Today I am thrilled to share a new immigrant tale – the story of the Murphy family of Seattle, and one reader’s quest to trace his Irish roots.
Created by Kerry Thomas Murphy,
Seattle, March 27, 2013
This is the story of learning about my Irish family. Like all stories…there has to be a beginning. Was it in 1846 when my great great grandfather was born? Or does it begin the day I decided to find the family?
Growing up, I knew I was Irish…with a name Kerry Thomas Murphy…well not much of a stretch there. My dad was always saying how “that got my Irish temper up!”
My grand father had a touch of a brogue…
“Quit running in the house, or you will fall on your noggin!”
“Oh, by the saints! Will you look at that!”
No one ever talked about Ireland. As a child, it was almost down played. My mom is Native American, so I was able to get the advantages of that.
On my mom’s side were scary drunken Indians…on my dad’s side, it was a little better. My grandfather drank, but it was calm. The food was good…we had lots of ham, lots of mashed potatoes with green onion, potato soup…
My grandfather was a character, and always had a pet name for everyone…he loved his beer, and after 30 years of driving a truck for Boeing, he retired in 1969. My dad, started driving for Boeing in 1974, and I followed in 2001.
It wasn’t until 2012 I gave any thought to my heritage. My wife Traci, became a member of Ancestry.com. Traci told me I should start my family tree. I did.
Within a day I was really shocked and surprised. I was really more Irish than I ever thought! I became very fascinated and started my quest to figure out where the Murphy clan came from. No living person in our family could answer that. I now knew I would become a detective.
Every family member knew that John Murphy came from Ireland, as well as his wife Margaret Ryan. No other facts. I had researched a little bit of my great grandpa Thomas, but John and Margaret……Where to start?
I assumed it was a nice love story, John and Margaret married before they left for America. I spent too many wasted hours on this theory…they met in America…
John came to America in 1865 and was married in April 1870. I found a distant relative that had some facts about them. I figured that I might be able to get more info if I could get death certificates. I ordered them online.
Bingo! Or so I thought….John’s parents were Michael Murphy and Mary O’Brien. Margaret, only had a father listed, another Michael. I struggled and struggled to find a Michael Murphy, Mary O’Brien, and a son named John…. born in 1847.
I went to Roots Ireland.com…. I came up with a zero…close matches but not right. I decided to take a chance…what if Mary O’Brien was…not O’Brien but Ryan? I typed it in …I got several matches! I found my threesome! John, was baptized in St. Abbens County Laois, and lived in Turra! I continued to research…….I found the parents of both Michael and Mary…using the knowledge of how the Irish named their children….I was able to find relatives up to the late 1600’s!!!!!!!!!!
You might think that was the mystery of where my family came from, but it’s only the beginning. I wanted to know what it was like to be in Ireland back then… a cute cottage, a life of farming…evenings in a pub? No. Sadly no. My family was Roman Catholic and had to endure the hell of the potato famine. Life was not good for them. It’s little wonder that John never talked about Ireland. Margaret came from Tipperary, and I think she was little bit better off because the family knows a little more about her.
So John was born in 1846. He left Ireland in 1865. He took a boat to England, and was bound for America with his brothers and sisters. John was poor, and uneducated. He landed in New York. Between 1965 and 1870, he met, and married Margaret, and lived in Connecticut. He had two children, and around 1880 he decided to head west.
The Family always said it was looking for work. The first stop was Illinois…. All he knew was farming. His wife taught him how to read and write and was known for her temper. After Illinois, it was onto the Minnesota territories…more farming…more kids.
His eldest, Thomas, was given to drink, was a painter, a bar room bouncer, and square dance caller. It was said his temper was so bad, he cold coked a horse bare fisted with one hit. He loved to fight….One night calling a square dance….he met my great grandmother. My great grandmother was a Murphy, but protestant. She was disowned by her family for marrying a catholic. They were married in 1900 in Iowa.
The family lived mostly in isolation and this is probably why so many things stayed the same…I’m sure that is why my grandpa still was so Irish……the family hitched up the horses and wagons…and move to Spokane Washington where most of the family lived, and John and most of his boys farmed.
Except one…. Thomas. He wasn’t a farmer. And for some reason packed up his wife and kids and headed to Seattle. Thomas and most of his boys were house painters and wall paper hangers. Thomas would go on to hang wall paper in the most expensive houses of the day…but “Always had whiskey on his breath.”
Of course, there was going to be one boy, not to follow. William Murphy Sr. Who, in the late thirties became a Teamster and drove a truck. His boy, decided to drive a truck. And, Myself? Followed in the footsteps of my father, and my father’s father. I still have a lot to learn about my families history…
I want to go to County Laois, and perhaps retire there. I have so much to learn. So this is my family’s story. The story of a Murphy coming to America. In the end it’s the story of learning. It’s the story of Irish history for better or worse. It’s reclaiming the lost history of a family that saw troubled and tough times, but did okay. This is really the story of me.
Hope you enjoy – ……………………………………………….Kerry.
Thank you, Kerry, for sharing your family’s story with us. I hope you get to go to County Laois someday and see where it all began.
Go Raibh Maith Agat
Irish American Mom