Connected through the past, three women find extended family through research
After losing her beloved Gramma Marie in 2009, Stittsville’s Amanda Murphy turned to genealogy as a means of connecting with the stories from the grandmother that she had grown up listening to.
Murphy’s parents had been very young when they had her, and she was mostly raised by her paternal grandmother, Agnes Marie Morphy (who married Jack Murphy). As Murphy describes, her grandmother instilled in her “old school values” and passed on to her the value and importance of family. Says Murphy, 36, the death of this important person in her life “sparked my interest to know more about her.”
She started her family tree by focusing on her Morphy’s parents, James Edmund Morphy and Mary Evelyn Miller.
While Murphy was doing research via an ancestry service, unbeknownst to her, in Alberta, Melissa Code, 32, was researching the same family line. Both women were stumped by records research that was showing a possible African link in their heritage.
Code had also been close to her grandmother, Dorothy Marie Miller. The two women connected when Code saw that Murphy had inputted information pertaining to Murphy’s great grandmother, Mary Evelyn Miller, who Code was researching. According to Code, when they first started talking, they became “instant friends” and “had so much in common.”
They quickly realized that the grandmothers that they had both been so close to, were cousins. They were related via Mary Evelyn Miller, Agnes Marie Morphy’s mother and Amanda Murphy’s great grandmother, with the Miller line being the connection to the African lineage.
For her part, Code first started doing her genealogy in 2008, and became very adept at research – going through census, birth and obituary records. Because Code had already done a great deal of research, the newfound cousins teamed up, with Code making cold calls to relatives for information and Murphy doing much of the Ontario legwork, including travelling to cemeteries to confirm names, birth and death dates.
Their extensive research over several years, along with Code’s DNA results, confirmed their past African ancestry, and they were able to trace their shared ancestor to his arrival in Canada, likely via the underground railroad.
The two women were spending so much time speaking to each other over the phone and working on genealogy together, that Code invited Murphy to come visit her in Alberta in 2012. Murphy hopped on a plane to go visit a woman she had never actually seen in person, something which was very out of character for her, says Murphy.
As Murphy continued her genealogy work, she found out that her grandmother’s paternal side (Morphy) were early settlers in what is now known as Carleton Place, but what was then named Morphy’s Falls after her ancestors. Carleton Place is just 15 minutes from where she currently lives, and to be able to go visit the area and see street names that match the names she’s researched in her family tree was a surreal experience for her.
Both Murphy and Code have spent countless hours on genealogy work. Code notes the importance of knowing family history: “deep down, I think everyone wants to know where they came from.”
Meanwhile, in Oakville in September 2018, Melissa Clarke was actively researching her family and had done her own DNA kit. This led her to message Code regarding her grandmother, Catherine Irene (Kaye) Morphy. Code connected Clarke with Murphy because as it turned out, Kaye Morphy was the half sister of Murphy’s Gramma Marie. In fact, Murphy had spent a great deal of time with Clarke’s biological grandmother growing up and was able to show her pictures and share stories with her.
Code also helped Clarke unravel the mystery surrounding who her biological grandfather was. Her years of research experience and skills helped solve it quickly and by October 2018, Clarke had the answers to who her grandparents were and details about their lives. Clarke is grateful to Code and Murphy for their help. The three women share a special bond now.
Earlier this year, Murphy finally completed her own DNA kit, a full 10 years after she started her family research.”It was really neat to see it all fall into place the way we had written it before the DNA was available.”
In looking into her family’s past and building her family tree, Murphy was able to connect the people to her grandmother’s stories that she had been fascinated with as a child. She found out things about her family that her grandmother hadn’t even known and she was able to develop close friendships with relatives she didn’t know existed from both sides of her cherished grandmother’s family tree.
Says Murphy of her connection with Code and Clarke, “it drew me closer because I felt like I had a connection to family that my grandma would have loved to connect with had she been given the chance. It’s important to know where you came from. Not just with your mom and dad and your immediate family, but to be able to follow where your family came from.”