CHAPTER  IV

 

THE SEARCH FOR MICHAEL MURPHY

 

Detroit skyline as seen from park on Detroit River in Windsor during Sept 2002 visit

 

The Search begins

While much information was gleaned from the documents and records shown in the previous chapter on the Murphys, the most puzzling aspect was that Annie and Michael did not appear to be buried together in Holy Angels cemetery in St. Thomas and the fact that he had died in November 1920 in Jackson, Michigan. Also appearing odd was the transcription that Annie was the wife of M. Joseph Murphy! So what in fact had happened here, what specifically were the circumstances of his death, what was he doing there, what was his occupation and where exactly was he buried in terms of his grave? The first logical step was to write to the Michigan vital statistics people to get a copy of his death record. This Department was located in Lansing, the state Capital and they had a website that provided a form that could be downloaded, a fee and address where the request could be sent. This was dispatched in December of 1997 with much anticipation.

A reply was received dated January 27th, 1998 from the Dept of Community Health, blunt and clear "the record cannot be located". This was a big surprise given the apparent clarity about his death in Annie's obituary, but alas it was just the beginning of a long extended search that would go on for another six years before finally ending in May of 2004 with closure in Flint, Michigan.

With such an abrupt, unanticipated  obstacle encountered, the only alternative seemed to be to back up more to the beginning of Annie's and Michael's reationship, as well as their ancestry's and try and work forward from there. The first initiative was to pursue their marriage record from St. Peter's Cathedral Basilica in London, Ontario as described in the previos chapter.Using this information, contact was made through the Middlesex-London website of the OGS first with George DeKay and then with Don Read as described in Chapter I. They were both invaluable during the February to July period in 1998 in assisting in obtaining details of Annie Kilgallin's parents, Patrick and Margaret Kilgallin as well as Margaret's parents the Loughlin's.

As a further step in the search in July of 1998 a letter was sent to the Ontario Vital Statistics Department in Thunder Bay to see if an Ontario death record could be found for Michael in 1920 and also for Annie's father Patrick in 1992. This was returned with the notation that this information could only be found in the Ontario Archive records. Patrick's was found later through micro-film available at the Mormon Library in Edmonton, but there was no death for a Michael Joseph Murphy in 1920.

Later on in July Don Read who lived in Napean, which is part of the Greater Ottawa Area volunteered via email to search the Quebec marriage records for the marriage of Andrew and Catherine Murphy. He was successful in finding such a marriage in records at the University of Ottawa, occurring January 8, 1856 at St. Patrick's de Quebec which was thought to most likely be in Quebec City, although there was also a St. Patrick's in Montreal.

Considerable more information on grave locations was obtained from the Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid (OCFA) website and search engine, as well as data from the Archives Canada 1871 Ontario census on-line database. Cemetery transcription books for several pertinent cemeteries had also been ordered and received from the London-Middlesex Branch of the OGS.With all of this information in hand the Author and his wife Jackie set out on a road trip in Sept 1998 to do some first hand research in Eastern Canada.

The first stops on the trip were in Middlesex County at the St. Peter's Mission cemetery on the McGillivray-Biddulph township boundary, the St. Columba cemetery at Bornish, the Parkhill cemetery, the Mount Carmel  cemetery,  St. Peter's cemetery in London and finally Holy Angel's in St. Thomas where Annie was buried. This was a highly  successful expedition with the graves of all Loughlin and Kilgallin ancestors being found, as well as the grave of Andrew and Catherine and of course Annie Murphy, Michael's wife in St. Thomas. Photographs of many of these grave marker stones taken during this trip appear throughout this history. Annie's grave in Holy Angels is shown below. While at Holy Angels we spent some time discussing Annie's grave plot with the Superintendent to see if he had any information indicating that Michael was also buried there. He said that the plot was big enough for two graves, but that the graveyard records for that period had been partially destroyed and as a result no other information was available .It is interesting to compare this 1998 photo with the  black and white one above, thought to have been taken in 1931 by my father Joseph.

Annie Murphy's grave marker in Holy Angels cemetery St. Thomas 1998

From Ontario we proceeded to Quebec City to see if we could find any Murphy or Feely ancestors in the large St. Patrick's cemetery in St. Foy, but after looking around and talking to the Superintendent we were not unsuccessful in finding anything of value. St. Patrick's was a beautiful old cemetery on the banks of the St Laurence River with many large maple trees sprinkled throughout that were just starting to turn their gorgeous shades of orange and red as we visited. It seemed that the cemetery had been started in the 1870's after the ancestors had left Quebec. There was a depressed section where the Superintendent said that old graves from an earlier catholic cemetery had been moved, but records for this area were not available. The markers which were there were mostly unreadable. As is recorded in Chapter III these graves were likely from the old "cimitiere St. Louis"

The cemetery did have records but you would have to know specifics regarding the name and year of death in order to find anyone. The Superintendent referred us to the church and as described in the previous chapter a regards  James Murphy and Margaret Bulger we later found key records on Andrew and Catherine Murphy at the Quebec Archives located on the campus of Laval University.

Upon our return to St. Albert the Author had been invigorated by the overall findings on the trip particularly those in Quebec. It was felt that the most effective way to pursue information on Michael was to follow up on the St. Patrick records. Accordingly a visit was made in November 1998 to the Edmonton library of the Mormons to see what was available. This was the Authors first experience and exposure to the Mormon genealogy expertise and the first visit to such a Library. A pleasant surprise ensued in learning that micro-film could be ordered from Salt Lake City for just $5.00 a roll for literally millions of records in the world including all Canadian Catholic church records as per an agreement between the Canadian Catholic church and the Mormons.

As a consequence the records after 1860 for St. Patrick's de Quebec were ordered, which is where the work at the Quebec Archives had to be left off due to lack of time. During the winter of 98/99 these records all the way to 1900 were ordered and researched without any positive results. It became almost certain at this juncture  that Andrew and Catherine as well as the remaining Feely's had probably moved from the Quebec City area. The next logical step was taken in Feb 1999 by ordering the micro-film record of Catholic birth/baptisms for the Montreal area for the 1870 period in an attempt to find Michael's birth. These records were in high demand and were not received until May, but they did contain Michael's birth as appears below

Baptism/birth record for Michael in Montreal 1870

During this same winter period while at the Mormon Library the author had learned from the Mormon microfiche index's of a book by Marianna O'Gallagher  titled the "St. Patrick's The Building of a Church and of a Parish" This book along with several others on Middlesex County were ordered through the St. Albert Library under the auspices of the inter-library loan program of the National Library of Canada. The contents of the book were described in the previous chapter, but the immediate benefit was to learn that prior to about 1856 the birth/death/marriage records of St. Patrick's after its opening in 1833 were entered in the records of the Archdiocese's main church Notre Dame de Quebec. These records were ordered during the winter of 1999/2000 and provided the detailed information given in Chapter VI on John Feely and Bridget Coronan, their family and more particularly their daughterCatherine.

Meanwhile in July of 1999 the Author received a copy of census data that Ted Murphy, the had just obtained These records were from the recently released 1901 census for St Thomas where Annie was living, and provided the first major clue as to the relationship between Michael and Annie. The record produced below shows Annie living with Rosanna Loughlin with her two children, the our father born March 5,1897 and his sister Margaret born May 8th, 1894. The record shows them immigrating to Canada in 1899 having both been born in Detroit Michigan. It became startlingly  apparent at this time that Annie came back to Canada in 1899 with her two children and that two years later in 1901 Michael was not there! This circumstance and the implications was not something that anyone in our family was aware of!

Copy of 1901 census for St. Thomas; Annie with Margaret and Joseph's return to Canada in 1899

Rosanna Loughlin was the wife of the deceased John Loughlin and was either Annie's Aunt or her first cousin. John and Rosanna whose maiden name was House were part of the Loughlin family that lived around the St. Peter's Mission church as we will see in chapter VII. Their names have been found in the records of this church in the 1860's period as witness's to various births etc. They presumably moved to Elgin County in the 1870's where they had three children and John worked as a Tanner. He died in 188I age 51 and Rosanna in 1916 age 80 and are buried in Holy Angels cemetery.

As described above, the winter of 1999/2000 was spent researching the records of Notre Dame de Quebec for John Feely, Bridget Coronan and their family. These records were re-ordered and searched again in the fall of 2001 looking for Catherine's birth, but with the same result as the earlier search ie. nothing! In early 2000, micro-film records of St. Peter's Mission were also obtained to get more accurate dates on events of the Loughlin and Kilgallin families as well as to determine who more specifically John and Rosanna Loughlin were. John was born in 1830 hence was almost certainly the son of either John or Edward Loughlin.He was therefore either Annie's uncle or her first cousin. No marriage record for John and Rosanna could be found in the St. Peter's Mission records so it is assumed that they were likely married in Rosanna House's parish which is not known.

In January of 2001 the records of St. Peter's Cathedral Basilica in London were ordered and searched to get exact dates of the birth of Andrew and Catherine's children born after they moved there: Peter in 1873, Andrew in 1875 and James in 1878. Later that same year while rummaging around in some of my fathers old documents the Author stumbled upon a photograph of which he was not previously aware of its existence. It was a studio photograph taken by C.M. Hayes a well known Detroit photographer of a man in a 19th century military type uniform. The picture appears below. On the back in my mother's handwriting is" M Murphy K.C. uniform Joe's father"

Photograph of Michael Murphy in" unauthenticated "K of C uniform

The first thought was to validate the authenticity of the uniform with the Knights of Columbus and see if they had any record of his membership. The local St. Albert chapter was contacted and the suggestion made that the best way to proceed was to write to the Knights headquarters in New Haven Connecticut for which an address was given. On June 8th 2001 a reply was received from Susan Bronson Archivist who said that the uniform was not a Knights of Columbus uniform and asked if the Author had any other indication of his membership. There was of course nothing else so  communication was sent by email to the Archivist requesting they search their records for Detroit, Michigan and Ontario.

Susan advised that she had their membership Department check their records for Detroit, Jackson and London Ontario without success, but admitted that these records were primarily post 1920. She further advised that earlier ones were stored off site, were quite voluminous so it would necessary to know to which council he belonged. In addition these records could only be accessed by a Knights member. She also advised that in the late 19th and early 20th century there were many societies that used similar attire and suggested that the Author contact a local library ie. Detroit. The author did follow this suggestion up through the Detroit Public Library website where an email was sent to Mr. Dave Peremba the head Archivist. Unfortunately a connection could not be made until several years later using the assistance of Diane Oslund of Diane's Genealogy in Detroit. When a response from Mr. Perumba was eventually received as shown below it partially contradicts Susan Bronson of the Knights.

Letter from Dave Peremba of Detroit Public Library

This particular research effort was perhaps one of the most frustrating encountered by the Author in terms of nailing something down given the specificity of the photograph and it notation. In further pursuit, C M Hayes was googled and many websites accessed as regards C.M Hayes It was apparent that this firm was very prominent in Detroit photography from about 1890 to after 1920.This exercise, while informational did not advance the research, and as might be expected the firm no longer exists today. Who might have this firms records if in fact they exist is unknown at this time. The Author is therefore left to trust in his parents that grandfather Michael was in fact a member of the Knights of Columbus which is a comforting feeling given family information to be uncovered later.

By the late fall of 2001 pretty well all regular avenue's of research in regard to Michael Murphy as well as the Loughlin, Kilgallin and Murphy families had been exploited and their histories and graves located. Grandfather Michael remained an exception. It seemed that the only way to get more information  would be to delve into more difficult to access local records in St. Thomas and Detroit. This led the Author to contact the Middlesex Branch of the OGS in London by email to see if he could get a recommendation on a fee for service researcher. The intent was to investigate London newspaper records for an obituary or death notice for Andrew's wife Catherine in 1919. This initiative was very successful with the researcher Dennis Mulligan uncovering the notices which are illustrated earlier in this chapter.

This information was obtained in January 2002 and was very valuable in showing that Catherine had died April 15, 1919, that she was living in Detroit at the time of her death and that she was survived by Michael, James and Mary of Detroit as well as Peter who was now living in Chicago and another sister Mrs. A Saunders also in Chicago. More on these latter two later.

This told the author that Annie's husband Michael may never have moved back to Canada with her and the two children. It also told us that the oldest son John born in Quebec City in 1857 was dead as was Andrew born in London in 1875. It was also clear that daughter Mary was also in Detroit and of course James the youngest son born in 1878 who had attended Annie's funeral from Detroit according to her obituary.

Returning to Catherine's survivors referenced above for a moment, Peter Murphy was the brother who had married Annie's sister Catherine in 1890 in St Peter's Cathedral London. They had five children in ten years before Catherine died in 1900. She is thought to be buried at Bornish with her parents Patrick and Margaret Kilgallin. One of their married daughters now a Gallagher lived in St. Thomas and attended Annie's funeral as her niece. 

As regards Mrs. A. Saunders, she can only be a remarried Margaret now moved to Chicago with her husband and Peter. Margaret married a John Johnson in July 1883 in London according to the churches micro-film records and had at least one child Andrew in 1884.Finally then some progress was being made and a decision was made to pursue a number of similar avenues as follows.

A request was made to the Elgin Branch of the OGS to which the author also belonged for a paid researcher to search the St. Thomas paper's of November 1920 for a notice concerning Michael's death. An email was received from the researcher Pat Temple on March 10,2002 that nothing had been found.

In February 2002 a letter was written to the Pastor of St Peter and Paul's church in Detroit asking if he could check his church records for the death/burial of Michael in 1920 and for a death/burial for his brother James C. This was done on the speculation that while Michael supposedly died in Jackson Michigan, that his body may have been brought back to Detroit by his brother James for burial. This church is where both children were baptized so it was a logical starting point in Detroit. The address was obtained from the Archdiocese of Detroit website. On March 10th a reply was received via email from the Pastor Father Bonks which appears below. A further letter was immediately dispatched to Holy Trinity, however a reply was never received.

Letter re. Michael's death from Father Bonks, St. Peter&Paul's Detroit

Similarly a telephone call was made in February 2002 to the Archdiocese of Detroit's office based on their website information, in order to obtain information on Catholic and Irish Catholic cemeteries in Detroit where Michael and/or James or Mary might have been buried on the basis that three siblings may well be buried together. The administrator advised the  writer that there were eight Catholic cemeteries in the Archdiocese, two of which met the Irish and age criteria of 1920 existence. A list was received by the end of the month as shown below.

Irish Catholic cemeteries in Detroit in 1920

A telephone call in March of 2002 to the Mount Elliot cemetery indicated that it would be necessary to visit these cemeteries in person in order to do any kind of a reasonable search. Accordingly preliminary plans were  made to go to Detroit later in the year. Before making this trip however it was felt the more information on Annie Murphy's life between the time of her return to Canada in 1899 and her death in 1925 should be obtained. Accordingly the Author again approached the Elgin Branch of OGS for a recommendation on a fee based researcher from St. Thomas where the Elgin Branch was based. The objective was to search the City directory, property and estate records regarding Annie's existence there,as well as St Thomas papers for an obituary for Michael.     

Pat Temple undertook the obituary search and advised by email that he could find no obituary for Michael. Rob Moore undertook the search on Annie's records in March 2002 with very surprising and revealing results as follows.

The St. Thomas City directories first record of the family is in 1906&1907showing daughter Margaret and Annie's sister Margaret working as domestics at the Wabash Hotel. Annie's first appearance is in 1907 living at 7 Penwarden Street the widow of M. Joseph. She then appears again in 1908, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1918, 1920, 1923 and for the last time in 1924, in each case the widow of either M. Joseph, Michael J., Joseph or Michael.Murphy.

Starting in 1913 daughter Margaret appears as Marguerite where she now is a bookkeeper at the Grand Central Hotel. Joseph appears for the first time in 1915 the year he would have turned 18. In 1918 Edward and John Loughlin, sons of Rosanna and John Loughlin are living with Annie at 7 Penwarden  In 1920 Marguerite is a stenographer and continues to live there until her mothers death in February 1925. In 1923 son Joseph is there listed as a teacher. Margaret Kilgallin, Annie's younger unmarried sister is also there again that year.

The lot at 7 Penwarden was first registered in the city in 1902. Annie Murphy purchased the property for $800 in 1906 from the Penwardens and later that year took out a $500 mortgage. The fairly tiny house on the very narrow street where the authors father Joseph and his sister Margaret were raised is shown below as photographed in 1998.

The former house of Annie Murphy at 7 Penwarden Street St. Thomas 1998

The final item discovered was that in August of 1919 Annie made a Will leaving her sewing machine to daughter Marguerite and all else divided equally beween her and her brother, our father Joseph. The Will also contains a sentence where she leaves the sum of $1 to her husband Michael Joseph Murphy. This is final proof that she and Michael were still married although it is doubtful that he ever visited St. Thomas, otherwise why the continuous widow declaration. Bob Moore advised that he thought that by leaving $1 to her husband he would be unable to legally contest the will.

It is pretty clear from this that Margaret and Joseph grew up without a father, may have believed he was dead until they were told when they were older that he was in Detroit. What contact they may have had with him if any is impossible to know, as is why Annie came back to Canada in 1899 along with the children or why Annie and Michael were estranged. None of this was known or even remotely suspected until this genealogical search for Michael was undertaken. At this juncture in March 2002 Michael's whereabouts in terms of death and burial still remained unknown. A decision was taken that the next logical step was to go to Detroit and Jackson Michigan in search of answers.

While the search for Michael had not been successful to this point, an awful lot of information about his and Annie's life had been gained. It was apparent that he had never left Detroit and was there in 1919 along with his brother James and sister Mary. Two other brothers John and Andrew were dead and their mother Catherine was living in Detroit at the time of her death in 1919.

 Michael supposedly died in Jackson Michigan so it was felt that he would have either been buried there or there was the possibility that James and Mary arranged for the body to be taken to Detroit for a Catholic funeral in an Irish Catholic cemetery. In addition it was felt that there was a good possibility that Michael, James and Mary were all buried together in Detroit and if their burial or grave of one of them could be found they might just all be together.

Prior to embarking on the trip an effort was made in August 2002 to investigate Catholic cemeteries and associated records in Jackson Michigan, which was both a City and a County. An internet search revealed that Jackson was located in the Archdiocese of Lansing and that they had a website similar to Detroit. There was sufficient information on the site to enable the Author to send an email to Paul Garriepy the Director of the Archdiocesan cemeteries. The email was replied to on Aug 21,2002 by Gerry Rice his assistant director.

Mr. Rice advised that he had been asked to assist me and accordingly had contacted the five largest cemeteries in the immediate city area, one of them being the only Catholic cemetery in Jackson County. None of them had a Michael Murphy who died in 1920. Mr. Garriepy was very helpful in asking for additional information and providing the names and phone numbers of various Townships and villages in the County where the author could make further inquiries. No further action was taken as this appeared to be another dead end.

This left a Detroit visit as the last best hope. The trip was planned for September 2002 and the Author and his wife Jackie drove to Toronto and picked up son Bryce in Toronto to assist in the search. The location of St. Peter and Paul's church on Jefferson Ave and the two Catholic cemeteries, Mount Elliot and Mount Olivet had been carefully located in advance on a Detroit city street map for ease of navigation. We stayed in Windsor overnight and viewed the Detroit skyline from the Windsor City park along the Detroit River waterfront that afternoon.  The next morning we headed to Detroit through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel which is easily accessed from the downtown of both cities. When one emerges from the tunnel in Detroit Jefferson Ave is immediately at hand where a stop was made to view and take some photo's of St. Peter and Paul church where father was baptized in 1897. Some pictures are shown below.

St. Peter and Paul's Jesuit church on Jefferson Ave. Detroit

The two cemeteries were easily found, Mount Elliot being in the same general neighbourhood as the church and Mount Olivet a few miles away. Both cemeteries were beautifully old with a combination of wrought iron and stone fences and buildings, landscaped with many large trees and shrubs, paved roads and pathways, well manicured graves and grass areas with many large and multi coloured and shaped markers. Staff at both locations were courteous and helpful. A picture of Mount Elliot is shown below.

Mount Elliot Cemetery Detroit

The records at both cemeteries were checked for Michael Murphy's burial in or about November 1920 without success. Similarly discussions were held with the staff in regard to the burial of a James and a Mary Murphy, however without years of death this effort was largely fruitless due to the commonness of the names and the fact that the cemetery had little information on buried people beyond names. Normally information is on the grave marker or held in the records of the officiating funeral home.          

                                                                                                                                                                                             It was a very interesting trip overall, to see the church and cemeteries and a bit of downtown Detroit. While at the end of the day we were no further ahead in some ways in our search for Michael, we had investigated and eliminated several avenues of research, and got a feel for the area where Michael and Annie had spent their early married years and where our father Joseph had been born and baptized. The trip also helped to firm up in the Authors mind  the need for one ultimate and final research effort, along with the initiative to take it.

Diane's Genealogy

That initiative was to try and hire or retain a Detroit based researcher who would have easy and direct access to American records such as city directories, national censuses and newspapers which are extremely difficult, in fact largely impossible to access from Canada. This is compounded by the absence of a State based genealogical organization in Michigan with local Branches such as in Ontario. As we see above this structure allowed the Author to retain researchers for specific searches through these Branches with excellent results. While there are some local area genealogical organization in Michigan their existence is hit and miss and many provide only a very limited if rudimentary service or information.

The search for Michigan genealogical organizations was primarily researched via the internet which has become the largest and most common way of conducting genealogical research in today's modern world. The first priority of any genealogical organization is to develop a website, link to related sites and provide a simple accessible means of providing information to its members.

Thus in early August of 2003 an internet search using google was conducted to try and find a person or entity that would take on research work, searching for Michael Murphy et al on a fee basis with payment either by credit card or preferably via  money order or mailed personal cheques. The search did not turn up very many prospects nor could it have been expected to, but one tended to stand out: Diane's Genealogy. This service was operated by Diane Oslund a Professional Genealogist based in Ferndale Michigan a satellite city adjacent to Detroit who also did research in Ontario. Her rate of $US18 was very reasonable.

On August 6th an email was sent to Diane's address  with background and an explanation of the work and findings to date  requesting the use of her services along with a request for a work plan and quotation of anticipated costs. A positive reply was received the same day outlining the basics of the work she proposed, the records she had access to and that a  personal cheque or credit card via Paypal would be fine along with a $75 advance payment. She advised the she could start in about a weeks time. The advance cheque was mailed to her immediately and thus began a genealogical connection that was to prove highly positive and spectacularly productive!

Diane began sending reports by email on August 22nd with immediate positive and surprising results. The first appearances of family members was in the 1895 City directory for Detroit with Catherine Murphy, widow of Andrew living at 91 Russell Street with her son Andrew listed as a labourer and boarder. This was a very interesting finding because while Catherine died in Detroit in 1919 and Michael and Annie were there in 1894, it was never suspected that Catherine and her younger sons had moved to Detroit after husband Andrews death, and in fact the remains of the family had been there for almost 25 years at the time of Catherines death! The youngest son James would have been 17 years old at the time of the move.

Also found in the 1895 directory was Anna a knitter boarding at 17 Newberry along with Michael J. a labourer and James a teamster. While it is impossible to know with certainty, it is highly probable that this is Michael and Annie along with the youngest brother James just 17 at this juncture. They do not appear elsewhere in the directory and the address coincidence of three persons related as they were is too powerful to ignore. Annie likely takes in work as a knitter to augment the family income as she has one year old daughter Margaret at this time. Another interesting observation here is that Annie is called Anna here, the same as in the 1917 affidavit of  fathers baptism, yet her birth/baptism record in McGillivray is Annie. This is also her name on the actual baptism certificate later obtained by Diane, on her St. Peter's Basilica Cathedral marriage certificate, her name in all the St. Thomas city directories and on her grave marker. Later in the 1900 directory there is a James and a Michael J living at 17 Newberry which looks like the the now separated Michael living at this same Newberry address with brother James.

1895 Detroit city directory; Anna, Michael J, and James at 17 Newberry; Andrew and his mother Catherine at 91 Russell

Diane found the widow Catherine and sons Andrew and James living at 245 Larned St in the 1896 directory. There were a lot of hit and miss findings for these people over the next long period which are hard to nail down as them. However in 1913 they reappear together again at 374 Maple. Catherine the widow, Andrew a labourer, James C a stage hand and a Joseph who is a machinist.  Again in 1915 Catherine, Andrew and James are living at the above Maple St. address and for the first time Mary a teacher is there with them.

1913 Detroit city directory  Andrew, the widow Catherine, James and Joseph all living at 374 Maple

Diane's work carried on into September, searching the records of Holy Trinity church and two other Irish/English Catholic churches in Detroit St Aloysius and Our Lady of Help all without finding any thing of value in terms of death records of Andrew, James or Mary that could lead to a cemetery. Also searched was the 1900,1910 and 1920 U.S. census's without being able to nail anything much down. She was successful in getting copies of Margaret and Joseph's baptism record from St Peter and Paul's church.

Later on in September the writer asked her if she would be able to take pictures of any of the above dwellings if they existed today and whether she could search the Detroit newspapers for notices on Catherine's death in 1919 and Michael's in November 1920. She was successful in finding a notice of Catherine's death in the April 17th Detroit Free Press, stating that the funeral would be from 359 Sherman with burial in London. Survivors were given as three sons and two daughters with no names.

Diane investigated the possibility of these old houses and found that the areas of Maple St and Sherman were completely rebuilt about thirty years ago and these streets no longer exist in this location. She sent maps of this area now and at the turn of the century. The general area is just north and east of the Detroit-Windsor tunnel entrance, north and east of St. Peter and Paul's church and west of the Mount Elliot cemetery. Russell St is still there today. It intersects Jefferson at a right angle near the tunnel entrance and Larned East is one block                                            

 Additional research conducted by the Author on Detroit indicates that beginning in the mid eighteen hundreds a fairly large Irish immigrant community developed in Detroit. They concentrated in an area immediately south east of the downtown and that this area became known as Corktown because many of them had come from County Cork in Ireland. The center of this community was Most Holy Trinity Catholic church at the junction of Porter and Sixth. By 1895 ninety percent of the population living there were Irish and parts of this section of Detroit are historically preserved and it is still known as Corktown today. It seems somewhat odd that The Murphys would not have been living in this Irish area of Detroit, made stranger when you consider that Annie's parents the Loughlins were from County Cork!  Corktown was immediately southeast of the downtown near the Detroit River, while the area where the Murphys settled was immediately southwest again adjacent to the River. Across the river in both cases was the city of Windsor.

Hence, with this information from Diane along with that gleaned before, a picture starts to emerge of Michael and Annie's life after their marriage in London in 1892. The young couple moves to Detroit soon after, presumably attracted by employment opportunities for Michael. The family has no known history in this area or elsewhere in the United States. They are followed within a year or two by mother-in-law Catherine at aged near sixty with sons Andrew and James who are still in their late teens. This in spite of the fact that Catherine has three sets of grandchildren from her older offspring John, Margaret and Peter in London. Andrew and James leave their friends behind and move to a new country for again what can only be presumed as better employment opportunities.

They establish themselves in a residential area immediately southwest of the downtown near Mount Elliot cemetery to the northeast, whose establishment in 1841 gives a timeline to this part of the city. The area is bounded on the south- by Jefferson St , running parallel and close to the Detroit River. One emerges into a corner of this area today upon exiting the Detroit-Windsor tunnel which was not built until 1930 when the use of automobiles started to explode. One of the first buildings encountered on Jefferson is St. Peter and Paul Jesuit  Catholic church opened in 1844, and in which Michael and Annie's two children Margaret and Joseph were baptized. Today the church is right behind and opposite the relatively new GM Renaissance Center on the banks of the Detroit River. This neighbourhood had a mixed ethnic flavour including Irish although the main Irish community was in Corktown east of the downtown.. There were many families with the Murphy name in Detroit at the time.

Michael and Annie had two children Margaret Helen in May 1994 and Joseph Edwin in March 1997. She appears to have used the name Anna while there and may have taken in knitting to supplement the family income. For at least awhile James may have boarded with them while Andrew lived with his mother Catherine. While still in their twenties at this time, neither brother ever appeared to marry.     

 Then in 1899 Annie abruptly moves back to Canada taking the two children with her, settling temporarily with her Aunt/Cousin Rosanna Loughlin in St. Thomas. In 1903 she buys a house at  7 Penwarden Street, takes her unmarried sister Margaret Kilgallin as a boarder and in 1906 declares in the City directory that she is a widow. Annie continues to declare herself a widow through 1918, then in 1919 makes a will leaving $1 to her husband Michael Joseph Murphy. Her sister Margaret lives with her at 7 Penwarden or at other addresses in St. Thomas up until Annie's death in 1925. Annie is a strong Catholic at Holy Angel's parish, a member of the CWL and the Irish organization The Ancient Order of Hibernians.

So what to make of all this? A rift of some sort between Annie and Michael in 1899. Perhaps she didn't like the U.S. or a big city like Detroit, or too much mother and brothers in law nearby, no acquaintances  or people with which she could share a common background, or even something more serious in terms of marital discord. Why did she say she was a widow although at that time being a Catholic and with no divorce this would be the simplest explanation to people for both herself and her children. But what of them growing up without a father, something that we as his children never knew nor likely did our mother.      

 Annie's daughter Margaret was five years old when they moved so she knew their father was alive. Did Michael ever visit his children in St. Thomas? It seems unlikely that you can tell people that you are a widow and then have your husband come to town periodically, so that seems unlikely. When was Joseph, only two when they moved, find out that he had a father in Detroit? Did Michael send support money, did he ever see his children again and who obtained the 1917 affidavit on Joseph's baptism from St Peter and Paul church in Detroit. Was it Michael or even our father himself or perhaps even Michael's brother James which by virtue of his attendance at Annie's funeral and by the fact the Authors father had a picture of him, had  maintained some communication with Annie and the family.

And what can be made of the picture of Michael in a Knight's of Columbus uniform as written on the back by the Authors mother obviously based on information given to her by our father Joseph. The authenticity is disputed by the Knights headquarters but partially substantiated by the expert from the Detroit Public Library. When was the picture taken and how did Joseph come into its possession, via his mother, his father or again perhaps through his uncle James. Finally how does a devout Catholic like Annie and a supposed Knight of Columbus like Michael with two baptized children age two and five come to such a sudden and calamitous separation, never probably to see each other again, he eventually dying alone and  buried in an unknown location?

Michael is found

Meanwhile, returning to the search it was nearing mid October 2003 and Diane Oslund had worked her way through a  plethora of city directories, census's and church and other records without the ultimate success of finding a death record for Michael or his siblings. Much however had been learned about where and for how long the family had lived in Detroit and based on that information a request was mailed to Michigan vital records regarding Andrews death to see if a death record and burial location could be found. Based on city directory records he was living in Detroit with his mother Catherine in 1915, but deceased in 1919 according to her death notice in the London Free Press.

About the only other record source not searched to date was the Detroit newspapers for a record of Catherine's death in April 1919 and for Michael's death in November 1920. Diane was successful in finding Catherine's death in the Free Press as described earlier , but her initial search of the Free Press and Detroit News for Michael in November 1920 gave no results. However in an email dated October 13 she advised that while researching the Detroit News she had noticed a Joseph M Murphy who had died Oct 29 1920. She advised that the death was close to November and suggested  that it was "someone to consider" She then went on to say "Probably not your guy at all". The death notice said that this man age 50 died from pneumonia on Oct 29 1920 and was interred in Gracelawn Cemetery in Flint Michigan. Flint is about an hours drive north of Detroit and the opposite direction from Jackson where Annie's obit said he died. Copies of the newspaper notices for Catherine and Michael are shown below.

Catherine--Detroit Free Press, April 17 1919     Joseph M--Detroit News, Nov. 8 1920

Gracelawn Cemetery in Flint Michigan

On October 14th the Author advised that this was a very interesting finding and sent Diane an attached email copy of Annie's grave marker inscribed with "wife of M Joseph Murphy" and that she should follow it up. Then on October 16th came the breakthrough email notifying of her findings! She advised that she had ordered the death certificate from Genessee County in which Flint is located and phoned Gracelawn cemetery to get the information they had on record. His name was Joseph Murphy, born January 10 1870 in Ontario, died Oct. 20 1920. Parents were Andrew and Catherine Murphy. Buried in Sec. A lot Q grave 11. Died of pneumonia, buried via Wm Loss Funeral Home.

Based on the above this was almost certainly grandfather Michael. The birthday was off 19 days from the correct Jan. 29th and he was born in Quebec although moving to Ontario when about 2, but these were small differences given that the name of his parents were dead on! Working from Archival records held at the State capital in Lansing, Diane checked the Flint newspaper for this time period as well as the city directory for 1920 and available cemetery transcription books but was unable to find any other pertinent records. The death certificate as received from Genessee County appears below.

Genesee County death certificate; Joseph M Murphy (Michael)

Over the next few weeks both Diane and the Author made several other attempts to obtain more certainty, particularly the existence of a grave marker stone or a record of what might be on it. The Author sent an email inquiry to the website of the Flint Genealogy Society in regard to a cemetery transcription book covering this grave but never got a reply. A similar email in November to an askus site at the Flint Public Library received a negative reply regarding Michaels death even after cemetery grave details above were given. Diane Oslund stopped at Gracelawn cemetery on November 3rd and 5th while passing by on a trip to Midland and extensively probed the gravesite in Sec A Lot Q Grave 11 as per the cemetery map below for a marker, without success. Additional searches were undertaken in January 2004 by Diane on the 1920 Flint U.S.National census as well as a review of the previous 1910 census. Also Detroit city directory records under the name  Joseph and finally a preliminary look for a Will, all again without success.

Partial map of Section A, Lot Q, Gracelawn Cemetery Flint showing location of grave 11

The only success here reference the above was in finding a Joseph living at the same address as the other family members in 1913 as mentioned above. About mid November a reply was received from Michigan Vital Statistics in regard to Andrews death. They sent the Author a copy of a 1915 death of an Andrew Murphy in an Asylum who age birth location and parents did not match, so yet another failure.

On an overall basis the work with Diane Oslund had been a remarkable and rewarding success. The Joseph M Murphy found to be buried at Gracelawn in Flint was almost certainly our grandfather Michael M, however we still were absent a direct link to his brother or sister James and Mary in Detroit or to his wife Annie as hard proof. Accordingly the Author planned a visit to Flint in May 2004 in order to do some further and more definitive probing for a grave marker and to arrange for one to be placed there if there was none. Also contact was planned with the Catholic churches in Flint that existed in 1920 to see if there was any record of a Catholic funeral for Joseph and any records of who might have arranged it. Also a search of the City of Flint website as well as further follow up on the website of the Flint Genealogical Society revealed that old archival records of the Loss Funeral Home were available for researchers at the Buick Gallery in Flint and possibly some record of Joseph's burial could be found there.

Research on Flint also revealed that this was the city where General Motors was founded by Billy Durant in 1908 including the Buick and Olds companies and was the center of automobile manufacturing in the United States with many such plants including being the long time headquarters of the Buick Division. It was noted that Joseph worked in a "tool room" according to his death certificate and it was felt that he likely worked in such a plant. Apparently all automobile plants had tool rooms where the plants tools were stored, manufactured and maintained  using "tool and die" craft technology of the era.

A further search of the Archdiocese of Lansing revealed that the City of Flint was in the Archdiocese of Lansing along with Jackson and that there were up to a dozen Catholic churches located there. An email was sent  in late January 2004 to Msgr. Lunsford providing background and a request if he could advise which of the dozen or so City churches existed in 1920. The request was referred to the archdiocesan archivist Msgr. Michaltek who replied on Feb. 3rd and provided the name and addresses of the four parishes existing in 1920. One was Polish so the other three were St. Michael, St Mathew and St Mary.

On Feb. 9th letters were dispatched to each of these parishes asking if they would search there records for a November  1920 burial for a Joseph or Michael Murphy. It took several months to receive all the replies either by email or letter but in the end none of the churches could find a burial record for Joseph. The overall conclusion slowly being arrived at here was that he had not lived in Flint very long, was alone and was probably buried in a public cemetery: Gracelawn as opposed to a Catholic one by near strangers and without a grave marker. There was and still is no evidence of his brother James or sister Mary's involvement, although it is possible that one of them put the death notice in the Detroit News.

Meanwhile the Author and his wife finalized plans for a May auto trip to Flint. The Flint City website provided access to excellent city maps via MapQuest and these were downloaded and Gracelawn cemetery, Perry Archives and Buick Gallery were all located. Highway routes, turnoffs, accommodation and routes within the city were researched to simplify and minimize any problems during the visit., Flint is not a big city, being about 130,000 population.

We arrived in late afternoon May 14th and after checking in to our Comfort Inn motel decided to take a quick initial trip to Gracelawn. The office was just closing as we arrived but an employee told us where section A was located and in was easily found. Using the cemetery map that Diane Oslund had sent us, some probing of the general area of the grave was done without success. There were only a few flat marker stones and without the guidance from names on nearby markers it was difficult to be sure of the actual gravesite. It was decided that it would be best to return in the morning, go to the office and get help. A picture of the gravesite area in section A appears below.

Peaceful sheltered section of Gracelawn where Michael is buried

The next morning the office staff were very helpful in providing information regarding the graves near number 11 and the transcription on nearby markers. Using these as guideposts we were able to triangleate more exactly the location of the Joseph grave and do further probing. Unfortunately nothing was found and with this result along with Diane's earlier similar results it was concluded that there was no grave marker on his grave.

We then returned to the office and met with Susanne Jedynak who was the cemetery officer responsible for selling marker stones. This was part of the service available directly from Gracelawn itself and they had a number of sample stones on display outside the office. The Author felt that it was only appropriate, that regardless of circumstance between Annie and Michael, that out of respect for the fact that this man was our grandfather his grave should have a marker even after 84 years. Accordingly a  grey flat stone about 18 by 20 inches was selected. The Author decided to inscribe Michael's name in the same format it appears on Annie's gravestone in St. Thomas, that is M Joseph Murphy which facilitates recognition that it was the same person on both markers, as well as respecting his use of second name preference at least in the latter part of his life. Also inscribed was January 29 Montreal and October 29 to record his birth date, location and day he died. The Author requested that a picture of the grave marker be sent to him once it was in place and this was agreed to.

The Author and his wife then set out to find the Buick Gallery and associated research room where certain historical and archival records were held including Funeral  home records for the Loss Company which was no longer in business and who buried Joseph according to Gracelawn records. This building was located downtown as one of many building in a campus area called the Flint Cultural Center. Other buildings on this campus included the Sloan Museum and the Perry Archives. The Buick building was eventually located with the help of a couple of local residents and was a single story on the corner of Walnut and---- with the name Buick Gallery on it. Inside was a fairly substantial collection of Buick vehicles starting with the first most rudimentary horseless carriages to their most modern .

Immediately to the right upon entering was a medium sized room with some desks and a large table and one employee working. We spoke to the man about the record we were looking for regarding the Loss funeral home giving the name and year. He disappeared into another room where records were kept and in about five minutes reappeared with a card for Josephs burial as shown below!

These were amazing moments as we eagerly read what was on the card, the culmination of a six year search that at all times was mysterious and vague, almost designed not to be found and constantly always just out of reach! The card was filled out on two sides, the first with information about his death, occupation, birth parents etc. and the backside with details of funeral expenses and the amounts recovered from various sources. At the bottom of the front side against an item titled "charge" were the words estate Mrs. Annie Murphy 7 Penwarden St. St. Thomas , Ontario. This was then the ultimate and absolute proof that this was Michael Joseph Murphy! The card is shown below.

Front side Loss Funeral Home card for Joseph M Murphy died Oct 29,1920

The front side of the card also stated under occupation that he was a toolmaker which tied in with the tool room notation on the death certificate and the machinest occupation in the 1915 Detroit City directory. As mentioned the birth date was out by 19 days and the location given as London , Ont. instead of Montreal.

On the backside of the card as shown below, he is listed as having lived at 747 Witherbee Street which is in Flint.  There is also very interesting information on recovery of the Homes funeral costs. There is $61.90 from his estate which would be any money in his pocket, bank account or owing from employment. There is a $126 check  received April 5, 1921 believed to be from Annie and finally an amount of $125 from a F V M M B A  policy.

Back side of Loss Funeral Home card showing accounting for Joseph's funeral costs

This latter proved quite interesting as upon returning home in June 2004 the author conducted a google search using these letters. It was found that this entity was established in Flint in 1901, titled the Flint Vehicles Factories Mutual Benefit Association formed by eight vehicle manufacturers led by J Dallas Dort founder of the Durant-Dort Carriage Company and a civic leader. It's purpose was to provide insurance for employees of vehicle manufacturers through their contributions for sickness, injury or death. In 1920 its name was changed to IMA, or Industrial Manufacturers Association and its mandate broadened to locations beyond Flint.

The Author sent an email to the IMA website inquiring into access to their archival records and received a reply that all their records have been turned over to Kettering University. This is a long time Flint based training institution for the automobile industry. They provided the Author with the name of archivist David White and an email address at Kettering. Upon contacting him Mr. White advised that they did not appear to have individual records beyond 1910 but that they were open upon appointment to researchers during the week. The writer contacted Diane Oslund to see if she could help and we made an open agreement that she would check this out if and when she next visits Flint.

As a result of all of this material we get a pretty good picture of the ending of Michael's life and why it was such a mystery. He appears to have moved to Flint Michigan only a short period, perhaps only months before dying unexpectedly from pneumonia. He appears to have been alone probably boarding at a rooming house. In fact a check of 747 Witherbee in the 1920 census shows four boarders living there although not him. He was probably attracted by the opportunity to work as a toolmaker in one of the plants of the booming automobile manufacturing sector which in that era had Flint as its epi-center.

There is ample evidence that he not only died unexpectedly but also alone and was buried in a public cemetery probably by strangers or fellow workers without benefit of a Catholic funeral or the presence of any relatives. His brother James and sister Mary lived in Detroit but nowhere is there any evidence of their involvement. Someone had to have placed the death notice in the Detroit News, if not his brother or sister perhaps the funeral home. It is a real stretch to see that his wife Annie whom he had almost certainly not seen in over 25 years had to be approached to pay his funeral costs! It is speculated that he had Annie's name as his still lawful wife on his F V F M B A insurance policy, however the situation is made stranger when you consider that James lived only a short distance away in Detroit!. James lack of involvement is also evidenced by the lack of a marker stone. All of this begs the question of not only his alieniation from his wife Annie and children but also possibly from his brother and sister in Detroit!

Later in the year, about mid August a photograph of the grave marker stone arranged for by the Author and his wife arrived in the mail from the people at Gracelawn and appears below. As regards an explanation as to why Annie's obituary presumably prepared by Margaret and/or our father Joseph stated that Michael died in Jackson, Michigan as opposed to the actual Flint it is hard to guess. Did any one other than Annie really know or care? Or did they in the pain of the moment of Annie's sudden passing just get mixed up or forget when preparing her obituary.

Grave marker stone placed May 2004 for M Joseph Murphy

 

In May of 2005 a further attempt was made to find the knights organization to which Michael had belonged to in uniform in  the C M Hayes picture. An internet search found three similar type organizations in the United States. These were the Knights of Equity in Detroit, the Catholic Knights and the Knights of America

All three were contacted by email including a copy of the picture providing a brief background and asking if they could identify the uniform as theirs. The Catholic Knights advised that the uniform was not theirs. No response was ever received from the Knights of America

The Knights of Equity in Detroit had a website but no contact information on it. In this case an email was sent to the Irish  Genealogy Society of Michigan with a request for assistance. The webmaster Margaret O'Neill advised that she would pass  the request to a Knights member she knew to respond. Nothing was ever heard. Approximately eight months later the author contacted Ms.. O'Neil again by email in follow up, but this time there was no response.

During the month of May, 2006 a fifth genealogical research trip was made to Quebec, Ontario and Michigan. the primary purpose was to visit and view the reconstructed facade of the 1833 St. Patrick's church in Quebec City, visit Margaret Helen's thought to be grave location at Mount Hope in Toronto, and to view Mihm graves, churches and communities in Waterloo Township and Kitchener. An further  major reason for the visit was to view in person the gravestone marker placed on Michaels grave in Gracelawn cemetery Flint in 2004 and to say a prayer for him at the grave.

The Author and his wife were accompanied by their son Bryce on much of this trip and in preparation for the making of a DVD video on the Search for Michael, video footage was shot in many locations in St. Thomas, London, Detroit, Flint and Toronto as well as interviews with researchers Diane Oslund in Detroit and Michael Russell in Toronto.

Don and Jackie Murphy, son Bryce, prayer at Michaels grave

Gracelawn Cemetery Flint, Michigan May 2006

 

While in Flint efforts were also made to find the thought to be Boarding house referred to earlier that Michael was living in at the time of his death on October 29, 1920. The funeral card from the Howard A Loss funeral home viewed at the Buick Gallery in Flint gave Michaels address as 747 Witherbee. This street consists of an East and West Witherbee and is located directly west of North Saginaw Ave. The east portion is between Saginaw and MI King Ave and the east portion directly west of MI King.

Both portions of the road were driven and photographed but we were unable to find a 747 numbered address. On East Witherbee driving from MI King to Saginaw the numbers increase from two digits to the 600 numbers, block by block but as the intersection with Saginaw is approached there is no 700 block at all. It appears that the 700 block would have been the last block before Saginaw and that over time as  Saginaw became Flints main north south street that the houses on both sides were cleared and replaced with buildings facing Saginaw and numbered  accordingly. So while the block location where Michael likely lived was evident enough, no 747 Witherbee address exists today.

After returning home to St. Albert and in the summer  Diane Oslund was contacted again to see if she would undertake the completion of two areas of research not yet closed out. To wit, firstly following up with Kettering University in Flint regarding their archival records of the Flint Vehicles Factories Mutual Benefit Association (FVFMBA) later renamed the Industrial Mutual Association (IMA) and possible information on Michaels insurance policy and employer. Secondly following up with the Irish Genealogy Society of Michigan to find a person who was familiar with the Knights of Equity of Detroit and the military uniform worn by Michael in the C. M Hayes photograph.

In September Diane made contact with a member of the IGSM who agreed to take a copy of the photograph to a meeting. This was delayed a few weeks but eventually happened with no results. Diane then decided to post this  photograph on her website and provided  some background, asking if anyone could identify it. This was done in November 2006 and remained on the site until the end of February 2007 . Several people were heard from with suggestions, one being Knights Templar, another the Oddfellows, but efforts to follow up on these were met with silence from either the people who had suggested them or the organizations when approached by email.

In October 2006 Diane made arrangements to view the FVFMBA archival records at Kettering University in Flint. There was a lot of data on meeting and minutes, references to amounts and payouts and supplemental payments and some names. Unfortunately there were no lists of enrollments or of individual payouts or claims. The most useful information was a list of companies that had joined the organization between 1901 and 1916. These were mostly component or service provider companies. The list is provided below and while unknown, Michael likely worked as a toolmaker for one of these or a similar type company.

 

Companies joining FVFMBA 1901-1916 in Flint Michigan

 

This closes out the story of Michael's life and the search for his death and burial location within the reasonable limits of modern internet enhanced genealogical research. The grave marker placed in Gracelawn cemetery Flint, along with these writings, will serve as a permanent record of the reality of his life and the mysterious circumstances surrounding it, which almost certainly will never be known with greater certainty..

 

 

 

 

 

 

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