Thursday, January 19, 2012

Remembering My Grandmother ~ Dora Josephine Murphy

Please excuse me for backdating this post but I wanted to share a little bit about my grandmother Dora Josephine Murphy on the anniversary of her birth.  My grandmother died before I was born, in fact before my parents were even married.  I don’t recall my father mentioning her much as I was growing up.  Last year on an episode of Who Do You Think You Are, Rosie O'Donnell said that the Irish don’t discuss deceased family members unless pressed.  As a result she knew little about her mother.  I think that she was spot on, as my parents did not discuss Dora or have many family pictures out during my childhood.

My “memories” of my grandmother came from a couple of of stories told at family get-togethers and a few photographs.  I do recall that we went to Murphy family reunions when I was young but that was more about having a picnic and playing with cousins than learning anything about our family.  I don’t recall anyone in our family being interested in genealogy with the exception of my Aunt Doreen.  Sadly she died in Nov 2000 before I started this “journey,” and most of her work has not been shared.  When my cousin Meagan put up that draft family tree at our 2005 Keough family reunion, she mentioned the existence of a Murphy Family booklet that was given to family members in 1982.  At my request, my mother found their copy and gave it to me.  The stories and photos in that booklet began my Murphy family research and helped me learn about my grandmother's people.  On the anniversary of her birth, I thought I would share the information I have gathered so far by following the paper trail.  

Dora Josephine Murphy [Keough]
(19 Jan 1899 – 23 Jul 1953)

My grandmother was born on 19 Jan 1899 in Burlington, Skagit County, Washington, the eighth child of Lawrence Edward Murphy & Catherine Matilda Murphy (that’s right a Murphy marrying a Murphy ~ but no relation).  She was one of 12 children (4 boys and 8 girls).  Dora’s father was born in Nebraska; her mother was born in New York.  Dora’s parents met and married in Nebraska, where both their families had settled.  Dora’s grandparents James Joseph Murphy & Eleanor Kieley and Michael Daniel O’Murphy & Honora Agnes Butler all emigrated from the South of  Ireland (Counties Carlow, Cork and Kerry) to the United States.

My Murphy Tree ~ A Work In Progress
Can You Help?

Dora was born eight years after her parents moved to Washington from Nebraska.  The family homesteaded near Port Angeles, logged, and later owned a hotel at Maple Falls (at the end of the railroad at the foot of Mount Baker).  Dora appeared with her family on the 1900 US Census for Avon, Skagit, Washington.  The six oldest children (2 boys and 4 girls) were named after Lawrence and Catherine’s parents and Catherine’s grandmothers (a common Irish naming pattern).

1900 US Census - page 1,

1900 US Census - page 2,

The abstracted census entry reads as follows:
(1)  Lawrence Murphy - head, Apr 1862, 38, married 14 years, born in Nebraska, father born in Ireland, mother born in Ireland, engineer sta, rents house.
(2)  Catherine Murphy - wife, Aug 1864, 35, married 14 years, borne 8 children, 8 children living, born in New York, father born in Ireland, mother born in Ireland.
(3)  Eleanor K. Murphy - daughter, Sep 1886, 13, born in Nebraska, attends school.
(4)  Nora A. Murphy - daughter, May 1888, 12, born in Nebraska, attends school.
(5)  James Murphy - son, May 1888, 12, born in Nebraska, attends school.
(6)  Michael D. Murphy - son, Apr 1890, 10, born in Nebraska, attends school.
(7)  Mary Murphy - daughter, Aug 1892, 7, born in Nebraska, attends school.
(8)  Margaret Murphy - daughter, Nov 1894, 5, born in Washington.
(9)  Catherine Murphy - daughter, Dec 1896, 3, born in Washington.
(10) Dora J. Murphy - daughter, Jan 1899, 1, born in Washington.

Lawrence & Matilda Murphy's Family, circa 1900
That is my grandmother Dora in her mother's arms

One year later (1901) the twins Angeline and Adeline were born.  Two years later a brother Lawrence Edward (named for his father) was born (1903) and four years after another brother Francis was born (1907).  As was often the case in the early 1900s and in the space of six years, siblings Adeline (Dec 1902), Lawrence (Aug 1907) and Francis (Sep 1907), together with their mother Catherine (Jun 1907) all died, leaving Lawrence to raise the eight remaining children who ranged in age from 6 to 20.  My grandmother was 8 when her mother died.   Catherine’s parents took the train from Nebraska to Washington for their daughter’s funeral (and to take the youngest grandchildren back to Nebraska, or so the story goes).  Lawrence not only refused their request/demand but soon thereafter moved his family to Vancouver, Canada. 

The family appeared on the 1911 Canada Census.  They were listed as immigrants to Canada and I especially appreciated that their religion and tribe were listed as Roman Catholic and Irish! 

1911 Canada Census,

The abstracted entry reads as follows:
(1)  Lawrence E. Murphy - 1342 Harris Street, head, Apr 1864, 47 years, born in USA, [immigrated] 1908, [racial or tribal origin] Irish, American, Roman Catholic, logging contractor, [employed] in woods, yes [can read], yes [can write] english [language(s) spoken].
(2)  Ella K. Murphy - daughter, Sep 1886, 24 years, born in USA, stenographer, in real estate office.
(3)  James J. Murphy - son, May 1888, 23 years, born in USA, fireman, by Railroad Co.
(4)  Michael Murphy - son, Apr 1890, 21 years, born in USA, fireman, by Railroad Co.
(5)  Mary A. Murphy - daughter, Aug 1892, 18 years, born in USA, stenographer, in law office.
(6)  Margaret C. Murphy - daughter, Nov 1894, 16 years, born in USA, stenographer.
(7)  Catherine T. Murphy - daughter, Dec 1896, 14 years, born in USA, student.
(8)  Dora J. Murphy - daughter, Jan 1899, 12 years, born in USA, student.
(9)  Angeline C. Murphy - daughter, Aug 1901, 9 years, born in USA, student.

The family returned to the United States after 1915 and settled in Seattle, Washington.  Dora’s father died in September 1918 when she was 19.  I can't imagine what it must have been like to lose both your parents at such a young age and I am sure this was why Dora and her siblings were so close and very involved in each other's lives.  When Lawrence Murphy died, he apparently left each of his children a small legacy which the Murphy girls (as they were always known) pooled to purchase a home on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle, Washington.  Interestingly I grew up on Queen Anne Hill and after college lived about ten blocks from where my grandmother lived with her sisters in 1920.

1920 US Census,

Dora and her sisters appeared on the 1920 Census and the abstracted entry reads as follows:
(1)   Margaret C. Murphy - head, owns, mortgage, 25, single, born in Washington, stenographer, lawyer's office.
(2)  Kathleen Murphy - sister, 23, single, born in Washington, bookkeeper, telephone company.
(3)  Doris Murphy - sister, 20, single, born in Washington, none [she kept the house but did not work outside the home].
(4)  Angeline Murphy - sister, 18, single, born in Washington, stenographer, lawyer's office.
(5)  A.L. McDonnell - brother-in-law, 37, married arrival in USA 1911, born in Canada, father born in Canada, mother born in Canada, laborer, shipyard.
(6)  Elinor McDonnell - sister, female, white, 33, alien [because she married a non-citizen, she lost her citizenship], born in Washington, none.

Apparently at this time there were always parties/socials for the Irish Catholic singles and my Aunt Peggy told me that my grandmother and grandfather met at one of these socials.  My grandfather’s best friend (they emigrated from Newfoundland together) Richard Tracey met my great aunt Kathleen (Dora’s sister) at one of these same socials.  Each married a Murphy girl!   

The Murphy Girls - Dora, Angie, Margie & Kate
circa 1950

In Jul 1925 Dora married Andrew Francis Keough in Cordova, Alaska.  They remained in Alaska for a few years but returned to Seattle, Washington in 1928.

Andrew & Dora's Memorial of Marriage
9 Jul 1925

Dora and Andrew appeared on the 1930 Census and the abstracted entry reads as follows:
(1)  Andrew Keough - head, owns, house, 37, married at 32, born in Canada, father born in Canada, mother born in Canada, arrived in USA 1918, citizenship pending, ironworker, iron works.
(2)  Dora Keough - wife, 31, married at 26, born in Washington, none.
(3)  Gordon Keough - son, white, 3, born in Alaska.
(4)  Dorin Keough - daughter, 1, born in Washington.

1930 US Census,

My grandparents went on to have four more children and were married for 28 years until my grandmother’s death on 20 Jul 1953, after a lengthy illness (cancer).  She was 54 when she died, leaving behind six children between the ages of 13-27.

One of my favorite photos of my grandmother (what a great outfit!)
Andrew & Dora with two of their daughters, Peggy & Doreen

The Keoughs at Home
Andrew on the far left and Dora on the far right

Dora's obituary published in The Seattle Daily Times and The Ballard News-Tribune, stated that she died in a Seattle hospital after a long illness.  She was a member of St. Alphonsus Church.  She was survived by her husband, her six children, five sisters (Mrs. Eleanor McDonnell, Mrs. Catherine Tracey and Mrs. Angeline Wink, all of Seattle; Mrs. Duncan Johnston, Langley, B.C., and Mrs. Margaret McMillan, Olympia) and a brother (Michael Murphy, Seattle), and six grandchildren.

The paper trail is just a small part of my grandmother’s story, but it has provided me with a wealth of information I otherwise would not have known.  

  • I was unaware that the family immigrated to Canada and had the opportunity to research in the Canadian census which was new to me.  
  • I also learned that one of Dora’s sisters married and remained in Vancouver, and was able to research in the British Columbia vital statistics for various marriage, birth and death certificates for that family.  
  • My grandmother’s marriage certificate (the religious ceremony) contained the names of witnesses to her marriage.  
  • Her probate file gave the value of her estate, the expenses associated with her hospitalization, listed all her property (real and personal), identified her spouse and gave her children's full names, relationship and ages.  The names and dates of service of the hospitals, doctors, funeral home, and cemetery were listed, together with the bills and receipts, which proved useful in finding additional information from those sources.  
  • Her obituary provided additional family information, as well as information about her rosary, funeral and burial.  

As a result of the paper trail, I have researched Dora’s extended family in Canada, Nebraska and Washington.  I have corresponded with new-found Murphy relations and plan to visit Nebraska this summer to see Dora’s grandfather’s original homestead (which remains in the family) as well as meet some of our extended Murphy relations.  The 1982 Murphy Family booklet provided a number of beautiful remembrances of the Murphy family from children and grandchildren as well as gave me clues for further research.  If you are a Murphy descendant, please contact me so we can update this booklet in 2012!

I have the luxury of sitting down with my grandmother’s 4 remaining children (my father, two of his sisters and one brother) to find out more about Dora, but I need to follow through and not take the time for granted.  One of my goals/resolutions this year is to interview them and update this entry by this time next year (19 Jan 2013). 

In addition to the paper trail, here are a few things I learned about my grandmother.

  • Dora is fondly remembered by her daughters as a wonderful cook.  My Aunt Peggy told me that she made great stews, soups and chilis.  My Aunt Kathleen mentioned that she enjoyed baking and made amazing pies and cakes.  
  • Dora's hair went completely white in her mid-twenties but she never colored it ~ my Aunts told me it was beautiful (we all inherited this tendency but do our best to thwart mother nature!).  
  • My Aunt Doreen told me that her mother enjoyed writing letters, which came in handy because my Aunt Doreen lived away from Seattle during the early years of her marriage ~ Dora regularly sent letters filling her in on life at home. 
  • Dora was also the taskmaster in the family (as Irish mothers are wont to be).  One story they all mentioned was that they were playing football in the house with a bag of sugar and it broke ~ this was during WWII when many items were rationed.  My father recalls that there was no sugar for any of the children for a long time after that incident and my grandmother shared her "disappointment" with each of them!  
  • My father also recalled that he was rather shy and quiet as a child and there was a particular boy who bullied him.  When my grandmother found out she encouraged him to fight back with the proviso that if he didn't she would beat him up!  My dad said he was more afraid of his mother than the boy so he fought him, and that was that ~ no more bullying.  Talk about tough love, but my father said he learned to stand up for himself from that point on!  
  • My grandparents were quite devout and I was told that every Friday night when the rosary began, anyone there at that time got down on their knees and joined the family in praying the rosary (Catholic or not!).   
Dora is remembered as a loving wife, a good mother, a wonderful homemaker and cook, a true and loyal sister, and a bright light that was extinguished too soon.  So today, on the anniversary of her birth a toast to the grandmother I never knew, Dora Josephine Murphy, “Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam uasal.”


  1. Beautifully done, Tessa! Toasting back.

  2. Wonderful to learn so much about the family-
    Quite impressed with the depth of research - thank you for sharing.

  3. Thankyou Tessa this is so awesome and brings back very heart warming memories of the Keough ~ Murphy Clan..!! ;-)


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