I’d always joked that “Of course I believe in Murphy’s Law — Murphy was a family member.” Then I found out that Murphy really was a family member! My great-great-grandmother to be specific.

To begin with, I knew nearly nothing about Mary Agnes Murphy and her family, other than that she was born in Ireland, immigrated to Boston, and then had the courage to travel to San Francisco with her two small children, Michael and Mary, to meet her husband, Thomas Doyle. Her son Michael wrote an epic saga about the trip, self-published, entitled merely Mary. She had two more children before her husband’s untimely death, and she raised all four by herself. Family history has it that she cleaned and sewed church vestments.

After finding a cousin descended from Michael, as am I, we started searching and got lucky. Mary was born July 30, 1828, in Bagenalstown, County Carlow, Ireland. Husband Thomas was born in 1818 in Bagenalstown. Mary was listed as head of household in the 1860 and 1870 census records; as a “Lady’s Nurse” in 1880, and living with daughter Kate (a baker) in 1900. Mary died August 18, 1902 in San Francisco, California.  When I was in Ireland in 2014, I stopped in at the County Carlow library and reviewed the baptismal records.  Unfortunately, there are several pages of “Mary Murphy” and none of the dates were even close.  So maybe she wasn’t really born in Bagenalstown.

Mary’s obituary was published in the San Francisco Chronicle on August 18, 1902, followed by the funeral announcement on August 19. “In this city, August 17, at the residence of her daughter, Mrs. T. R. Carew, 1533 Waller Street, Mary A. Doyle, beloved mother of M J Doyle of Berkeley, W. T. Doyle of NY, Katherine T. Doyle and Mrs. T. R. Carew, a native of Co. Carlow, Ireland, aged 74 years. …. Funeral will take place Tuesday, August 19, at 9:30 o’clock, from the residence of her daughter Mrs. T. R. Carew, 1533 Waller Street, thence to St. Dominic’s Church where a solemn requiem high mass will be celebrated for the repose of her soul, commencing at 10:00 o’clock. Interment, Holy Cross Cemetery.” [1]

Now to trace those elusive Murphys!

[1] San Francisco Chronicle, Vol LXXVI, No. 34, August 18, 1902; San Francisco Chronicle, Vol LXXVI, No. 35, August 19, 1902, Page 12, Column 4


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