Monday, January 31, 2011

Matrilineal Monday - Julia Murphy Horgan

I had a hard time deciding who to write about in this blog post. Looking at the women in my tree, I realized that I had a ton of information on some of them (pretty thoroughly researched), no information on some of them (currently very well-built brick walls), but very few who I had only a little information on, but enough clues to work with and try to find out more. A lot of my women have very interesting stories, a lot I am desperately still trying to find their stories and have no idea where to begin, and many of them I've written about in other posts. I finally decided on my third great grandmother, Julia Murphy Horgan, because I can share some of what I've already found out but also share some of the avenues I'm continuing to pursue to find out more.

Much of the information I have on Julia is thanks to the records I have on her daughter Mary Horgan Gorry, my great-great grandmother. Thanks to my pack-rat father and grandfather, we have a ton of original documentation for Mary. According to her death certificate, her parents were John Horgan and Unknown Murphy. Mary's certificate of marriage to James Gorry from her church, Immaculate Conception, does not list her parents' names, but a government-issued marriage certificate usually will - I don't have one for Mary. I do have a record of her baptism, though, also from Immaculate Conception - the record is from 1932, stating Mary was baptized in 1873 and that her parents were John Horgan and Julia Murphy.

Now, I also have an obituary for John Horgan from 1908 in which he is listed as the "beloved husband of the late Julia Murphy."

I have found, with the matrilineal lines, that you often don't have records for the woman herself. But as you can see, you can use documents from other people to prove a person's information. So, all three of those records help verify that her name was in fact Julia Murphy and John Horgan's obituary also proves that by 1908, Julia had already died. In fact, I also have John Horgan listed in the 1905 New York State census as a widower, so Julia had to have died before 1905.

Now, I have no census records for John and Julia, which is very frustrating and a tad annoying. But what I was able to find was a passenger list manifest with their names on it - contemporary to my John and Julia Horgan was another couple named John and Julia Horgan also living in New York City. It has been confusing in my research. Luckily, my John and Julia were different ages then the other John and Julia, and that has helped. Because of that, I am 95 percent certain the John and Julia Horgan on the passenger list manifest are mine (I used John's death certificate and the 1905 New York state census to ascertain John's birth year, which seems to be pretty reliably somewhere around 1841, 1842).

Okay, so the passenger list manifest is for the ship "City of Paris," which sailed out of Liverpool and Queenstown, England and arrived in New York harbor on June 2, 1872. On the first page is a farmer by the name of John Horgan, age 30, and his wife, Julia, age 20, both from Ireland. This arrival date of 1872 jives with Mary Horgan's birth in New York City the following year and John Horgan's age of 30 jives with a birth year of about 1841, 1842. So based on this evidence, I've learned two more facts about Julia Murphy - that she was born about 1852, probably in Ireland, and that she and John were already married before they arrived in New York, so she was probably married in Ireland.

As of right now, that is all I know of her. It's actually quite a lot, I suppose, but I have a lot more questions that are proving to be more difficult to answer than I would have thought. First and foremost is Julia's death - because I can't find her in any census, I have a window of 32 years in which she might have died, from the time her daughter Mary was born in 1873 until the 1905 New York State census, where John Horgan is listed without her. As far as I can tell, Mary Horgan was an only child, so I can't even use any sibling lines to try to find out more about Julia. I could make a trip to the New York City municipal archives to look for a death certificate for Julia, but it would be a tedious and painstaking process without some means of narrowing that window. A death certificate is potentially a goldmine of information - it could list her parents names, and thus get me one step further back on her line; it could list her address at her time of death, which could help me in finding her and John in a census; it could list a place of birth, etc. etc.

Another avenue I could pursue is to try to find a marriage certificate in Ireland for John and Julia - that window is potentially much smaller but I don't have much experience looking for records outside of the United States. I also wouldn't know exactly where to look. I know John was from the city of Cork, but that doesn't mean that's where he was living when he and Julia got married.

In any case, John and Mary have been extremely helpful in getting to know Julia, but Julia's origins, for now anyway, remain a mystery.


  1. Great post so much you know and so much to learn. Mysteries of our matrilineal line can drive us nuts. I have a great great grandmother from Ireland that is causing me times of wonder. Right now I am reading a book about the Irish and that puts history to the time they came to the US. I wish you much success with your journey.

  2. Thanks, Grace, glad you liked the post...yeah, it's usually the women who are hardest to find, isn't it? Good luck with finding out more on your great great grandmother!