Sunday, July 4, 2010

More Genealogical Brickwalls

My maternal grandfather, Samuel Sharpe, came to Canada as a Home Child in 1911. One of my biggest brickwalls has been his mother’s line. My 2nd great grandparents, Thomas and Ellen McKeowan, were shown on the 1881 UK Census as Thomas, age 41, a tailor born in Ireland; with his wife Ellen, age 41, a tailoress born in Scotland; and their children Kate, 13 (my great grandmother); Thomas, 12; Mary, 10; and William, 2, all born in Liverpool.  
I have not yet found any death records for the parents, although I did find the deaths of young William in 1884 and another sister, Margaret, who was born and died in 1883.
It is beyond frustrating that I can't find birth records for any of these children because just one of these records would tell me Ellen's maiden name!
In 1887, Catherine (Kate) McKeowan married William Sharpe and I found her and her husband and son (a previously unknown older brother to my grandfather) on the 1891 census, but I couldn’t find any of the McKeowan clan. I trolled the streets of 1891 Liverpool for hours, days, weeks – no sign of the remaining McKeowans.
Using every spelling variation I could think of, I searched the 1901 on-line census index and could find no references to my McKeowans.
An internet search had found an 1894 marriage entry indexed as Barry E. McKeowan in Liverpool to Michael Murphy in the same parish as my great grandmother Kate had been married. I didn’t think a female would be named Barry and wondered if it was supposed to be Mary E so I ordered the certificate just in case it proved to be Kate’s sister Mary, whom I guessed might actually have been named Mary Ellen.
Some times you just have to play your hunches!
Because, sure enough, the certificate arrived, showing the marriage of Mary Ellen McKeowan, daughter of Thomas, a tailor, to Michael Murphy, a porter.

1894 Marriage Certificate of Mary Ellen McKeowan to Michael Murphy
My great grandparents, William and Catherine Sharpe, were witnesses to the marriage!
I couldn’t find the Murphys or my great grandparents on the on-line 1901 census though.
When I received my copy of the 1901 Liverpool Census CDs, I immediately started my search in the parish in which I knew the family lived since by now I had learned that the three siblings had married at the same church (I had since found a 1901 marriage of Thomas McKeowan, son of Thomas, a tailor, at the same parish - and again my great grandparents were witnesses to the marriage!).
And still there was no sign of any of these couples in the 1901 Census records.
Watching carefully for any name that sounded like McKeowan, I was also reading the census returns looking very closely for Michael Murphy and his wife Mary E, who would have been 28 years old. Imagine my delight when I came across the entry for Micheal Murphy, a porter; wife Mary E., age 28; daughter Bridget, 1; and mother-in-law Ellen McQuonn, widow, age 60, a tailoress; all born in Liverpool. There was my Mary McKeowan with her husband and daughter, along with her mother, Ellen McQuonn.
 No wonder I hadn’t found them on the on-line index – I was looking for Michael (not Micheal) Murphy and and all variations for McKeowan but I never would have dreamed up the spelling that was actually recorded!

1899 Birth Certificate of Bridget Murphy
Daughter of Michael Murphy and Mary Ellen McKeown
Of course with every success comes more questions. Why did the 1881 Census indicate that Ellen the tailoress was born in Scotland but the 1901 census claims that she was born in Liverpool? Did this perhaps mean that she was actually born in the Scotland district of Liverpool (which is where the family lived)? Or that her son-in-law had filled in the census return (hence the misspelling of the surname) and simply assumed that she too had been born in Liverpool, like all her children? More questions to pursue!
I haven't yet managed to find the McKeowans on the 1891 Census but from the 1901 Census I now know that my 2nd great grandfather Thomas, the tailor, had presumably died some time between 1881 and 1901. In spite of narrowing the gap for that event, I still haven't found his death record. I also haven’t found birth records for any of my McKeowan clan, which would allow me to go further back in that line. And I haven’t yet found my great grandparents on the 1901 Census or Catherine’s brother Thomas and his wife who had married just one month before the Census details were taken.
Nor can I find any of my McKeowan(s) on the more recently-released 1911 Census; and I've just taken delivery of yet another death certificate for the wrong Ellen McKeowan (right age, right district, but this one was a spinster -- obviously not mine!).
I still have lots of brickwalls with respect to this family but at least I managed to take out a few of the bricks by following one of my great grandmother’s siblings (and through the wonders of the internet, I've traced Bridget Murphy's siblings and have compiled a significant amount of information on that branch of the tree, complete with a photo of one of Bridget's daughters).

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