A Murder/Suicide

Did that get your attention? Occasionally geneology is just sad and you never want to search again. That is one thing I discovered about my grandmother’s sister and her husband. It was one of the times I was actually shocked and stunned. I am blocking out names out of respect.

Suffice it to say I did not put any of this information on my tree but have kept the records in a private place.

And another sad one. An unwed mother, a workhouse and then vanished.

My third great grandmother had a baby out of wedlock. Was the father the boy next door? Was she raped? Was she molested? I will never know. But that isn’t the saddest part. This is Mary A E Dougherty. (Ignotus means unknown.)

Here it shows her as a single, unwed mother.

There is then a census showing her in a Weymouth workhouse.

And then she simply disappeared. 25 years old. Gone. You have to understand. Third great grandparents did not just disappear. I have researched all my 3rd great grandparents and have gone beyond them with no problem. They kept precise and excellent records in the 1800’s. But Mary just disappeared. At first I found a Mary Dougherty that was sent to Van Dieman’s land but she turned out to not be my Mary. The dates didn’t match. Then I looked into the workhouse records but after much searching I discovered that they had been lost in a fire. Every lead I researched diligently and each time I came up with nothing conclusive. Did she die in the workhouse? Did she leave? If she did she surely fell into prostitution. No man would have taken on “damaged goods” and there would have been no sustainable employment for her. I have checked later censuses to see if she went to live with her son but no, she didn’t show up there either. I imagine she is now in an unmarked paupers grave. And I want her to know that I have tried to lay her to rest. I want her to know that someone thinks about her and thanks her for her part in my life. And now you all know about her too.

29 thoughts on “A Murder/Suicide

  1. Oh Birdie, this says so much about you. Everyone has a place and carries worth…thank you for allowing your third G-g-ma this respect.

    • That is so true. I wish I could talk to those young girls and tell them that they were not alone. Not by a long shot. I wish I could tell them all the “premature” babies born 6 months after weddings were not at all premature.

  2. You definitely have found an sad and interesting trail. I wonder if there was ever a follow up report on the murder suicide. Perhaps the wife was sick, or was it just a horrific anger situation?
    I wonder often about how soon people are forgotten. In the case of your 3rd great grandma it seems so much like you finding her and remembering her is sort of a balm on a terrible lack of memory of her very sad life.
    I don’t know why the forgotten thing bothers me so. It’s not like we are around to know we are forgotten, but it feels terrible all the same.

    • From what I have been told it was a situation of abuse. It was so common back then and there were not any resources for women to access. I know she could have gone to her dad but he was quite elderly at this point and her mother had died 15 years earlier. I guess the biggest reason she didn’t leave was shame. Women were still shunned by their community for divorcing in the late 60’s, early 70’s.
      You nailed it. It is a balm. This is the passion of geneology. I had a cousin who died in WW 1 at the age of 21. He wasn’t marred and had no children. Nobody remembers him but I do. He was just a boy doing what he felt was the right and honourable thing. One of my happier times doing geneology was when his headstone was finally added to Find A Grave. He will never be lost again.

  3. Oh dear, genealogy does turn up some sad stories, doesn’t it. I’m not aware of any murder-suicides in my family’s past, but in the 1950s I had a gay cousin who killed himself. His parents were adamant that what had happened was “a hunting accident” and maintained this lie for the rest of their lives.

    One of my great-grandmothers had a daughter out of wedlock as well in the 1880s. Her daughter (my grandmother) was made to feel “lesser” all her life because of her illegitimacy. She died in the early 1970s when I was a teenager and, after her death, in a scrapbook of special clippings she had saved, I found one entitled “Don’t Blame the Love Child.”

    • My grandfather was gay and died from a head injury on the streets of Vancouver. I can’t imagine how lonely he must have been. My dad, aunt and uncle are all still very, very angry with him for deserting them as preschoolers and I get that. But I see beyond that at a very lonely man who had nobody. How horrible it must have been to have been forced by society to marry and have children with a woman. The picture of him on the Seaman’s card below is him.

    • That is just so sad. I hope that clipping brought her some peace. The thing is, I would say about 30% of babies were not conceived in wedlock. It happened a lot. I have been doing geneology for a very long time and it no

  4. There were also lots of babies that were brought up by grandparents, but called them their parents, when in fact their sister was their mom. Did you understand any of that? I’m pretty sure that happened on my mom’s side a generation back or so. -Jenn

    • I did! Another one of my grandmothers showed up in a censuses in two different homes. Both showed her as “daughter”. This is the daughter of the parents who never got married. Or at least we never found a marriage certificate.* The family obviously didn’t talk to each other beforehand and were too afraid of to not fill out the census. That was back in the where you could actually be arrested for not filling out a census. My dad’s cousin and I have been discussing what was actually going on for years. *Yeah. They never actually got married. But we don’t talk about this in family settings because the grandchildren are still in denial even though the are on their 70’s. 😂

      • How interesting Birdie…that’s so awesome that you found all of that information. There are similar things in my ancestry, I’ve heard the stories and I just don’t want to know any more. Poor Mary…kind of wonder what happened to her myself. Those weren’t easy times to live in…funny, my mother’s maiden name is Doherty…coinky-dinky. 🙂 Very interesting!

      • It’s interesting that last name. It went from Doherty to Dougherty then back again. Maybe my relatives never knew themselves? I never know what one to write.

  5. In this era of MeToo, the notion of women as damaged goods just breaks my heart. I am thinking a lot about my own family this morning, and the great aunt who was sent to New York after having a baby out of wedlock. She never married. My my mother’s oldest sister, her niece, later joined her here, and the rest of us followed. The irony.

    • I can’t even imagine what it was like to be a woman back in those times. We have come so far. I won’t talk about how far we have to go but just be grateful for what we have achieved.

  6. This is very interesting work. My sister has been doing genealogy on our family and has found out that on my father’s side of the family 8 generations back that we descended from royalty in the Austrian area. She is trying to find records in Austria to prove or disprove it right now. Personally, I don’t care. But it would be fun to find out. She also found out that on my mother’s side of the family, we were descended from Vikings in Denmark. That was as far as she got with that part.

    • It is so frustrating to be stuck. Sometimes it takes years to find the needle in the haystack. There are a few lines that I have accepted I will just have to let that be the end. But that’s not true because I still keep looking.

  7. Unmarried women and girls have been having babies for centuries; this is reality and it’s why I find it so foolish that it’s frowned upon as a moral failing. It’s human nature and let’s just accept it, make birth control (and, regrettable as it is to feel you need one, abortion) readily accessible, and not keep kidding ourselves that if WOMEN just behaved “correctly” it wouldn’t happen. It’s always happened and it always will. I swear most pregnancies are unplanned.

    When you consider how many ancestors you actually have — countless hundreds and I suppose thousands back to the dawn of humanity — you have to accept you’ll never know about them all. They’re “forgotten.” It’s not actually sad, right? But I know what you mean about the desire to know them, or something about them. It’s endlessly fascinating. I love the thought that their DNA is in us; we wouldn’t be here, the same, without every single one of them.

    I’m reading a book on mediumship and the author says when you think about someone who has passed on, even if you never knew them, you are reaching them. After my meditation experience with my 3Xgreat-grandmother, I believe it.


    • Women especially. We have had to fight so hard for everything. Fair wages, the right to vote, the right to own property. I have leaned a lot of gratefulness doing geneology.

  8. Dear Birdie, as I wrote in the earlier comment I left on your earlier posting, your doing this research may give me the motivation to do my own. What you are finding is so heartrending and it must make you so grateful to those who have gone before you and who have struggled with life. Thank you for sharing. Peace.

    • I definitely encourage you to start. Wait until Ancestry has a sale and try to see what you can find. I do encourage people to get the World and not just the US membership. It will be worth the extra expense.

  9. Wow, you are so brave for unturning these stones. I’ve never been able to. But I have discovered a lot about my family just by asking. My great-grandfather fell victim to suicide. And my immediate family, well, I don’t broadcast that, but knowledge has helped me in my own mental health struggle.

    • Looking back at loved ones that I know battled mental illness has been one of the sadder parts of investing my tree. My grandpa’s first wife committed suicide. Sometimes I wonder if she would have made it today with medication and therapy. Or, was her own Black Dog just too big? I know you likely didn’t know your great grandfather but it’s heartbreaking just the same.

    • That is how my grandfather’s first wife died. Having battled depression for all my life I have been so close to that jumping off point. But then I remember my children. It always, always comes back to them. I don’t want to leave them with that legacy. But at the same time, I understand the desperation of your grandma. The pain she must have been feeling. And in those days there was no help, only judgment. I am sorry, SAG. xo

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