Eliza Murdock was one of those in-law research projects that started me out with a stutter step—you know, those first promising steps that you grab and think you'll easily run with, only to discover it was a false start.
John Stevens' second wife may have herself been one to claim him as a second spouse. When I first found her, though, I couldn't be sure. There weren't many ways to find supporting documents for such a contention, despite obvious signs that there was someone else in Eliza's past.
Since John Stevens belongs in my husband's direct line—John being his second great-grandfather—I had been fairly confident of documenting the major points in his life's timeline. Somewhere along the line, I also ran across mentions of Eliza's brothers—all, incidentally, named Murdock, not any other surname. But when I uncovered mentions of a woman whose place in the family I couldn't discern, it took considerable effort to dig up the woman's own roots.
Let's just say I've been working on this puzzle for years. Using a broad search tool to review all newspaper entries naming John Stevens' son John Kelly Stevens (my husband's great-grandfather), I had years ago run across an unexpected mention of a "nephew" named Raphael Kruse. That led me on a chase to locate the obituary for Eliza Murdock Stevens, herself. There among the survivors were listed three daughters, just as I had seen in census reports of John and Eliza's married years.
The problem was that each of the daughters was listed by her married name—you know, those aggravatingly proper listings of men's full names with the obligatory "Mrs." appended. It took quite a bit of searching to determine that one of the daughters listed in Eliza's own obituary was not one of the three daughters she had in common with John Stevens. Mrs. Henry Kruse, the oldest of the three surviving daughters, was a woman named Nellie—more likely, Ellen or Helen—whose maiden name turned out to be Clark.
It was she whose mother was Eliza and whose father was not John Stevens. But who was her father? I have yet to figure out who Mr. Mystery Clark was, though I know from Nellie's own death certificate that her father was born in Ireland.
Did that make Eliza's name Clark before her second marriage to John Stevens? Hardly. Though Eliza showed up in the 1860 census as Eliza Clark, don't think that made it easy to locate her subsequent marriage record to John Stevens under such a name. In fact, her December 12, 1860, marriage to John turned out to list her name as Eliza Murdock, not Clark.
While that information is not necessarily germane to my research goal for the upcoming month, it provides a lesson in knowing all the possible aliases our target ancestor might have claimed—or, in this case, the second wife of a direct ancestor. As we work our way through the Murdock—not Clark—family to glean more clues on those connected to John Stevens, we need to remember that if that mystery Mr. Clark does show up, he may be pointing the way to some helpful connections. Even if he isn't a blood relative. By a long shot.