Wednesday, September 14, 2022

About That Nephew Samuel


Oh dear. This is getting complicated. I started out hoping to learn more about John Stevens, my husband's second great-grandfather, by tracing the history of his second wife Eliza Murdock.

Only problem: women living during the latter half of the nineteenth century often weren't highlighted in headlines. So when I discovered Eliza had well-known businessmen in Lafayette, Indiana, as brothers, I started trailing their information to discover just how the Irish Murdock family came to settle in Indiana. But when Eliza's brother John—a single man, at that—left a will upon his untimely death naming his three sisters, what was I to do? Finding information on three nineteenth-century women is no easier than discovering the facts on one woman of that era.

Enter nephew Samuel, named alongside his aunts and mother in John Murdock's will. Perhaps, I thought, his life story might illuminate the immigration details featured in a bragging piece about his better-known other uncle, James Murdock.

And so, here we are, genealogical guinea pigs game to try any avenue of exploration to find the details that feed a well-groomed genealogy. Let's see if nephew Samuel provides any clues to lead us onward on our research trail.

When Samuel first made his appearance, it was in his uncle John Murdock's 1874 will. That document was entered into the Tippecanoe County court record on April 2, 1874. The stipulations set by John Murdock indicated that Samuel had not quite yet reached the age of twenty one years. Indeed, as we'll see in subsequent census records, Samuel was born in August of 1853, making him just months shy of reaching that mark at the time of his uncle's death.

Although Samuel was son of Eliza's sister Ellen and her husband, listed as Thomas "Megarry" in his brother-in-law's will, I have yet to find him in his parents' household. By the time of the 1870 census, Samuel had apparently left his parents' home, but he must have stayed in close proximity.

Why do I surmise such a conclusion? Simply because within the next five to six years, Samuel had found a bride from among the young women living in that same Indiana community.

Samuel's bride, Mary Finnigan, had been living, at least back in 1870, with her older brother John Finnigan and their mother Margaret in the Lafayette household of Mary's step-father, Patrick Lynch. By 1876, Samuel had made his proposal, Mary had said "yes," and the couple celebrated their wedding on October 30 of that year—two and a half years after Samuel's uncle John Murdock's bequest.

By the time of the 1880 census, still in Lafayette, Samuel and Mary had welcomed their first son whom they named John, perhaps in honor of the uncle who had vested so much interest in Samuel's future. But they were not to remain there for long. Although we don't have the 1890 census to explain to us the young McGarry family's next move, we can intuit from the 1900 census their pathway into a future far removed from the city their immigrant parents had adopted as home. We'll explore more of Samuel's story tomorrow.


Image above: The November 14, 1876, return from the Tippecanoe County, Indiana, marriage record of Samuel L. McGarry and Mary A. Finnigan; image courtesy    

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