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From the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 10/17/2000

Off-topic Article Brings Results

The recent article Marriage Dispensations by Joseph Silinonte, which appeared in the Ancestry Daily News on 28 September 2000, sparked a potential break in my Irish Murphy line.

One family member indicated that my ancestor, Annie Murphy Neill (born ca. 1840 in Ireland), was Catholic. Her husband was not, and I hoped the article would provide me with a clue to my Annie Murphy problem. Murphy is one of the most common Irish surnames, and the problem is compounded by a lack of an exact birth date or any birthplace other than "Ireland." After reading about half of Silinonte's article, I remembered: Samuel and Annie were not married in a Catholic church. Even if Annie was Catholic, a dispensation likely did not exist for their marriage.

However, I continued to read the article, and its mention of marriage banns got me to thinking. Had I searched ALL the marriage records in New Brunswick where Samuel and Annie were known to have married in 1865? I remembered that the New Brunswick Provincial Archives had an excellent Web site with a significant amount of bibliographical information. Perhaps they had added new databases since my last visit.

A search for "new brunswick provincial archives" on Google quickly located the Web site. The Web site has several online databases, including a marriage bonds database covering 1865. It pays to go back every so often and see what has been added.

First, Some Lessons and Caveats
Before we proceed, there are two lessons I'd like to bring to your attention:

1) Reading an article unrelated to your own ancestry may provide insight into your own research. The Silinonte article focused on Catholics in New York, and I was researching a potentially Catholic person in Canada. It turned out that the break had nothing to do with the dispensations at all. Sometimes reading about research unrelated to our own brings a fresh perspective. Of course, you can't read every article unrelated to your own research, but occasionally it doesn't hurt.

2) Revisit Web sites periodically for updated or new information. Of course, the Ancestry Daily News is a great way to learn of new databases and sites, but space does not allow everything to be included.

There are also three warnings about the online database that should be made before the actual search is discussed.

1) Before searching the marriage bonds, I should read the description that is on the Web site. Several caveats are mentioned regarding these records, drawn (apparently) from the experiences of those who have used them extensively. This can reduce the chance that I misinterpret something (notice I did not say "completely eliminate," but "reduce").

2) I should determine if there are any bibliographies or inventories that mention records in the archives that are not available online. There may be significant items not searchable online that could be beneficial to my research.

3) I should read the search directions before entering a name in the search box. I may wish to experiment by entering in a variety of names.

The Search
I started my search with Annie. This was because there were fewer spelling variants for Murphy than there were for Neill.

The only search term I entered was: Murphy, Ann

I chose "begins with" as my search option. If the records were in the database, in one search I would get:

    Murphy, Ann
    Murphy, Annie
    Murphy, Anne

Before the search results are discussed, I should also mention that there are several reasons why the search could fail. It could be because: the couple is not in the database and had no bond, the entry was overlooked during data entry, the name "Murphy" was mis-entered in some fashion, or Annie was married before her marriage to Samuel and is not listed as a "Murphy" on the marriage bond. All are worthy things to consider.

However, for once I was rewarded the very first time. There were two results to my search. I chose the one from 1865 and was absolutely delighted with the results. There was Samuel Neill and Annie Murphy. The year and the name were a match, and it seemed highly likely that I had the right couple.

Of course, I did not want to stop there. The marriage bonds are on microfilm, and more browsing of the site provided information how to actually obtain a copy of the bond. I had choices! I could obtain the film on interlibrary loan, send for a copy of the marriage bond via mail, or buy a copy of the roll of microfilm. My librarian is trying to obtain the film on interlibrary loan.

There are a variety of other records searchable at the New Brunswick Provincial Archives Web site as well, including:

  • Index to Registers of Letters Patent and Supplementary
  • Letters Patent Issued, 1885-1976
  • Index to Late Registration of Births, 1810-1905
  • Index to Late Registrations: County Series, 1869-1901
  • Index to County Birth Registers, 1801-99
  • Index to Provincial Registrations of Births, 1900
  • Index to New Brunswick Marriages, 1887-1925
  • Index to Death Certificates, 1920-50
  • Index to Death Registration of Soldiers, 1941-47
  • Index to Saint John Burial Permits, 1889-1919
  • Index to Marriage Bonds, 1810-1932
  • Irish Famine Database—Migration to New Brunswick: 1845-52
  • Hutchinson Directories 1865-68
  • Lovell Directory, 1871

These databases are accessible through the Web site.

Read about the Databases Before You Go Searching Willy-Nilly
Not all of these databases were applicable to my problem. The Irish Famine Database turned up several Ann(e, ie) Murphys, one of whose year of birth matched what I had for my Annie from records in Illinois where the family eventually settled. However, none of this is proof, and more work needs to be done.

The directories are also great potential sources in my situation. The informational section on marriage bonds indicates that the residences of the bride and groom are usually listed on the bond. This could make using the directories easier. When I receive the bond, I'm hoping to make better use of the online directories. Until then, spending hours sifting through all the Murphys is not the best use of my time.

Of course, this assumes that Annie's father immigrated along with her. This may not be the case.

While Iím Waiting for the Film
I need to obtain a street map for St. John, New Brunswick. This will facilitate using the online directories. Without a map, an analysis of any Murphy families will be difficult.

Who Is This Co-signer Edward Durbin?
The marriage bond lists an Edward Durbin as a co-signer. Edward could have been a relative, friend, or professional bondsman (the Archives Web site indicates there were several men who operated in this capacity).

In order to determine if Edward Durbin was likely a professional bondsman, I conducted a search for him, and only two references were located, one as a groom and one as a co-signer. Apparently he was not a "professional." Analysis of the city directories will focus on Edward Durbin, Samuel Neill, and Murphy families in an attempt to determine their relative locations.

To Summarize

  • Articles not related to your family may spark an idea.
  • Go back periodically and revisit Web sites.
  • Read the documentation of the database you are using: it may spark more ideas.

And never give up! I've been searching for Annie Murphy for nearly twenty years and may have discovered a major clue. In fact, so far it's taken me longer to find her than it did to "find" my wife!

Note: While I love to get e-mail, I'll be overwhelmed if every Irish Murphy descendant sends me a message. A summary of what little I do know is at this site.

An update on Annie Murphy will appear in a future edition of the Ancestry Daily News . . . hopefully full of information!

Michael John Neill, is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry Magazine and Genealogical Computing.

© Copyright 2000,

Used by the author on his website with permission

Other online genealogical articles by Michael John Neill