Finding birth place of a Union soldier

Desdra

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Jul 16, 2021
Hello all, this is my first time posting. I have an ancestor who served in the Pennsylvania 45th C company shortly after arriving in America from Ireland. I noticed that some soldiers recorded their town and country of birth in a few records but many only recorded the country including my ancestor. I'm trying to find out if there are any records that might contain a more detailed birthplace for a soldier. I'm having very little luck with immigration records as his name is extremely common in all of Ireland and the immigration records I can find only list the country as well. I'm on Ancestry, Family Search, and MyHeritage so I've been through as many records as I could find on those sites. I was surprised at the number of Civil War records, I never had to search for information on this war and expected a lot less.

Any ideas anyone has for where I might look for this information would be appreciated. Thank you!
 
Joined
Aug 2, 2019
If he's born in Ireland, you may very well never be able to discover exactly where he was born. As you've discovered, Irish records leave a lot to be desired. Who was he, where did he live in the US and what are his birth and death years?

I'm thinking, look at census records, marriage records and death records. If he became a US Citizen, that may or may not have it, too, but my ancestors' naturalization records just say "Ireland," and that's that. Look collaterally - did he have brothers or sisters who also came over? You might be able to find in their records what you can't in his. I also had an ancestor who was sent to the workhouse, and that DID list a county in Ireland under "birth," but two different workhouse registers listed two different counties.

A newspaper obituary might mention a place of birth as well.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
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Dec 5, 2019
Welcome!

The National Archives has a pretty good collection of immigration and naturalization records. The Pennsylvania State Archives are likely to have enlistment papers (Maine enlistment papers give place of birth so I'm guessing that PA may also).

In those days, naturalization might have been at the county level so a call to the county courthouse in his area might be fruitful.

You might try finding him on the other end: https://www.irishgenealogy.ie/en/ is a good place to start; also the National Library of Ireland (https://www.nli.ie) with census records and a newspaper database. He certainly may have landed in Philadelphia--there are databases online other than Ancestry that carry those records (just google).

The form of genealogical research that I do is often called "cluster research" which means that I'll not only research the ancestor but any siblings or other family (after all, siblings have the same ancestry as he). Look at the people that he lived among in Pennsylvania--do they all seem to come from the same place? Immigrants often (usually) settle where there are people who they already know.
 

lupaglupa

1st Lieutenant
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Apr 18, 2019
Location
Upstate New York
Lots of good ideas from @Gary Morgan and @Fairfield. I'm sympathetic to your problems - my one ancestor who came from Ireland had several different counties listed as his birthplace. Luckily for me, his name is more unusual so I could track him down. If you're comfortable sharing his name and birth date, we could try a search also. Sometimes new eyes find different things.
 

Desdra

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Joined
Jul 16, 2021
His name is Michael Brophy, referred to as Mick, and he enlisted in Nottingham, PA July 28, 1863/64 (some records list one or the other date). All of the war records only list his birthplace as Ireland. I don't know if Nottingham is where he was living at the time or just where he enlisted.

There are about 12 of his name that I can find that came over in the famine, three of which look promising. I suspect there are more of his name that came over but I've been through about 5 different sources here and in Ireland and those are the ones I can find. According to the enlistment records he was born in 1826 in Ireland. There is another Michael Brophy born in Ballyroan, Ireland who enlisted in the 114th so be aware that some records refer to him.

All the Michael Brophy's seem to have gone through New York. I have been unable to find any relatives or, in fact, any information on him in PA except the war records. I checked the missing persons advertisements and nothing there. He had a child in PA in 1863 (named Michael Brophy just to confuse things) but no records of marriage to Annie or birth for Michael.

The wife, Annie had a child born in PA, John Burns, before she married Mick . We do not know her maiden name and she may not have been married when John was born or he may have been a stray she picked up. Newspaper articles of John's death in Kansas say that he is the step-son of Mick. The first verified record of Mick and Annie is a census record in Kansas in 1875. I know he went through Illinois because two of his children were born there. I have been unable to find any records in Illinois either.

He was buried in a veterans grave Nov 24, 1890 in Anacostia, DC.

I found a naturalization record for a Michael Brophy but given the information on the paper I cannot tell if it is him. The dates are reasonable but there is no clue on the record and given the commonality of his name I hesitate to connect this record to him.

Here are the names of his family and birth and death dates (birth dates of everyone except Mick derived from census records which are notorious for being unreliable):

Michael 'Mick' Brophy 1826-1890 (died of result of wounds sustained in the war, a sabre to the head and gunshot wound in the leg)
Annie ? (wife) 1835-1896 (birth date is a guess based on census records which list her as 40 in 1875 and 50 in 1880 and childbearing age)
John Burns 1858-1885 stepson (occasionally called John Brophy in census records) born in PA, died of lightening strike in KS, wife Minerva Bond
Michael Brophy 1863-1914 born in PA, wife Mary Agnes Moudy
Mary Mollie Brophy 1866-1927 born in PA, husband William Charles Wagner
Elizabeth 'Lizzie' Brophy 1868-1943 born in IL, husband Charles Watson
Dennis Brophy 1869-? born in IL never married as far as I can tell, lived most of his life with Mary Mollie, very scarce records on him

I have a tree on Ancestry that you can peruse to see what specific documents and information I've been able to gather on him, his wife, and his children: https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/tree/45373383/family/familyview?cfpid=6352901977. I've marked everything UNVERIFIED that I haven't been able to absolutely confirm.

I've been through the National Archives, the PA archives, Irish records (which as someone said are very lacking), newspaper articles, and anything else that Ancestry, Family Search, or MyHeritage have available. It's the fact that his name is so common that is causing me such trouble and also that we don't know the maiden name of his wife. It's just difficult to tell which records belong to him.

Thank you for your help. I've spent a lot of time trying to go back further than PA and just run into a wall.
 
Joined
Aug 2, 2019
They seem to be in Kansas, having moved there from Illinois, on the 1875 Kansas State Census...

They're still in Kansas on the 1800 census, but unfortunately, bugs have eaten half the page (Yuck!) and it looks like Michael the dad is not there.

Brophy 1875 KS Census smaller.jpg
 

lupaglupa

1st Lieutenant
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Location
Upstate New York
The information I found shows Michael enlisting at Scranton, PA. He musters in on July 28, 1864 as a substitute. He musters out July 17, 1865 at Alexandria, VA. There's a draft record for a Michael Brophey at Plymouth, PA (outside Wilkes Barre) in July of 1863. It lists him as 26 years old, born Ireland, married, and working as a miner.
 

Desdra

Cadet
Joined
Jul 16, 2021
Yeah, the 1880 census follows a newspaper article about how he took off with three of his children and the wife is trying to find him. I assumed either he was still missing (although all the children are listed) or he went into the soldiers home he lived in before he died in 1890. The 1875 KS census is the first verified information on have on the family. It does say they came from IL and two of his children were born in IL but I cannot find any records in IL or PA. I can't find birth records for any of his kids.

I think the Scranton PA enlistment is for the other Michael Brophy in the 114th. I'm not sure but the pension paperwork for Mick with his wife Annie refer to 45th company C which is definitely Nottingham.

Thank you both for your research!
 
Joined
Aug 2, 2019
Yeah, the 1880 census follows a newspaper article about how he took off with three of his children and the wife is trying to find him. I assumed either he was still missing (although all the children are listed) or he went into the soldiers home he lived in before he died in 1890. The 1875 KS census is the first verified information on have on the family. It does say they came from IL and two of his children were born in IL but I cannot find any records in IL or PA. I can't find birth records for any of his kids.

I think the Scranton PA enlistment is for the other Michael Brophy in the 114th. I'm not sure but the pension paperwork for Mick with his wife Annie refer to 45th company C which is definitely Nottingham.

Thank you both for your research!
Have you thought about trying DNA? It's a long shot, but you never know. I've been able to identify cousins with the same g-g-grandparents using DNA, and I've found my cousin's brother who was put up for adoption as an infant.
 

Desdra

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Jul 16, 2021
I did do 23andMe along with my siblings and my mother. I'm in the process of trying to recreate my father's DNA from those kits. Mick is on my father's side. I got some hits from my brother's kit but they were people I already knew about. Thanks for the suggestion though - I'm grateful for any information or suggestions.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
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Dec 5, 2019
Adding to the difficulty of lack of hard evidence of his birthplace is the complication of many years of supposition and misleading information.

As an in-law to the Kellys of County Tyrone, I know that the Brophys are found in a mid-south area of Ireland--most especially in County Laois (called Queens County at the time of the Civil War). It is quite possible that he departed not from an Irish port but from Liverpool on the British coast (thousands of Irish immigrants came here via Liverpool). The 1841 Irish census shows 2 people named "Michael Brophy" who were born somewhere around 1826/1827; one was in Tipperary which isn't at all far from the Brophy "heartland". But I doubt that census records were very complete at that time and I wouldn't bet the family fortune on this.

As you've undoubtedly found, there were a lot of "Michael Brophys" who emigrated--but that's almost a moot point because passenger lists at that time included very little information. There were 2 Michael Brophys arriving from Liverpool and 1 Mick Brophy (of about the right age). The pages of Ship Transcriber and Olive Tree might have more information--both are heavy with immigration records.

You might find some of the links from the Immigration page of Wiki Research useful: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/United_States_Immigration_Online_Genealogy_Records. Mersey Reporter (Liverpool is on the Mersey River) suggests:

National Library of Ireland: www.nationalarchives.ie

Liverpool Museum. www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/archive/sheet/30, www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/archive/index.aspx and: www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/visit/floor-plan/liners/empress/

Rootsweb. www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~fianna/migrate/

~~~~~~~~
Your Michael Brophy certainly may have enlisted in Scranton, not Nottingham. HDS says so as does his veteran's card in the Pennsylvania State Archives. There was a MB who registered for the draft in Nottingham in 1863. Scranton is up in the north of Pennsylvania while Nottingham is so far south it is almost in Maryland. According to HDS, only one man in the PA regiments gave Nottingham (PA) as his residence: a man named William Bar.

I found two places of death: both the National Home in Leavenworth, KS and a govt. hospital in DC show records of his death--both have the same date so it certainly looks like the same man. Incidentally, his record at the National Home in Leavenworth states that he enlisted from Pittston, PA (Pittston isn't very far from Scranton--if he followed the enlistment/muster in pattern of Maine, he enlisted in his home town and mustered in at a nearby govt. site).

If I were looking for a place of birth, I'd say that your best shot is the National Archives. It has loads of military records as well as immigration & naturalization records. It's going to involve more than a look-up. NARA has a Q&A online called "History Hub"
NARA's main page is https://www.archives.gov/ (I'd do a bit of reading on that page before plunging in).
 

Desdra

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Joined
Jul 16, 2021
Thank you so much for all the information. I had been pursuing the Laois lead but there were so many in the area about the right age that it was hard to determine if I was even in the right area. One of my cousins visited county Laois (not sure which town) and came away with the information that the Brophys were not very well regarded - they only buried them in the back of the graveyard, they weren't allowed in the "good part". That was hilarious but not very informative for research. Also a cousin visited DC and got the information on his burial. It's odd that there are two locations listed for his burial. I'm going to try to track down which is correct although I have no proof for the Kansas burial but there was proof in DC.

I see I'm going to spend some time on all of your suggestions. Thank you so much for taking the time to look at this. I really appreciate it.
 

lupaglupa

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That's a hard lesson I had to learn - giving up on a record I thought was set. Sometimes for very good reasons you attach a record that's wrong. When a contrasting record comes up it's easy to push it away because you don't need it, you're all done for that year/record type. But re-visiting things can be really helpful. If the record for Nottingham is replaced with the record for Scranton, what new areas of research does that open up? I've had little changes make a big difference.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
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Dec 5, 2019
That's a hard lesson I had to learn - giving up on a record I thought was set. Sometimes for very good reasons you attach a record that's wrong. When a contrasting record comes up it's easy to push it away because you don't need it, you're all done for that year/record type. But re-visiting things can be really helpful. If the record for Nottingham is replaced with the record for Scranton, what new areas of research does that open up? I've had little changes make a big difference.
You're right. However, in this case, I suppose that both are possible: he may have registered for the draft in Nottingham in 1863 and then moved to Pittston (or Scranton) where he enlisted and finally mustered in in Scranton.

The interesting thing about the Nottingham registration is that this particular Michael Brophy had filed a naturalization intention.
 

Desdra

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Jul 16, 2021
This discussion around his death place is interesting. My cousin just found his grave and the paperwork for his death in DC. Perhaps he died in KS and was moved to DC? Seems a lot of trouble for for a private and someone with very little money. I run across these records every once in while for other relatives where there are conflicting reports or documentation. I will be checking the enlistment records again especially because that other Michael Brophy from the 114th is muddying the waters. I wonder which one filed the naturalization intention? If I can figure that out then the naturalization record I have could be attached to him.

As far as his enlistment goes I have records from 1863 and 1864. I thought it might have been a typo but what you say is possible, he could have registered one year and then enlisted the next. I'm not sure if there was a draft - maybe he had to register and then didn't get drafted until the next year? That could open up some more possibilities. I could search for records around both Scranton and Nottingham. Maybe knowing the area could give me more clues. I've been through the PA and National archives but if I can narrow it down to a city or county I might get better information.

You all have been so much help. Thank you for taking the time to help me with this brick wall. I appreciate it more than you know.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
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Dec 5, 2019
This discussion around his death place is interesting. My cousin just found his grave and the paperwork for his death in DC. Perhaps he died in KS and was moved to DC? Seems a lot of trouble for for a private and someone with very little money.
Bureaucracy was probably as confusing in 1890 as it is today! How's this for a guess? His papers at the National Home in Kansas note multiple admissions--perhaps, when he was admitted the last time, Kansas authorities felt that his condition might benefit from specialized treatment in DC--and he was transferred. Then when he died, DC would have notified Kansas where the final outcome was entered in order to closed their records. Just a guess--I'm sure he didn't die twice or in two different places.

The last notation under "Date of Discharge" (dated October 21) states that he was transferred.
 
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