Death of a Child Provides Clue to Grandparents.

Whitten Project
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.One of the most difficult “brick walls” I see is when several people about the same age are living in the same place. I had been struggling with Dennis Murphy, who was married to Margaret (or Marguerite) Maloney and lived in Biddeford, Maine. Dennis and Margaret were probably married sometime about 1885 because their first child was born on 11 April 1886. They had three children, two of whom died before the 1900 Census. Margaret is listed as a widow in the 1900 Census, so it appeared that Dennis died before 1900. Also, their youngest child was born on 28 May 1890, so it is reasonable to suggest that Dennis died after August 1889.

I could find birth records for the three children. A marriage record for the daughter indicated that Dennis was born in Calais, Maine, but none of the records I could find provided Dennis’ date of birth. I could not find any facts regarding this Dennis that would differentiate him from the other Dennis Murphys. I decided to try and follow the two children who had died and see if a newspaper might have carried the story. I got excited when I found that had “The Biddeford Journal” and was saddened that the issues available online contained many issues from 1888 but then they jumped to 1920. I searched anyway looking for Dennis Murphy, Dennis F Murphy, and lots of other combinations. Then success. The August 23, 1887, issue of the “Biddeford Daily Journal,” page 3, Column 2 had an article for Biddeford and Saco news.  It has a one line article: “A five day-old son of Dennis F. Murphy, of Gooch street, died last night.” His middle child, John Walter Murphy was born on 20 Aug 1887. If he died on 22 August, he would have been two-days-old instead of five-days-old, but sure looks like the right child – On Gooch street – Hummm…

Image of The Saco and Petlee Machine Shop c. 1910, Biddeford , Maine
Saco and Petlee Machine Shop c. 1910.
The Saco Water Power Machine Shop later became the Saco and Pettee Machine Shop, and finally the Saco-Lowell Machine Shop.
Photo courtesy McArthur Public Library via Maine Historical Society.

The 1890 Biddeford, Maine, city directory shows Dennis F. Murphy working at The Saco Water Power Machine Shop and living at 51 Gooch St.

Looking again at the 1880 Census and focusing on Biddeford, I quickly found a John Murphy, with wife Joana and son, Dennis, living at the “rear of Gooch Street.” And the names fit as well.  Dennis named his son “John” and one of his daughters “Joanna,” apparently to honor his parents. Dennis was also born in Maine and his parents were born in Ireland.

I’m confident that the Dennis Murphy who lived on Gooch street in Biddeford is the correct ancestor.  I am also convinced that Dennis’ father was John Murphy and his mother was Joana. The 1880 Census also indicates that there were two households living in the same dwelling. Besides John & Family, there was a Jeramiah McIntire with his wife Susan. They were in their 70s and could easily be related.  Could these people be Joana’s parents? I will find out when I research John and Susan’s lives.


Continue researching Dennis Murphy’s life.