Monday, September 12, 2022

The Situation With Sligo


Sometimes, it is a wonderful find to discover one's ancestor was featured in those county history books of a previous century. For anyone related to James Murdock of Lafayette, Indiana, it would seem his family's five page spread in Past and Present of Tippecanoe County, Indiana would be more than sufficient to answer any questions about the Murdock family's past. And it is true: James Murdock's route as it is laid out from Ireland to Indiana in this book seems to describe every stop on the immigration route. Finding any way to verify that information, though, is another story.

Take the book's report that the Murdocks emigrated from County Sligo in Ireland. That is not the only place where I found that information. James' own 1908 death certificate mentions that fact, as well.

However, there's a problem with this assertion. When I go to John Grenham's surname map for mid-nineteenth century Ireland and look up the surname Murdock, not a single household shows up in County Sligo featuring that name. There are a few Murdock households for the county to the west—Mayo, supposed home of John Stevens, James' brother-in-law—and some for another county off to the northeast. There is a veritable shower of green dots representing Murdock residents covering the landscape for County Down and the area around Belfast. But not a single marker showing a Murdock family in County Sligo.

Granted, there are other ways to spell the surname Murdock. But looking at any of the variations on the Grenham website doesn't reveal any promising results.

Since the Grenham maps are based on data from Griffith's Valuation, what about going directly to that source? Whether searching for Murdock or Murdoch, the website for Griffith's Valuation gives us no satisfaction.

If you are beginning to lose hope that James Murdock's report gave a correct location for the family's Irish homeland, I am right there with you, scratching my head as well—until, that is, I found this other glimmer of hope.

Of course, hope sometimes comes with multiple caveats. In this case, those caveats include sloppy handwriting or mis-heard report of a given name. Other than that leap of faith that "Sibby"—remember those nicknames for James' mother, Sabina—could be mistakenly written as "Libby," the names of the mother's children on this passenger list line up quite nicely.

Not only the names match, but the ages line up within a year's margin for each of the sons. Only Sabina's year of birth—reported later to have been 1795—does not agree closely with the passenger list.

The added bonus to this list is that the boat these four arrived on during November of 1852—the Dromshair—sailed to New York City from the very place we're holding in question: County Sligo.

There are, of course, problems with this conjecture. Where, for instance, are Sabina Murdock's husband and daughters—to say nothing of their oldest son Samuel? Besides, now that we've discovered the two additional daughters who belong to this household, we can't forget they should be included in such a traveling list, as well.

While first discoveries can be encouraging, it isn't yet time to assume we've found our answer. Let's cross-check this possible passenger listing by researching the story of those two newly-found Murdock daughters to see whether we can learn more about their immigration timeline, as well.


Images: Above, from the Indiana State Board of Health, an excerpt from the 1908 death certificate of James Murdock showing his place of birth reported as County Sligo, Ireland; below that, an excerpt from the passenger list of the Dromshair, arriving from County Sligo in New York City on November 5, 1852, showing the names of four members of a Murdock family; images courtesy     

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