. Walker and Hunt’s Bridge:

Items from 1895 map shown on current map, courtesy of Google Maps

Items from 1895 map shown on current map, courtesy of Google Maps

W. Murdock was on the map

The “W. Murdock” house was indicated on the map.  I knew from census records and deeds that there was unlikely to be another W. Murdock in Seekonk (of course, the house belonged to his widow, he was no longer living by 1895).  So this was definitely the house.

I spent quite a bit of time comparing all the maps, and the details I could glean from all the deeds, to see if I could place the Murdock house in an exact spot on that stretch of road.  Clearly, today’s Quarry Street designates the spot of the old Stone Quarry and the J.J. Corbett Quarry marked on the old maps.

Here is the house as I would situate it today:

approximate placement and shape of the house from the 1895 map

approximate placement and shape of the house  and barn from the 1895 map

In Seekonk

I headed over the Seekonk to check it out.  I already knew from the Google maps that there was nothing like a 2-1/2 acre lot in that location today.  There are much smaller house lots.

The house was never a fancy house.  I didn’t think it would have survived.  And sure enough, it appears it is no longer there.  As I drove past I took a little video so I could examine it later when I wasn’t driving.  The spot would be around where I marked it on the map:

Probably between this spot ...

Probably between this spot …

... and this spot.

… and this spot.

I am both happy to know where the house was, and sad that it’s gone.  While I still have some mysteries with this family, specifically with Jessie McLeod Murdock’s roots, I’m not sure there will be much more investigation of the house.

In Summary

One thing I’ve learned from this is to pore over the old house lot maps available online.  These may not be indexed, so some studying is needed.  Knowing “Seekonk” and “W. Murdock” would have been enough to find it on the 1895 map if I had found that earlier, and studied it carefully.  Of course, you do learn a lot from studying deeds, too.  Maps and deeds are a great combination.


(1) Town and City Clerks of Massachusetts, “Massachusetts Vital and Town Records,” database, Ancestry.com (http:www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 May 2013), entry for “Eva Louise Murdock”, Seekonk Births, 1884, p 1 (pencilled) (p. 451 of 815 online).

(2)Providence, Rhode Island, “Marriages”, v. 14, p. 42 (issued 2010), for “marriage of Louis Rufus Murdock and Jessie Ruth McLeod”, Sept. 6, 1883 ; Office of the City Registrar, Providence.

(3) Bristol County, Massachusetts, Deeds, v. 387, p. 224, Stephen G Easterbrooks & ux to William Murdock & ux, Sept. 3, 1880, FamilySearch.com (http://www.familysearch.com: accessed 25 May 2013) Massachusetts Land Records, 1620-1986.

(4)Map of the county of Bristol Massachusetts, based upon the trigonometrical survey of the state by Henry Francis Walling. John L. Smith & Co., 1858.  Download from Norman B Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library  http://maps.bpl.org/id/10692 (accessed May 29, 2013).

(5)”Rhode Island, State Census, 1885,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M5XV-6B3 : accessed 01 Jun 2013), Eva Murdock, 1885.

The post you are reading is located at: https://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2013/06/02/house-where-eva-murdock/

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Since my recent “How to Solve the Next Ten Problems” post, in which I detailed some steps I planned to take in the next few years to break down some brick walls, one of those has been solved.

My great-great-grandmother (my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother), Jessie Ruth MacLeod, was born in Pictou, Nova Scotia, around 1862.  She somehow arrived in Providence, Rhode Island around 1881.  She married in 1882 and raised three daughters.  On her marriage license, she listed her parents as William MacLeod and Rachel.  I could never find any real trace of her before her marriage.

gr-gr-grandparents, Louis and Jessie Ruth (MacLeod) Murdock

gr-gr-grandparents, Louis and Jessie Ruth (MacLeod) Murdock

But thanks to the blog post about the brick walls, and other mentions of Jessie Ruth in my blog, I was contacted by a  MacLeod, a fifth cousin.  He owned an obscure family history book published by Jessie’s nephew, back in Pictou, around 1958.  I now have a copy.  For links to downloadable sections of the book, see the bottom of this post.

The Pioneers and Churches, by Rev. D. K. Ross

The Pioneers and Churches, by Rev. D. K. Ross, Hopewell, Nova Scotia

It’s Her

Jessie is definitely in the book, The Pioneers and Churches: The Pioneers and Families, of Big Brook and West Branch E.R. and Surrounding Sections Including Lorne, Glengarry, Elgin, Centerdale, Hopewell, Marshdale, Foxbrook, by Rev. D. K. Ross, Hopewell, Nova Scotia [privately published, n.d.].

Her entry, on page 158, is garbled, but definitely her [with my notes in red]:

“Jessie Ruth MacLeod, adopted [wait a minute – adopted?] by William MacLeod and Mary MacLean, went to Providence, R.I., and married Louis R. Murdoch [her husband was Louis R. Murdock], machinist at Brown and Sharps [Brown and Sharpe, the tool manufacturers].  Their family: Christy [Mary Christine, known as “Aunt Chris”], Eva [that’s my g-grandma], and one other died early in life [that would be Jessie Ellen, known as “Aunt Jay”, who died at age 50 in 1939].  Christy married Charles Faulkenberg [Falkenberg] of 229 Lockwood St. in Providence.  Eva married Russell Darling, 92 Atlantic Avenue, Lakewood 5, Providence, R.I. [Those spouses are correct.  The addresses make sense but I have no documentation on them. Maybe my mom remembers.]  Both Chris and Eva have children [actually, only Eva had children].”

I strongly suspect that there is more to this story about the adoption, and that “it’s complicated.”  But that’s a problem for another day.  In the meantime, here are some details of her family background, at least through adoption.  I am taking some liberties using text/images here in the belief that the author, Rev. Daniel Keith Ross, put twelve years into the book and privately published it so that his relatives would know more about their background, and he would want it to be circulated.  If any descendants want to object, please come over any time and make your case.  And bring pictures.

Her Family

I am only beginning to research this myself, so please be aware I am taking this information from the book, and have only begun to seek further sources.

   — Jessie’s parents (or adopted parents) and sister

(father) William MacLeod, born 1823 at Tea Gate, Kiltarlity, Inverness-shire, Scotland; arrived with his parents at Pictou in 1832.  Married Mary MacLean in 1847, and had one daughter, Christy Ann, in 1848. He lived on his wife’s family farm.  Died in 1894 in Big Brook (now Lorne), Pictou, Nova Scotia.

from the book, p. 158:  William MacLeod, born 1823, married Mary MacLean, born 1823, of Big Brook and settled on the Donald MacLean farm and carried on farming in summer and lumbering in winter.  For eleven winters he made his way to Aroostook County, Maine and cut and hewed pine timber to be taken down the St. John River in the Spring.  He followed the drives down the river for eleven seasons.  River driving was cold and hazardous business.  William MacLeod was not only a splendid axeman, he could hew the line with a broad axe and also use the narrow axe to good effect.  He had a set of carpenter’s tools and made horse rakes and hand rakes on many occasions and was an all-around handy man, a craftsman in many lines.  Farmers in the early days had to do many things which today are done in factories.  They had to do these things or do without these conveniences.

(mother) Mary MacLean, born 1823 in Big Brook (now Lorne), Nova Scotia, lived all her life on her father’s farm and died in 1902.  She is buried, with her husband, at the Lorne Cemetery right on their property.

The MacLean farm which became the home of William and Mary (MacLean) Murdock, from page 192

The MacLean farm which became the home of William and Mary (MacLean) MacLeod, later of John and Christy Ann (MacLeod) Ross

The picture is from page 192 of the book, the farm where they lived, in Lorne, Nova Scotia. Note that Lorne Cemetery is on this property, toward the top of the picture.

(sister) Christy Ann MacLeod, was born in 1848 in Big Brook.  She married John Ross in 1871 and the couple lived on her family’s farm.  They had five children, William Allister Ross, Daniel Keith Ross (the author of the book), Charles Simons Ross, Elizabeth Mary Ross, and Catherine Jessie Ross.

Christy Ann MacLeod and her husband, John Ross

sister Christy Ann MacLeod and her husband, John Ross, from page 193.

 — Jessie’s grandparents

Alexander “Alex” MacLeod was born in Tea Gate, Kiltarlity, Inverness-shire, Scotland, the oldest of seven children born to William MacLeod and Margaret McKay, who never left Scotland.  Alexander brought his wife and first four children from Scotland to Pictou in 1832 and settled at Middle River (now Glengarry), where seven additional children were born.  Later, they moved to Lorne.

Ann “Annie” Fraser was born in Beauly (or Beuly), near Kiltarlity, and with her husband Alex and children, came to Pictou in 1832.  When they moved, later, from Middle River to Lorne, they settled on the property of William Fraser, who had rather illustrious roots in Beauly, connected to the local castle, and had arrived in Pictou in 1800.  Her relationship to these Frasers is not clear to me.  Annie and Alex may be buried at St. Columba Cemetery, Hopewell, Pictou.

from the book, page 158:  Annie Fraser, the Scottish lassie from Beuly was the mother of eleven children and instilled in their minds and hearts the knowledge of God and a love of the church and of family religion in the home.

Donald MacLean was born around 1800 either in Scotland or Pictou. Donald’s parent, Charles MacLean and Marjory McKay, had come from Scotland around 1800.  His father, Charles MacLean, was granted 309 acres of land in Big Brook (later Lorne) in 1810, and that property (pictured above) was later split among the three sons. Donald was on the roll of the West Branch Church (now called St. Columba) in 1853.  He may have died around 1871.

from the book, concerning Charles MacLean (and quoting from Rev. Alexander MacLean’s 1911 “History of the Kirk in Pictou County”), page 125:  “But crowning that real humility there was a dignity that constrained respect from the most thoughtless.  When there was no service, not seldom the case, for many years, his neighbors assembled at his home for religious conference and prayer.  In the presence of this saintly man of God all felt that God was near.  For years his humble dwelling was to the community a little Bethel.”

Elizabeth “Betsy” MacMillan was born in 1798, probably in Irish Mountain, Pictou.  Donald and Betsy’s only child, Mary, was born in 1823.  She was the daughter of John MacMillan and Mary Grant.  She had a brother, Finlay MacMillan, who married her husband’s sister, Isabel MacLean. Donald and Betsy lived for many years on the MacLean family farm which was eventually run by their son in law, William MacLeod.

MacLeods and MacLeans?

Along about now, my family members are getting VERY confused, because my FATHER’S family are all MacLean’s and MacLeod’s going back many generations.  But they are from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and so far, I’m not spotting much of a real connection.

Jessie Ruth MacLeod Murdock

Jessie Ruth MacLeod Murdock

Clues I Missed

Any time a hard problem is solved I am painfully aware of what I overlooked:

  • Jessie Ruth had three children:  (1)Eva Louise, b. 1883 – Eva was an extremely popular name, and I think Louise may have been given in honor of the father, Louis.  (2)Mary Christine, b. 1886 – those are the names of Jessie’s adopted mother, Mary, and sister, Christy – I should have realized those names were clues. If I had searched census records for Mary MacLeod or Christine MacLeod in Pictou that might have helped me.  (3)Jessie Ellen, b. 1889 – OK, we know where the Jessie comes from, but where does Ellen come from?  I suspect “Ellen” is a further clue.
  • I keep thinking, how would I ever, ever, have found this book.  It’s not even in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City [UPDATE it is in the FHL – it was the first thing I noticed in the Pictou section].  I really need to ponder this more … WorldCat.org shows it in about 10 libraries, mostly Canadian.  Had I looked up the history or biography classifications under Pictou, I would have found it along with dozens of other potentially helpful books.  It is located in two locations I MIGHT have made it to someday – Allen County Public Library, and the college at Wolfville, Nova Scotia, where I have other family.  Note to me – am I using WorldCat enough?

Next Steps

  • Continue to seek information based on the many clues provided by the book
  • Try to find evidence of the mother Jessie named on her marriage license, “Rachel”
  • Find relatives that Jessie may have followed to Providence, R.I. (I have already found some female MacLean cousins, who were nurses and ran some sort of “hospital home” at the bottom of Angell Street, in Providence – Isabel and Annie Jane Grant, however, they didn’t arrive in the U.S. until the 1890’s.)
  • Find any connections between Jessie’s family and her future father in law, William Murdock, who was also from Pictou

To download the book The Pioneers and Churches, the book is available in three sections:

  1. Pioneers and Churches – section 1
  2. Pioneers and churches – section 2
  3. Pioneers and churches – section 3

From the blog OneRhodeIslandFamily.com, the post you are reading is located at:  http://wp.me/p1JmJS-UO

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Over the last few years I have made a lot of progress on tracing my mother’s family.   Over the next year or two I hope to do some research on ten problems I’ve identified.  I am recording them here, and I will provide links, in the future, to any postings I do about each one.

What surprised me about this list is the huge range of skills and strategies that I would need to pursue these questions.  Searching in accessible resources and repositories has helped, but not solved these problems.  This is where research really begins. None of these are easy, but working on them will be a real education.

1. Jessie Ruth (McLeod) Murdock, 1861 – 1936

Jessie Ruth McLeod with husband Louis Murdock

Jessie Ruth McLeod was born March 10, 1861 in Pictou, Nova Scotia.  She is my great great grandmother along the all-female line.  Her marriage certificate lists her parents as William and Rachel McLeod.  She arrived in the U.S. around 1881.  There is no evidence of her coming with close family, but it’s hard to believe she came without family or friends at all.   Her subsequent life I know all about, but this is all I have of her family origins.  I have only one possible match in the Canadian census, and the only other clue is that her eventual father in law, William Murdock, had also come from Pictou, much earlier.

  • Skills needed:  Make timeline for her, try once again to learn more about her father in law’s Pictou  family, and explore naturalization records in Massachusetts.  Re-explore family records for clues.

2. Catherine (Youngs Bennett Baldwin) Ross, 1835 – 1907

Worcester Daily Spy, 03 May 1894. Catherine and third husband, Hiram Ross, lost their house in a fire in Sterling, Mass.

Another great-great-grandmother, Catherine Youngs, is the kind of mystery woman a person could chase for decades.  Born in Surrey, England, perhaps on 4 Jul 1835, Catherine arrived in the U.S. around 1843.  On one marriage certificate she lists her parents as William and Catherine Youngs.  On another, she lists them as “unknown.”  Three of her children thought her maiden name was Youngs, and one thought it was Spaulding.  She was married three times, to Bennett, Baldwin, and Ross.  After her marriage to Hiram Ross in 1870, I know a great deal about her.  Before that, very little.  Her first home in the U.S. could have been Massachusetts or New York, or someplace else.  If she came with family, I know nothing about them.

  • Skills needed:  Analyze all data reported by her and by others about her, look for other British citizens in Allegany County, New York, explore early British census and vital records,  explore U.S. immigration and naturalization records in Massachusetts and New York, look for the first husband William Bennett using methods appropriate for common name searches, and talk to my mother about the idea that her father could have been wrong about his grandmother’s maiden name being Spaulding.

3. Maria (Shipley) Martin, 1848 – ?

Maria’s daughter Bessie’s marriage announcement fails to mention Maria’s husband, although I know he was alive. — The Milton News/Dorchester Advertiser vol. XII No. 24, 10 Sep 1892

The problem with yet another great great grandmother, Maria Shipley, is almost the opposite problem.  Born in Wolfville, Nova Scotia around 1841, I know a great deal about her Shipley/Innis/Dougherty/Bransby/Munroe ancestors.  She came to the U.S. around 1885 with her husband and children, and at least one sister. But after her daughter’s wedding in 1892 in Milton, Massachusetts, at which time she seems to be separated from her husband, I have no knowledge of her.  So I would like to know more.

  • Skills needed:  Find local newspapers for any town she might have been living in. Pin down locations and circumstances for each relative I know of in Massachusetts, which would be her estranged husband, her six children, her sister, and a niece.

4. Anna Jean (Bennett Gilley) Douglas, 1854 – 1939

Anna Jean in Montreal. Perhaps around 1880?

My grandfather’s aunt Anna Jean Bennett was born in Belmont, New York in 1854 and her parents seem to have divorced, perhaps, soon after.  By 1860 she was living with her mother and stepfather in Belmont, in obscure poverty.  In 1873 she married a Boston druggist, Harrison Gilley.  They divorced at some point and in 1884 she married a Providence attorney, William Wilberforce Douglas, who became a judge and, eventually, Chief Justice of the R.I. Supreme Court.  From 1884 on, I am very familiar with her life.  But other than that first marriage record, I have no idea what happened to her from 1860 to 1884.  The lovely photographic portrait of her above was taken in Montreal during this period.  Her brother was a globe-trotting artist.  Who was her father (named William Bennett)?  I would like to know her story, which I suspect is fascinating.

  • Skills needed: Learn more about Canadian border crossings  for this time period, as well as Montreal resources such as newspapers, employment records, city directories, high schools, art.  Try to find her in the 1870/71 census, and 1880/81, possibly living with her father in the U.S. or Canada, using searches on multiple members of the family, since her father and brother have very common names. Since the first husband was from Boston, use city directories to pin down his locations over many years. Review all later artifacts, documents and photos for additional clues.

5. Hannah (Andrews) Lamphere, 1819? – 1878

Cemetery surrounding the Long Society Meeting House in Preston

Hannah Andrews, my ggg-grandmother, was born in Massachusetts or Connecticut around 1819.  She has a brother Alden and her parents’ names may be Jesse and Sarah Andrews.  She married Russell Lamphere, Jr. in 1838 in Preston, Connecticut.  There were a number of Andrews who moved from northeastern Massachusetts to Preston about 130 years before Hannah was born.  But Hannah may actually have been born in Massachusetts.  Her brother married a girl from Springfield, Mass.  I can find no sign of her parents – I wonder if they died young.

  • Skills needed: do another literature search, analyze known information, learn more about guardianship records just over the border in the central portion of southern Massachusetts and also in Preston.  Explore church records for the church where they married.

6. Daniel Lamphere, 1745? – 1808

Russell Lamphere, late of Westerly, but now residing in Norwich

Daniel Lamphere is the father of my gggg-grandfather Russell Lamphere, Sr.  The detail above from Daniel’s 1808 probate file, about his son Russell, is part of the substantial evidence of the branch back to Daniel.  Daniel, from Westerly, is likely descended somehow from George Lamphere, an original settler of Westerly, R.I.  But there were several Daniel Lampheres in the area at that time and it’s confusing, so, no luck so far.

  • Skills needed: Learning more about all the people surrounding Daniel and his wife Nancy is the strategy I have started and plan to continue.  Track down his Westerly deeds.  Find out where he’s buried. 

7. Lydia (Miner) Lamphere, 1787 – 1849

The Factories at Yantic Falls, Norwich, from “Connecticut Historical Collections” by John Warner Barber, 1836.

Lydia Miner of Norwich, Connecticut, my gggg-grandmother, married Russell Lamphere, Sr. in 1807 in Norwich, CT.  She passed away in Norwich in 1849.  There is some suggestion she may have been born in Rhode Island, most likely just over the border in Westerly, like her husband.  Miners originally settled the nearby southeastern corner of Connecticut.  People familiar with the well-documented Miners/Minors think this problem should be easily solved, but so far, it hasn’t been.  I believe Lydia and her husband were attracted by the growing factories in Norwich, since they lived in the Yantic Falls neighborhood.  Of all of my family, they were among the earliest to abandon farming for industrial life.  It’s possible that she and Russell met as factory hands, or that her father worked in an early factory.

  • Skills needed: Local Yantic Falls history is likely to provide additional clues.   Also, less easily accessed sources of local Westerly and Norwich information such as church  records, town council records, the Connecticut State Library, cemetery records, and still more tracing of each of their children may help.  Analyzing every available fact may bring up other possibilities.  I would like to find where she and Russell are buried.

8. Thomas Arnold, 1733 – 1817

Thomas’ father (Lieut. Thos.) appears in a 1748 Highway District list, a good source to learn who the neighbors are, on page 30 of “History of the Town of Smithfield” by Thomas Steere, 1881.

My ggggggg-grandfather Thomas Arnold comes from a well-documented Smithfield, Rhode Island family.  But of course my branch is not so well documented.  His wife, Rachel, might be a Smith.   That possibility is repeated here and there with no evidence.  I wonder if a concentrated look at deeds or other local records might help me determine Thomas’ association with nearby Smith families.

  • Skills needed: Investigate town records from Smithfield and any deed connected with Thomas (who is not the only Thomas Arnold in that area).  Continue to research each of the children.

9. Mercy (Ballou) Aldrich, 1778 – ?

1803 Divorce granted to Mercy Ballou by the R.I. Supreme Court

Working on Thomas Arnold, and local deeds, might help me figure out whatever happened to his granddaughter, my ggggg-grandmother Mercy Ballou, who divorced Nathan Aldrich in 1803. I have no knowledge of her life after that, but I would like to know what happened to her.  Her former husband, and his second wife, sold property to her father after the divorce, and I believe they moved up the road to Wrentham, Mass after that. I am trying to pin down her father Richard Ballou’s property to find a location she may have returned to after her divorce.

  • Skills needed: There are numerous small family cemeteries in Smithfield.  I wonder if she could have been buried there.  Her father’s 1824 will only mentions his wife and “lawful heirs”, no specifics.  Knowing far more about her siblings might help.  

10. Russell R. Lamphere, 1818 – 1898

After leaving Alabama in the mid-1870’s, Russell ended up using his metalworking skills at the Oriental Mills, in Providence. This is the building (Union Paper) as it appears today.

Of all the details of my ggg-grandfather Russell Lamphere‘s life that I don’t know, one thing that I am most curious about is his relationship with Connecticut Congressman John Turner Wait.  Congressman Wait submitted a war reparations bill for Russell Lamphere three times in the 1880’s.  What happened in Alabama that would have justified reparations, and why were they submitted by a Connecticut Congressman even though Russell and his family had moved from Alabama to Rhode Island?  There is nothing in Congressman Wait’s rather illustrious family history that suggests a connection to either Russell’s wife or mother, and yet I suspect there is a connection, or at the very least, perhaps Mr. Wait left some papers.

  • I am also learning a lot more about Tuscaloosa, Alabama during the Civil War.  A kind reader approached NARA in Washington DC about any files connected to Russell’s war claims.  Staff did some substantial searching; it wasn’t perfunctory.  So I feel fairly confident there is nothing to be found there.  I need to move on.  I have a half-formed idea that studying Congressman Wait’s complete genealogy will reveal some answers to my own.

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