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Tuesday’s Tip: Who was “General Proctor”?

Officers by the name of Proctor listed in, "The Battles of Trenton and Princeton" by William S. Stryker, 1898.
Officers by the name of Proctor listed in, “The Battles of Trenton and Princeton” by William S. Stryker, 1898.

McMurray Family (Click for Family Tree)

Tuesday’s Tip:

Do the math.

Review the timeline.

The family story that has been passed down is that “General Proctor” and his daughter Mary Proctor came to America from England at “the close of the war.” (See “Mystery Monday- The McMurrays in America“) For years we had thought that they were speaking of the Revolutionary War, so these index listings, found when researching Henry Horn, another McMurray ancestor, were intriguing. Could General Proctor have fought in the American Revolution? If so, which side was he on?

And what was his first name?? Since these officers are from Pennsylvania, and Mary Proctor and her husband settled in Pennsylvania, could one of them be her father, ‘our’ General Proctor?

Looking at this mystery again, though, makes a few lightbulbs go on- sometimes a bit more information or even time will help data make sense. We do know that Mary Proctor and her husband William McMurray were living in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, by 22 May 1819 when their son and our direct ancestor, Henderson McMurray, was born. Mary was 26 years old, and William 30.

Oops- we need to do the math. Since Mary was born in 1793 and William in 1789, “the close of the war” would have to be the War of 1812 if the letter from Aunt Ibe Raugh was speaking of an American war. Mary and William were not even born when the American Revolution was happening.

Doing the math and then looking at the timeline makes us realize that these officers are most likely not ‘our’ General Proctor.

The rambling mind of a genealogist, of course, wonders if any of these officers could be the brothers or cousins of Mary’s father, who induced them to immigrate…

The 1850 US Federal Census for Allegheny Twp., Blair County, Pennsylvania, states that William was born in Ireland, and Mary in Pennsylvania- NOT England, as in the family letter. The 1860 census for the same place states again that William was born in Ireland. Unfortunately Mary passed away in 1851, so we have no other census to note her birthplace. Was she born in England or Pennsylvania? Or in Ireland, as some unsourced Ancestry.com trees and her Find A Grave memorial state? This will need more research, though we have already looked for many years.

Keeping the math in mind and a timeline in view, it makes us realize that possibly we need to be looking at the War of 1812 records just in case General Proctor served in it, at the very end. If so, which side would he have been on? As an Englishman, did he come over to fight for the king and then decide to stay and become an American? Or did he fight in the war for the Brits and then, returning home, decide to bring his daughter back to America with him and start a new life? And was he really a General??

If we could find a marriage record for Mary and William, or names of any of her siblings, that might help us find out just who ‘General Proctor’ was, and we can go from there. Any other ideas?

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Mystery Monday- The McMurrays in America at http://heritageramblings.net/2014/04/07/mystery-monday-the-mcmurrays-in-america/
  2. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton by William S. Stryker, Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1898.
  3. 1850 US Federal Census for William and Mary (Proctor) McMurray- Year: 1850; Census Place: Allegheny, Blair, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_755; Page: 259; Image: 520. http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=1850usfedcenancestry&h=645319&ti=0&indiv=try&gss=pt
  4. 1850 US Federal Census for William McMurray- Year: 1860; Census Place: Allegheny, Blair, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1078; Page: 14; Image: 18; Family History Library Film: 805078. Ancestry.com.                                                                  5. Find A Grave memorial #128118060 for Mary J. Proctor McMurray- http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=128118060&ref=acom

 

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Treasure Chest Thursday: Family Scrapbooks, Photo Albums, and Shoe Boxes

Section of page 2  in Edith Roberts' college scrapbook with sorority invitations. (Apologies for the poor copy- it was a photocopy in the days before scanners.)
Section of page 2 in Edith Roberts’ college scrapbook with sorority invitations. Edith was attending college about 1919- very few women were enrolled at the University of Iowa (in Iowa City) in those days. (Apologies for the poor copy- it was a photocopy back in the days before scanners.)

I recently read a great post that was linked on the Oct. 12, 2014 GeneaBloggers Daily by Gordon Belt: Scrapbooks: the Original Social Media. The article is by Katherine Hoarn, and her premise is intriguing:

“As a means of creating and communicating self, … scrapbooks operate in much the same way that popular forms of social media do for students today.”

Ms. Hoarn continues in her article to discuss how scrapbooks served the same purpose years ago as Facebook does now- to allow communication between family and friends and give a sense of who the person was at a certain point in their life.

Scrapbooking- and by extension the paper ephemera passed down that we family historians so cherish- is also an act of curation, Ms. Hoarn explains.

12 June 1892- Will McMurray's Graduation program from Newton High School, Newton, Iowa.
12 June 1892- Will McMurray’s Graduation program from Newton High School, Newton, Iowa.

She compares this collecting of text and images to Pinterest and Tumblr sites that showcase interests, passions, and events. Whether neatly organized onto boards on Pinterest or into a scrapbook, autograph book, photo album, diary, or even a shoebox, most of what we have inherited has been culled through generations to be the most important ephemera of a life. If we are lucky, we may even have commentary attached to give us more insight into a life.

"Heap good shot. Ketch plenty fish." Probably William Hanford Aiken.
“Heap good shot. Ketch plenty fish.” Probably William Hanford Aiken about 1910, when he was living in Florence, Colorado with his family.

Instagram, of course, is today’s electronic version of the photo album and if we are REALLY lucky, our old images will also be “tagged” with names, dates, and places.

Mabel Mulhollen is written on the back, Nov. '28 [1928] on the front.
Mabel Mulhollen is written on the back, Nov. ’28 [1928] on the front. Sadly no place clues for this photo.
A caption can touch our hearts or give us a giggle- sometimes both at the same time.

About 1929? Edward A. McMurray, from his own photo album in which he wrote the captions, created  in the late 1940s.
About 1929? Edward A. McMurray, from his own photo album in which he wrote the captions, created in the late 1940s as he was preparing to get married.

As one who laments the passing of paper and worries what treasures will be left for the next generations to cherish in their even more ephemeral electronic world,  I truly treasure the scrapbook, photo albums, and shoe boxes of photos and papers left by our ancestors. I am so glad that we do have ways of sharing the old-timey via new technology, though, so all can gain a bit more insight into those who have gone before.

 

Notes, Sources, and References:

1)  Geneabloggers Daily: http://paper.li/geneabloggers/1306385546

2) In the near long ago, boys graduated to long pants as they matured- a rite of passage that was longed for by many, much as our generation cannot wait until we can drive.

3) While searching for appropriate pictures for this post, I found the above image of Mabel- we have a younger picture of her that until this moment we thought was the only one- see Mystery Monday: Mabel Mulhollen. She may be more important in our family than we realized since there is more than one photo of her. We can also use this photo of her at an older age to compare to other family images from the same time period that include people we do not know. Is she family or part of the FAN Club? More research needed.

4) FAN Club= Friends, Associates, Neighbors; researching these folks can help us learn more about our ancestors.

5) The Newton (Iowa) High School Class of 1892 included Lillie Brown, Ella Clarkson, Marie Hass, Henry Jasper, Fred Kennedy, Belle Lambert, Artie McKinley, Willie McMurray, Hettie McCord, Fred Meredith, and Lillian Patten.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #2 William McMurray

Brush Mountain looking toward Holidaysburg, Blair County, Pennsylvania. CC License.
Brush Mountain looking toward Holidaysburg, Blair County, Pennsylvania, in recent years. CC License. (Click to enlarge.)

A previous post detailed where I learned the names of the father and mother of Henderson McMurray, William McMurray and Mary Proctor. (See post here.) The letter indicates that James McMurray, William’s father, had immigrated from Ireland to the Americas around 1779. William was born in Ireland per the 1850 and 1860 US Federal Censuses, and with the ages listed in those census records, that would have been around 1790- eleven years after the date stated that his father arrived. So was he born in Ireland, and the date given for the immigration of his father later than 1779? Or did his father go back to visit Ireland after coming to America, and then finally bring over the family? Although we know that was done very commonly in the late 1800s and early 1900s, crossing “The Big Pond” was not so easy in the late 1700s (but some did it), so I suspect the date of immigration may be somewhat off.

One of the big problems in McMurray research is the sheer number of James and William McMurrays in Pennsylvania and other settlements in the US during this time period. How to know which one is our ancestor of interest? The Irish could have been helpful and used more than a handful of the same names, but they didn’t.

300px-Map_of_Blair_County_Pennsylvania_With_Municipal_and_Township_Labels
Blair County, Pennsylvania in 2012 with TownshipsWilliam McMurray lived in Blair County. (Click to enlarge.)

 

Looking for census records helps, and I was just this week able to find the 1860 census for William McMurray listed as “Wm” way down on the list of search hits. (Don’t forget to search using abbreviations and nicknames.) I knew it was him because of the age, his birth in Ireland, the location being the same as the previous census, and his daughter Sarah, born in Pennsylvania, living in the household with him in 1860.

Here is a brief timeline of what I know about William McMurray:

William McMurray was born in Ireland about 1790.  (Some Ancestry trees state 20 Jan 1790 but am unsure where the info came from.) He immigrated, possibly as a child, to the US sometime before about 1815-1820.

William probably met Mary Proctor in the US, and they may have married around 1815-1818. (Mary had been born in England and came to the US with her father, ‘General Proctor.’) The first known (to me) child of William McMurray and Mary Proctor, Henderson McMurray, was born on 22 May 1819 in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania.  Their next known child, a girl, may have been named Minnie (per her brother Henderson McMurray’s obit and the 1905 Iowa State Census), born about 1820, possibly in Pennsylvania, or this may not be an additional child, but the nickname of one. Daughter Jane J. McMurray is the next known child, born about 1827 in Pennsylvania- a seven year gap from her older brother, so there may have been more children between that did not survive to adulthood. Son James McMurray was born next- 1830 in Pennsylvania. Thankfully, they had a son, because he also worked as a farmer, probably with his father, when he was older. Daughter Sarah McMurray was born in Pennsylvania, possibly in 1830 per her 1860 census entry with her father. William and Mary (Proctor) McMurray’s last known child was Catherine C. McMurray, born about 1833 in Pennsylvania. She may actually be the “Mrs. C. C. Meyers” referred to in the letter from Aunt Ibe Raugh. If that is so, her husband may have died by that time since  women used their first names again, along with the husband’s last name, once their husband was deceased.

In 1850 William was living in Allegheny Twp. Blair Co., Pennsylvania with his wife Mary (Proctor). He was born in Pennsylvania per this record, but England per family letter. Also in the household were daughter Jane J. McMurray, age 23, son James McMurray, age 20 and working as a farmer, and daughter Catherine C. McMurray, age 17. Daughters Minnie and Sarah were not listed- they may have been staying with a relative, working in another home, or married. William McMurray was working as a farmer and owned real estate worth $2,000, considerably more than what others on that census page owned. Quite a lot of the other adults on the page had also been born in Ireland.

1860 US Federal census for William McMurray and his daughter Sarah McMurray, Allegheny Twp., Blair Co., Pennsylvania
1860 US Federal census for William McMurray and his daughter Sarah McMurray, Allegheny Twp., Blair Co., Pennsylvania. (Click to enlarge.)

The 1860 US Federal Census is shown above. William was 70 years old, and living with his daughter Sarah who was age 30 per the census. He still had $2,000 in real estate, plus $200 in personal property. No occupation is listed.

I have finally found a death date for William- he died on 30 Oct 1861. The Democratic Standard, a paper in Holidaysburg, Pennsylvania, reported his obituary, as posted by transcribers at US GenWeb. It states that on “the 30th ult., Mr. William McMurray” died at age 70 years and 7 months. William died in Allegheny Township, Blair County, Pennsylvania. We have not yet found his final resting place.

Notes, Sources, and References:

1) 2) US Federal Census for William McMurray, head of household, in Allegheny Twp., Blair County, Pennsylvania: Source Citation: Year: 1850; Census Place: Allegheny, Blair, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_755; Page: 259B; Image: 523.

2) US Federal Census for William McMurray, head of household, in Allegheny Twp., Blair County, Pennsylvania: Source Citation: Year: 1860; Census Place: Allegheny, Blair, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1078; Page: 14; Image: 18; Family History Library Film: 805078.

3) US GenWeb Archives transcribed obituary for William McMurray: http://files.usgwarchives.net/pa/blair/obits/m1/mcmurray-william.txt

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Mystery Monday- The McMurrays in America

Henderson McMurray- Family Tree
Henderson McMurray- Family Tree (Click to enlarge)

One hot, muggy, August visit to Newton, Iowa, included the moment I found my passion for genealogy. It was in the late 1960s, and my grandmother drove me and my tag-along younger sister all over the county in her old, immaculate black Dodge to visit family and learn our family history. Distant cousins and elderly aunts pulled out shoeboxes, family bibles, etc., for us to see the obituaries, letters, and other treasures that had been passed down from generation to generation. The family we visited knew so much family history, but as a young teen,  I knew so little of how to record it well. I had read one very old genealogy how-to book found at our local library, but did not know about citing sources or provenance. However, I did see these items with my own young eyes, and my sister and I copied many pieces by hand, using notebook paper and a purple Flair pen- the latest cool writing instrument and one of the first felt-tip pens, I believe. I was enraptured with the stories the family told- I loved the “Little House on the Prairie” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, so this was heaven, to know my own family traveled in wagon trains across the prairie and ploughed the fertile soils of Iowa, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. There were no copies or scanners in Newton, Iowa at that time, so it was laborious to copy all, but I am so glad that I have these items, as some, like the following, might be gone forever, if we had not copied them.

Part of a letter from Aunt Ibe Raugh to Aunt Mary McMurray:

“… I am also enclosing in same package two old silver spoons and a breast pin that Huldah wanted us to have as there are four of us. Now I have seen them, I am sending them to you three girls.

They were brought from England by Mary Proctor when she came to the states with her father, General Proctor, at the close of the war. This was father’s mother. The pin had been a clasp to a neck chain but was fitted with a pin and had been used as such for about one hundred years. When Mary died she gave the pin to her daughter Sarah, Huldah’s mother, who took care of her during her last sickness.

The spoons were also handed down at the same time.

Huldah also states that James McMurray, father of William McMurray, father of Henderson McMurray, came to America in 1779.

Well girls, I have had these things for some time but I thought perhaps some of you would come out and I could give them to you all. Huldah did not know how old they really are but we know they were keepsakes one hundred years before the close of the War of England.”

We met a lot of relatives but at the time I couldn’t place them all into a family tree until I learned more about that. I am not sure which war was “the War of England” nor what the spoons or pin looked like; I believe all I saw was the letter or a copy of it.

I wish I had taken notes as our relatives spoke of their parents and grandparents- what wonderful stories they were! I was busy copying as they spoke, as many were very elderly and would be too tired if we stayed too long.

‘Aunt Ibe’ (sometimes called “Iba”) is Hepzibah Jeanetta McMurray (1865-1954) who married Samuel S. Raugh (b. 1860) and they lived in Orange, California in 1906 and also in Exeter California. ‘Aunt Mary’ is Mary McMurray (1856 – 1956) who never married and lived in Newton, Jasper Co., Iowa in 1906 and probably most of her adult life; she lived to be over 100 years old. They are just two of the thirteen children of Henderson McMurray and Mary Ann Horn.

‘Huldah’ is a cousin to the McMurray girls, as she was the daughter of Sarah McMurray _____, (married name unknown) who was Henderson McMurray’s sister. (Both were children of James McMurray & Mary Proctor.) There was another sister, who became “Mrs. C.C. Meyers of Waverly, Iowa” who is mentioned in Henderson McMurray’s 1906 obit- this is probably Minnie, born about 1820, as there is a “FC” and “Minnie Meyers” listed in the 1905 Iowa State Census in Waverly. The letter was probably written after 1940 and before 1954, as one of the 5 sisters who lived to adulthood died in 1940, and Ibe died in 1954, so there were just the “four of us” still living during that time span.

 

What mysteries do I hope to solve about this letter? I would like to know who Sarah McMurray married, and thus what Huldah’s maiden name was, plus who Huldah married. I only have one census- 1850- for William McMurray and his wife Mary Proctor McMurray. I have been unable to find any information about “General Proctor” or James McMurray- there are SO many McMurrays in Pennsylvania during that time period and it is challenging to separate them to know which is our ancestor.

 

I would also love to know what the pin and spoons look like- I do hope that someone in the family still has them and knows the story that goes along with them. They are a wonderful legacy.

 

Notes, Sources, and References:

1) Hand copied section of letter owned by author.

 

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Copyright 2013-2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.