Brick Wall Case Studies #10: Finding the names of an Irish family with common names living in New York City

Edmond and Mary were immigrants to the United States from Ireland, their ages listed differently in the records, and no document had been located that named their parents or their specific place of origin in Ireland. Newspapers, burial records, death certificates, and Irish civil registration records identified them in Ireland.

What We Knew

  • Edmond and Mary Murphy appeared in the 1900 census with their children in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York. Edmond was listed as born in February 1859 in Ireland. His wife Mary was listed as born in May 1865 in Ireland.
  • A marriage certificate for one of their children listed Mary's maiden name as Doyle.
  • There were many possible records of the family but it was difficult to know which other records pertained to them because there were other people in New York City named Edmond and Mary Murphy of similar ages from Ireland.

Records We Located

  • We looked for a death record for Edmond Murphy in New York City. He was inconsistent in how he listed his age in the census so we had to look for an Edmond Murphy born between 1859 and 1865; there were multiple possibilities. We needed more information to narrow down which Emond Murphy was the correct one. (Murphy is the most common surname in Ireland and there were many Irish immigrants in New York City so there were many Murphy families in New York City as this time.)
  • We located Mary Ann Murphy in the 1910 census. She was a widow living in Brooklyn with her children. She was listed as age 45 and born in Ireland, making her birth year about 1865. This told us that her husband died between 1900 and 1905.
  • We looked again for death records for Edmond Murphy of the right age who died between 1900 and 1905. This narrowed our search further. One of the men who was named Edmond Murphy died in 1907. The death index stated that his parents were Patrick Murphy and Teresa Palmer. He was buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery in Brooklyn.
  • We located the Holy Cross Cemetery burial records found on their website. The listing for Edmond Murphy at Holy Cross Cemetery who died in 1907 also included a Mary Ann Murphy in the same plot with the death date of 1923. So he seemed to be a good possibility for our Edmond since he had a wife named Mary.
  • We located an obituary in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle archives found online for Mary Ann Murphy who died in 1923. The obituary said that her husband Edmond had died previously. It also listed her children who matched the known children of our Edmond and Mary Murphy. So now we knew we had the correct family.
  • We located a death certificate for Mary Ann Murphy. Her death certificate named her parents as John Doyle and Ann Dooley.
  • We searched the Ireland Civil Registration records on for Mary Ann Doyle and located her birth record to John Doyle and Ann Tooley. We found her in the Ireland Catholic records for Dublin on and found her with born to John Doyle and Ann Tooley (rather than Dooley as on her death record).
  • We searched for Edmond Murphy in the Ireland Catholic records for Dublin on and found him with the same parents as listed on his death record.


Edmond Murphy was born 6 February 1860 in Dublin, Ireland. He died 1 Sep 1907 in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were Patrick Murphy and Teresa Palmer. Mary Ann Doyle was born 26 November 1864 in Wicklow, Ireland. She died 30 August 1934 in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents were John Doyle and Ann Toole. The documents and sources we gathered are found on the person page of Edmond Murphy in the FamilySearch Family Tree, ID L5J1-GHZ. His wife, Mary Ann Doyle is ID L5J1-LGK.

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