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The Story of Bridget

These newly discovered Irish relatives of mine did not leave many footprints in the records. I have turned more and more to collateral family members to fill in the family story.

My second great-grandfather Daniel Ryan (1829-1863) died in the Civil War. For my sake, this was a blessing because his second wife filed for a widow’s pension. That file contained a lot of information I cannot find elsewhere about Daniel’s family.

This week I gathered whatever information I could find on the second wife, Bridget Murphy (1820-1896).

The pension file told me that she and Daniel married at St. John the Baptist Catholic parish in Springfield, Illinois in 1854. The following year they had a son, James, who was baptized in Springfield.

The file mentions my great-grandfather Richard Ryan as Daniel’s son from his first marriage. His first Guardian was John Kilkenny, but no relationship between Richard and Kilkenny was given.

I wanted to find out what happened to Bridget and James after Daniel’s death. Did they stay in Springfield? Did she remarry? Did James have a family that would be related to mine? Who was John Kilkenny, and why was he appointed as Richard’s Guardian?

Using Ancestry and Family Search, I discovered the following information about Bridget and her life:

  1. 1850 U. S. census for Springfield. This census was taken before Bridget’s marriage. Thirty-year-old Bridget Murphy, born in Ireland in 1820, lived in the household of Catherine Latham and several Latham children. I found that Catherine’s maiden name was Taber, not Murphy. I have yet to learn the relationship between Bridget and Catherine.
  2. 1860 U. S. census for Springfield. Bridget was now 40 years old, and she was not enumerated with Daniel. She was listed as Bridget Murphy, not Ryan, although she and Daniel were married and had a child by then. She resided in the John Kilkenny household with his wife Mary and several children. One was a five-year-old named James Kilkenny. Was he actually Bridget’s son, James Ryan? Bridget’s entry records her as a servant possessing $4000 in real estate and $100 in personal property. These values may be an enumerator’s error because she was the last person named in the household, and the family immediately following was not credited with any property value. Their holdings may have been misattributed to Bridget.
  3. 1866 Springfield City Directory. Bridget Murphy is listed as a domestic for R. Hockenhull.
  4. 1880 U. S. census for Springfield. Here Bridget Ryan appears as a 60-year-old widow who could not write. Her age was consistent with other census years, and the 1820 birth year makes her 9 years older than her husband Daniel Ryan.
  5. Estate of Bridget Ryan, deceased, 1896. Her will was filed for probate in Springfield on 10 March 1896, ten days after it was written. It tells us she was the widow of Daniel Ryan. It leaves her real property to her Kilkenny niece and nephews and her personal property to her sister Mary Kilkenny. It does not mention her son James or her stepson Richard.

From these records I learned that Bridget did indeed remain in Springfield without ever remarrying. Her son James may have pre-deceased her without issue because no descendants are mentioned in her will.

The will reveals that John Kilkenny was Bridget’s brother-in-law and perhaps her closest male relative. Maybe that is why he was the first Guardian for Bridget’s step-son, Richard Ryan. A few years later, Richard’s uncle William Sullivan took over as his Guardian. I have not found a record of Richard ever living with Bridget. Instead, he lived with his own mother’s relatives, including the Sullivans.

Interesting as I find all this information, it tells me nothing more about the Ryan family. The only additional fact I found about Daniel Ryan is that he was not living with his wife in 1860.

Where was he? That is the next question.


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