Thursday, September 1, 2022

Tracing Eliza's Tracks


The pursuit of family history requires a timeline built backwards. We start with what we can find on an ancestor, then work our way backwards in time, moving from the known ever so carefully into the realm of the unknown.

In the case of our research goal for this month, we are about to embark on such a journey into the past. This time, the focus of our study will be Eliza Murdock, who eventually became the second wife of my husband's second great-grandfather John Stevens, and step-mother to John's three sons.

Starting from "the known" in Eliza's case means beginning our search with the earliest record I can find for her. That would be her listing in the 1860 U.S. Census, where she lived with her mother and brothers in Tippecanoe County, Indiana. At the time, Eliza was thirty one years of age and was reported to have been born in Ireland, as were all the others living in her household.

There was one unexpected detail about Eliza's entry in that 1860 census record. She was listed not by her maiden name—Murdock, the same surname as all her brothers in that household—but by the surname Clark. There was only one other person with that same Clark surname: a nine year old girl by the name of Ellen, also born in Ireland.

The first, and easiest, detail to extrapolate from that census readout is that little Ellen, and thus, her mother, could not have left Ireland any time earlier than 1851—if, that is, we can trust the report of her age and location of her birth in the enumeration.

Of course, the 1860 census wouldn't have told us that Eliza was the mother of Ellen. It took quite a bit of searching to come up with that conclusion, following Ellen—or, as she was later called, Nellie—through her married life and the tragedies befalling her family which led to their report in the local newspapers of the time.

There is another glitch to such a calculation, though. Comparing Eliza's implied immigration time limits to the widely-shared story of her younger brother James' travels, it is obvious that there are discrepancies between the two reports. True, Eliza may have emigrated from her native Ireland later than her parents and brothers. It may serve us well to examine James' reported itinerary and compare it with documentation which may be found at the stopping points in his story.

While Eliza, if giving birth to Ellen in Ireland in 1851, could not have left her homeland until after that point, James' story seems to place him well on his way to Canada in 1848. By 1850, according to his biographical sketch in a local history book, the family moved to New York, and shortly thereafter to Ohio. The family's last stop before the death of their father was in Wayne County, Indiana, about a distance of one hundred twenty miles—today only a drive of a couple hours—from the family's final stop in Lafayette, Indiana.

John Murdock, Eliza's father, died in 1853. Whether Eliza ever saw him again after their possible parting in Ireland is not clear. Whether that was exactly the route traveled by the Murdock brothers and their parents we will need to check. But at least we have a proposed route to follow, to examine, and to accept or reject, depending on availability of any records concerning the family along the way. Depending on whether Eliza and Ellen also appear in any such records, we may have a clearer idea of how the two of them arrived in Lafayette, as well.

At least, that is a start. It gives us a few hints to begin the search. We've got a whole month to piece together the story of how the Murdocks came to Tippecanoe County, and the chance to explore, one by one, the history of each member of that family. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...