Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday's Obituaries - Patrick Purcell's Sisters

In previous posts I referenced my wife's great great grandfather, Patrick Purcell.  He came to this country from Upperchurch, Tipperary, Ireland about 1850 and settled in Utica, NY.  I believe he came to the US by himself and stayed with cousins (possibly the McGraw's of Syracuse).

According to Patrick's obituary three of his sisters also came from Ireland to upstate NY.  The obituary identifies them as Mrs. John Lynch of Utica and Mrs. John Connolly and Mrs. James J Harvard both of Oneida, NY.

I wanted to research Patrick's sisters and see if that led to any clues about the Purcell family of Ireland.  Have you noticed how great it is that women were just referred to as "Mrs.” husband's name :-).   No reason to make it easy to to uncover relatives.

Finding the sisters living in Oneida proved to be difficult.  I looked extensively for any Connolly and Harvard families in the small community of Oneida.  No luck.

I did find a newspaper notice that mentions several Purcell family members attending the death of Mrs. Connolly in 1899 in Oneida.  So I did know that she died there.

A breakthrough came when I found another tree which had a Connelly family living in the town of Lenox (which is near Oneida).  What I did know at the time was that Lenox became a part of Oneida a few years later.   The family in on other family tree was spelled a little differently, but that isn't unusual and did look promising. The family was identified in the 1880 census as John and Mary Connelly.

How could I know if Mary was Patrick's sister?  Luckily, I found on the findagrave website records of burials in Oneida and there it was....Mary's grave was engraved Mary Purcell Connelly.  No doubt that I had found her and that she was Patrick's sister.

Mrs. Harvard, I am less sure about.  There was no Harvard family in Oneida.  


I had two hunches:  the Harvard name was wrong and the fact that Patrick’s sister may have been named Margaret.  

The name Margaret came up again and again in the Purcell family and it seemed reasonable that one of the sisters was probably named Margaret.  

One trick I use in my genealogy research is to search for potential family members living on the same street as known family members when reviewing the US census. Families used to cluster together.  I think it paid off in this case.  I found James J Howard and Mary Howard living on the same street as Mr. and Mrs. Connelly.  Howard and Harvard could easily have been mixed up in the obituary.  Hhhm...was it possible that it should have been Margaret on the census instead of Mary, but they transcribed the census record in error?  Upon review there was no error, but this still seemed to be my best lead, so I didn’t give up.

I had success, once again with where I found the Howard family plot in Oneida.  Guess what?  There was a grave a Margaret Howard and one for Mary as wive's of James.  It appears that Margaret was James' first wife.  Is this Margaret Patrick's sister?  I don't know for sure, but there seems to be good circumstantial evidence to support that she is Patrick's sister.

Patrick's third sister was the easiest to find and proved the most fruitful.  I found that Mrs. John Lynch was in fact, Julia Purcell Lynch.  I found her obit from when she died in 1925 at the age of 85.  Probably the most important piece of information this obit provided was the names of Julia's parents - Edward and Margaret Purcell.

The fact that their names are revealed as Edward and Margaret makes a lot of sense.  These names reoccur with many of the Purcell families descended from Patrick and his sisters.

The next step in this journey is to "jump the pond" and see what I can find from the good people of Upperchurch, Tipperary.

Stay tuned.

(Special thanks to Mary Albree Perra for providing me these great gravestone pictures)

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