- Post for Family History Friday category
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Favorite Find | Our Prairie Nest

If you’ve visited my blog in the past, you already know my favorite find. It was a receipt for the purchase of a burial site, and it broke my 26-year brick wall wide open!

Ever since I was 18, I’d been trying to find the place and date of birth of my great-great grandmother, Emma Anna Murphy, wife of Erastus Bartlett Shaw. All the records we had, from her 1888 marriage to my great-great grandfather to her 1945 death certificate and obituary, offered conflicting ages and places, from Nova Scotia to Maine to Massachusetts. I couldn’t find her in the 1870 or 1880 U.S. Censuses, or the 1881 Canadian Census. A fellow geneablogger provided me with the 1871 Canadian Census for Manchester, Guysborough, Nova Scotia listing an Emma Murphy. She was the right age to fit, but how could I possibly be sure she was the correct person?

After several years of flailing in every direction, I finally got a hit on a person who appeared to share the same parents – a Margaret Murphy who had died in Boston in 1890. Some more digging also gave me a Margaret Murphy the right age in Manchester, Guysborough, Nova Scotia to be the one who died in Boston. But I was stuck again, not sure where to look.

It was time for another set of eyes to review my research and give me some direction. I booked a consultation with a genealogist at the New England Historic Genealogical Society and was scheduled for a call with Melanie McComb. Prior to the call, she reviewed my timeline and analyzed the records I’d already located. During the call, she went over her recommendations and followed-up by sending me a detailed list of the work she’d done, and where she suggested I go to follow up.

I returned to Margaret Murphy and Melanie’s suggestions for her: follow up on her burial and any probate that might have been filed for her. The death register in Boston didn’t list a place of burial, but the Undertaker’s Return did – Calvary Cemetery in Boston. I emailed a request to the Catholic Cemetery Association and, two days before my birthday in December of 2019, received the best birthday gift a 45-year-old genealogist could want: proof that Emma Anna Murphy had a connection with Margaret Murphy.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Favorite Find | Our Prairie Nest
Receipt for the purchase of a plot in Calvary Cemetery, Boston, by Emma A. Shaw for Margaret Murphy.

When I received the receipt, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I even woke my poor husband up from a sound sleep by squealing with excitement and shaking him. How could I not?

That one little handwritten slip of paper then led me to pursue Margaret Murphy’s probate file, which turned out to be the genealogical smoking gun that proved Emma Anna Murphy was, indeed, the Emma Murphy found in Manchester, Guysborough, Nova Scotia. Twenty-six years after I’d begun my genealogical journey, my most troublesome brick wall came tumbling down because of this find.