Sunday, February 16, 2014

Tracking the Family of Catherine Murphy to Ireland

I'm traveling for work and have a day off in a town I'm really not interested in exploring so what better to do than to dig into whatever genealogy I can work on from my laptop. I went back to an email I received from a distant cousin regarding my great-great-grandmother, Catherine Murphy and what appeared to be the baptismal record for her child, one I already know about named Michael Dee Kelly. These are Irish records that can be found at I've known about the page for a little while but I didn't realize that they actually have some of the church records available on the web site. Had I realized this, I would have been digging into this information a long time ago.

Here is the evidence and where it led:

Michael Dee Kelly is buried beside who I thought was his father, Hugh Kelly, in Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois.

Michael's date of birth is before the marriage of Hugh Kelly and Catherine Murphy. This could mean that either he was born out of wedlock or, since it was so far before their marriage, that he was born to one of them in a previous marriage.

Looking at, we find a baptismal record for Michael Dee, born to James Dee and Catherine Murphy, of Lixnaw Parish, county Kerry, Ireland. Given that it is in the birth year we already know is Michael's, and due to his mother being listed as Catherine Murphy, I'd say we've found a match.

The record can be found here: but the web site does not yet have the record digitized. It shows his birth date as 26 July 1851. His headstone says he died on March 28, 1887 at the age of 36, which would put his birth year as 1850 or 1851.

Let's continue our search as if we know for a fact we have the correct Michael Dee and Catherine Murphy and see what we find.

We find the marriage record of Catherine Murphy and James Dee at There is no image of this record.

I got an email from a descendant of a John Murphy. His obituary lists that he left behind a sister named Catherine Kelly, living at the time in Joliet, Illinois, which is where our Catherine Murphy Kelly was living. There was one other Catherine Kelly living in Joliet at the time that was of an age that could have been his sister. We don't know what her maiden name was. This person believes that their John Murphy is the brother of the Catherine Murphy Dee, later Catherine Murphy Kelly, that was the mother of Michael Dee Kelly. Here is the obituary:

If we do a search for the baptismal record of Catherine Murphy, we will find many girls of this name being baptized since it is a common name. Our Catherine Murphy's birth date is listed on her funeral card as June 1, 1823. We find a Catherine Murphy being baptized on June 1, 1830 in this record: . Here is an image of that record:

Is this a match? Not exact but it is on the correct month and day, seven years later. She was married on January 16, 1847 and gave birth to Michael Dee on July 26, 1851. This means she would have been married when she was 17 years old. Definitely not unheard of. Our biggest problem is that her marriage record doesn't list her parents. We have to make note of this as a possibility but not a definite connection.

If this is the correct Catherine Murphy, her parents were Patrick Murphy and Mary McGurk. We find their marriage record here: . Here is an image of that record:

They were married on 26 January 1832. Their marriage record doesn't list their parents' names.

Doing a search for the baptismal record for Patrick Murphy, there are just too many boys being baptized with this name to be able to discover who his parents were. Some other bit of information will have to appear for us to narrow down which one is his record. Doing a search for Mary McGurk, on the other hand, only gives us two possibilities.

First is Mary MaGurk, baptized on December 22, 1811, which would make her about 21 years old at the time of her marriage. Her parents were William and Mary MaGurk. This record can be found here: Here is an image of this record:

The other is Mariam McGuirk, baptized in 1809, which would make her about 23 years old at the time of her marriage. The record can be found here: There is no image available for this record. Her parents were Johannis and Maria McGuirk.

Much of what I detailed here is still circumstantial evidence. I believe that our Catherine Murphy was the wife of James Dee and the mother of Michael Dee, whose parents later changed his name to Michael Dee Kelly. I don't know for certain but it is my belief that her parents were Patrick Murphy and Mary McGurk. It is even less certain who Mary McGurk's parents were. They could be William and Mary MaGurk or they could be Johannis and Maria McGuirk.

The search goes on.

I'm interested in what you know about the family and any documents or photos you have. Let me know!



  1. A cousin pointed out a more likely candidate for Catherine Murphy's baptismal record. This Catherine Murphy was born to Thomas Murphy and Mary Hillard on June 11, 1823. This record can be found here: This doesn't lead to a marriage record but it does lead to the baptism of several more of Thomas and Mary's children, all in Lixnaw: Bridgett, Honora, Edmund, Mary and Margaret. I do not see a John Murphy that could be Catherine's sister. Of course, all of this is speculative. We're still digging.

  2. Matt, this is Madonna Wallace, I tried emailing you at your last email to me, it was the yahoo one. I have sent away for Catherine's death certificate. It states that her parents were Michael Murphy and it only has Healy under the mother's name. They are the same parents as my John J. Murphy. Please email me at

  3. Hi Matt,
    I enjoy your blog! My name is Mary Beth Gannon-Keegan and I live in Joliet, Illinois. I run a Facebook page called JOLIET IRISH GENEALOGY I believe there are likely distant relatives of yours on there and would love to have you join. thanks, mary beth gannon-keegan