Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Starting With Eliza


One of the cardinal rules of genealogy is to start with yourself. Today, I'll borrow that as a principle and, in my quest to learn more about my husband's second great-grandfather—including his Murdock in-laws—it is John Stevens' second wife Eliza Murdock with whom we will launch our September research goal.

There is much I still need to confirm about the Murdock family. We've already discovered a few clues that this immigrant family moved around before deciding to settle in Lafayette, Indiana. At some point, we will see whether those old history accounts can actually be verified with documentation. But that is jumping ahead of ourselves. Remember, first we start with our prime subject: in this case, Eliza Murdock Stevens, herself.

The earliest point at which I could find Eliza in her adopted home in Lafayette, Indiana, was in the 1860 census. Of course, that was a census which did not include mention of any relationships. We can presume family connections, but the enumeration gives us no confirmation. As I said, though, this is a start.

The 1860 census showed thirty one year old Eliza Clark living with her presumed daughter, nine year old Ellen Clark. In the same household were several men with the surname Murdock: Samuel, James, John, and Thomas. One other household member, a widow with the same surname, appears to have a first name that looks like "Salle." While the others all are in their twenties or thirties, this woman's age is listed as sixty two. Every member of the household was said to have been born in Ireland.

By the end of that same census year, as we've already discovered, Eliza was married to John Stevens on December twelfth. Come time for the next census in 1870, Eliza and John headed a blended family, with two of his sons plus three of their daughters. From that point on out, I have documentation for John, Eliza, and their daughters, as well as his sons from his first marriage.

It is what happened to Eliza and her family before this clearly-documented point that we need to focus on during the coming month. To begin this search, we'll first follow what can be found of Eliza's better-known brother, James Murdock, specifically fact-checking his ample biographical sketch in a history book published less than ten years after Eliza's passing in 1901. The hope is that the clues in that entry will open doors for us to trace the family's progress across the North American continent and back to their supposed home in Ireland at the start of the Great Famine there.

That, at least, is the plan for our research in September. We'll see how far the paper trail can take us.


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