Over on the History Forum I mentioned that I would post a ‘find’ on the ‘chat’ thread as I thought it a more suitable place.
Some years ago my genealogy work developed another side - a sort of ‘one name study’, a collection of oddments / people of my infrequent surname, recorded because ‘stray’ mentions often provided clues to help identify ‘orphan’ families and when satisfied an ability to link them to different branches. The links to the old NY newspaper archives posted by Hermy and Kildarefan a few weeks ago prompted me to revisit those sites during the ‘snow days’. I discovered a person (described as a bachelor) with my surname living in 1860’s New York who was the victim of a murder / manslaughter by his brother-in-law. More searches showed the surname was spelled very differently in several newspaper reports, many of which gave good detail on the crime.
I started to work through census and marriage records to correctly identify the surname and obtain support info. The child birth records matched ‘my’ spelling, as did the parent’s marriage. The names and address entries in the 1860 Federal census matched the crime details. This brought up an interesting find – the marriage certificate of the murderer showed his wife to be a daughter of a missing distant relative. It is an exaggeration to describe him as a minor landlord in Ireland, he was a ‘middling’ farmer with a hundred or so heavily encumbered acres, who had a few tenants on variously sized lots. He had married ‘well’ but the agrarian unrest in the 1820 - 30’s caused him hardship as rents went unpaid and he could not obtain vacant possession of his land or put paying tenants on it. He was a reasonably innocuous individual, trying to survive, the odds stacked against him. He had death warnings, hay stacks and buildings burned, employees attacked and a son-in-law beaten to near death, etc. The Famine finally ruined him financially. I sometimes wondered what had happened to him and his issue after his eventual bankruptcy.
Now I know what happened – he emigrated with his wife and children to NYC, worked as a clerk and died there aged 57 in 1863. His NY Herald death notice even named the village of his birth in Ireland.
The murdered son was unmarried, the crime was deemed to be manslaughter, the brother-in-law was released by the State Governor after serving 10 years and went back to his wife.
FWIW curiosity provoked me to contact two tree owners on Ancestry whose online trees contained the victim’s sister and her ex-con husband. Both trees had what I considered to be an incorrect name for the paternal grandmother and incorrect places/dates of death. Only one replied, “Can't help you much on this one…... Ancestry is telling me that she is: the wife of 1st cousin 1x removed of wife of 2nd cousin 4x removed and the 'Ancestry Hint' says she died in New York City and the husband died in Australia."
Factually, she died in NYC as did her husband. So much for the accuracy of online trees, but it shows the usefulness of newspaper archives.