When we break through a brick wall, it’s not always one “Ah-ha!” moment that leads to the discovery we’ve been seeking. It’s often a trail of clues that helps us find the one we need to prove a hypothesis, and that is what I would like to talk about in Week 7 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.
When I broke down the brick wall that was my great-great-grandmother Emma, it took a series of documents to get there. One of the most instrumental in taking down that wall was a land record. I feel like we often neglect land records in New England genealogy, because so many vital records exist. We tend to be fortunate with birth, marriage, and death records, especially in Massachusetts. Reliance on land records often seems to be more important in places like the South. But it was a land record that helped solidify a particular family relationship for Emma and kept me moving in the right direction.
Land Records in Middleborough
On 27 November 1889, Emma A. Shaw, wife of Erastus Shaw, and Miss Maggie Murphy purchased land together. It was real estate located in Middleborough, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, where Emma had been living at least since her marriage to Erastus a year prior.
This is one record I hadn’t bothered to look at until my consultation with Melanie McComb at NEHGS, when she mentioned the deed. I’d looked at other land transactions involving Emma in Middleborough, but not this one. I had also found the death record for Margaret Murphy in Boston in 1890 and been intrigued, because her parents’ names were the same as those given on Emma’s death certificate. This land record was another piece of the puzzle that proved there was a relationship between Emma Anna (Murphy) (Regan) Shaw and Margaret Murphy. Though it was not the last piece of the puzzle, it was vital in establishing the fact that these two women knew one another and ultimately part of proving my hypothesis about the family to which Emma belonged, the Murphy family of Manchester, Guysborough, Nova Scotia, Canada.