Friday, September 9, 2022

"To My Beloved Sisters"


Those final words embedded in the last will and testament of our ancestors may sometimes be the only way to trace family members and push our research path back another generation. In the case of Eliza Murdock, second wife of John Stevens, it was thanks only to some research on collateral lines that produced the key to the names of the rest of the Murdock family in Lafayette, Indiana.

We've already discovered one of Eliza's brothers, the successful businessman and civic leader James Murdock. Yet, his ample biographical sketch included in the 1909 book, Past and Present of Tippecanoe County, Indiana, seemed to provide information that I've yet to substantiate. Now, not only do I need to learn more about Eliza simply because of my Stevens family research questions, I want to learn more about Eliza's Murdock roots as well.

Eliza's brother James Murdock apparently was not the only one of the Murdock sons to achieve success. Two other Murdock sons entered the grocery business and at least obtained a comfortable living from their efforts. One of them—John—unfortunately died young. But even though his death occurred in 1874, long before the state of Indiana required death certificates, his business success ensured that he had something to leave behind. That's where his last will and testament comes in.

In addition to providing for his just debts to be paid, John Murdock got straight to the business of taking care of family. A single man, only thirty five years of age, for John, that family meant his own siblings. His first order of business in his will was to give three hundred dollars apiece to his "beloved sisters."

Sisters? I had only learned of one Murdock sister: Eliza. Who were these others?

In a single paragraph in the will which I can only describe as a gift, John Murdock not only named the three sisters, but included the names of each of their husbands. Of course I already knew Eliza's husband was John Stevens—or "Stephens" as it so often was written—but I knew nothing of the other two.

Now, not only do I have the names for the other two sisters—Sarah and Ellen—but I know the full names of each spouse. Sarah apparently married John Nolan, and Ellen was wife to someone listed as Thomas Megarry. Even better, John Murdock made special provision in his will for Ellen's son Samuel, adding yet another name to the Murdock family constellation for me to trace.

While each of these family names pushes me farther away from the original line I am interested in—that of John Stevens, immigrant from County Mayo in Ireland—their discovery provides me with yet more ways to potentially learn about the roots of the Murdock family. And, hopefully, about John Stevens' own immigration story, as well.

With that discovery, we'll take some time next week to see whether these two additional names provide any clues as to the Murdock immigration route from Ireland to Indiana. 

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