At the end of last Thursday’s post on my fantasy road trip, I added the breaking news that I had discovered the names of Erastus Murray’s parents, James Murray and Ruth Snow, in a Civil War record. It also confirmed his birth on January 17, 1812 in Brutus, NY (anyone up for a 200th birthday celebration next year?). Ancestry.com’s “New York, Town Clerks' Registers of Men Who Served in the Civil War, ca 1861-1865” is a great resource for anyone with New York ancestors in the Civil War because of the genealogical information it contains.
This led quickly to more information because a year ago I stashed census records, Auburn, NY city directory information, and burial locations for a Ruth Murray and her three daughters, in my “Clues” folder. I had suspected a connection because of the common geography and ages that could have made Ruth the age of an aunt (didn’t dream it was his mother!) and the daughters' ages those of cousins (again, not thinking they were his sisters). More importantly was Ruth's daughter Lucetta. Erastus had a daughter named Lucetta, and although he never knew her, a granddaughter named Lucetta. It’s an unusual name and I felt all along there was likely to be some type of family connection. So when I discovered his mother’s name was Ruth, it began to fall into place.
The story is still unfolding, but with a quick review of the census information available, it appears that the James Murray family was in Cayuga County, NY as early as 1820 (maybe sooner—I’m investigated a lead on a possibility for James’ father that would have had them in NY even earlier). In the 1820 census it appeared Erastus might have had a brother. Then in 1830, the only James Murray in Cayuga County is too young to be Erastus’ father and Ruth appears as a head of household. This suggests James died between 1820 and 1830. Ruth and her daughters, Jane, Lydia, and Lucetta, lived together until Ruth’s death in 1857. The three daughters remained single and continued living together until their deaths: Lucetta in 1876, Jane in 1881, and Lydia in 1895. All four are buried in North Street Cemetery in Auburn, NY. Over the years, they earned their livings as housekeepers and seamstresses, although based on the 1840 census, it seems like Ruth ran a boardinghouse for awhile—there were 10 miners living at her address.
There were some surprises (naturally) in the census data. In several census years an Edward Stanford lived with Ruth and her daughters. That’s another name connection because Erastus had a brother named Stanford. They aren’t the same person because there is a large age difference between the two and in one case Stanford was the first name and in Edward’s case it was the surname. After Ruth’s death, there’s one census for her daughters where Edward is described as a nephew. That means there was a married fourth daughter. Searching for Edward in the census records led me to David L. Stanford, a real estate agent and businessman in Auburn. In 1850, when Edward was two, he was recorded at his father’s address and at his grandmother’s address. Also at the father’s address was a woman by the name of Amanda. David at 40 was old enough to be Amanda’s father—she was 19—but the census also recorded that they had been married within the year. That means the unnamed Murray sister died between 1848 and 1850. Then, sad to say, by 1860, Edward no longer lived with his father. Sad for many reasons. Unlike the situation with Erastus, in the Stanford family there was clearly adequate financial strength. The Stanford property was valued at $15,000 in 1860 and by 1870 the personal estate was valued at $3,000. And sad because the sisters helped only one nephew, so Erastus’ children went to the orphanage.
The other unexpected information was the birthplaces for James and Ruth. Using the census records for Erastus, indications were that both his parents were born in NY. However, in 1880 when the census records include parental birthplace, the records for Jane and Lydia state that their father was born in Connecticut and their mother was born in Massachusetts. Given the sketchy history surrounding Erastus and given that the sisters lived with their mother for many years, I feel the sisters data is more reliable in terms of determining the direction I go.
I’m left with so many questions:
What towns did James and Ruth come from? Why had the move from New England to NY taken place? Was there the possibility of a land grant?
Did James and Ruth marry before the move to NY? Did they come alone or did they move with other family members?
Why didn’t David Stanford or Ruth and her daughters help Erastus’ children? What were the real financial situations for the families?
Was there an older brother? Was it the James I found in 1830? What was the name of the married sister?
How was Erastus affected by losing his father in the 1820s, losing a sister in the late 1840s, and in the mid-1850s, losing his wife and mother within a year of each other?
And, why-oh-why can’t I find anything in digitized historical newspapers!?!