WHO WAS MICHAEL DUFFY?
QI am writing after 10 years of research on my father’s maternal side of family and getting nowhere (and after consulting experts at various WDYTYA? Live shows). I am looking for a great-greatgrandfather who was born in Manchester, married there, and died there (I have documents relating to these facts). However, I cannot go further back as I have no idea who his parents were – and he is missing from the 1861 census as a child.
His name was Michael Duffy, and he was born in Manchester in 1852. He married Sara Ellen Clark at Manchester Cathedral in 1870, although he appears to have lied about his age on the marriage certificate, and had a hairdresser’s business recorded in the various directories. He is on the 1871 census, with his wife, and living with his in-laws, and died in Salford in 1879, aged 27. I have his death certificated, which shows that the only persons present were his motherin-law, Sarah Clark, and his wife, Sara. His father-in-law, William Clark, had a biscuit/ food business in Manchester; and Michael stated on his marriage certificate that his father was a soldier. He later had two sons – John William and John James, who was my great-grandfather – and after he died, his wife remarried and had more children.
As I cannot find him as a child, I cannot trace his parents, or any siblings. I cannot find any school records because Ancestry does not have them for the dates I need. I cannot find any soldiers who had a child named Michael for that period. There are no other clues on his marriage certificate; I have three birth certificates, but only one has a father called Michael – he is not a soldier, and the certificate is not for Salford or Manchester, but Liverpool - and he definitely stated he was born in Manchester.
Could he have lied about his father being a soldier? If his parents had died when he was young, he should still have been on the 1861 census, but he isn’t, and I cannot find any obituary information. One of the birth certificates I have for a child called Michael for the right time has a father called Edward – he comes from Cotton Street in Salford, where many of my more recent relatives resided, but this could just be coincidence.
Can you help at all? I am about to give this up – I can trace many other relatives easily, but absolutely stuck on this one because it is my only link back to Ireland, and I have to know where we came from. MAREE WEBB, VIA EMAIL
AAs you have found out, Michael Duffy, as a 20-year-old hairdresser, married 19-yearold Sarah [sic] Ellen Barker at Manchester Cathedral on 25 July 1870, both parties giving their address as 1 St Thomas Street. Sara Ellen, who signed her name with a cross, was the daughter of John James Barker, a French polisher; Michael gave his father’s details as Michael Duffy, a soldier. The wedding was witnessed not by family members, which is a shame, but by John Sweney and Mary Rose. Although you call Michael’s wife Sarah Ellen Barker Clark, she was a Barker rather than a Clark, as William Clark was her stepfather, (William and Sarah married at the cathedral in 1867, with Sarah Barker described as a widow), although you’re right in that William Clark and his wife Sarah are living with Sarah Ellen Duffy, described as ‘daughter’, and her husband Michael in 1871.
You state that Michael was born in 1852, and must have lied on his marriage certificate about his age – but given that you don’t know his parents’ details, are you sure that this is the correct date? I am just wondering whether details on other documents are wrong, and the marriage states the right age.
It would not be unheard of for the wrong age to be recorded on the census, for example, in which case, it’s worth looking for a Michael Duffy born in 1849-1850 as well as those born a bit later (Sarah’s age is also different on marriage and in the 1871 census – in the former, she is 20 in 1870, but in 1871, she is 18!). For example, the 1851 census has a badly damaged page that includes a Michael Duffy born in 1850 in Manchester, living at 38 Stonehewer Street, Manchester, with his mother Margaret, 33, and nine-year- old brother Henry (both born in Liverpool). This is interesting as many Irish migrants at this time settled initially in Liverpool before moving on.
The 1851 census was taken on 30 March, and Michael’s age was given as eight months, which would narrow his birth down to around July 1850. There is a birth record which I suspect is for this Michael ( Jul-Sept 1850, Manchester, vol 20, page 658) which might be worth getting. In addition, in this census, Margaret is living alone with her children, but is listed as married rather than a widow, which might indicate that her husband was away working in some capacity. Finally, there is a baptism record for Henry Duffy which might be this Michael’s older brother. The baptism took place at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Liverpool on 10 April, and states that Henry Michael Duffy, born 31 March, was the son of Margaret and Michael Duffy – so the father’s name also ties in with your research.
I don’t think you should
necessarily limit your research to Manchester, but consider extending it to Liverpool, as it strikes me as wholly feasible that the Duffys might have settled there first. Unfortunately, as you’ve no doubt found, there are so many Duffys – even Michael Duffys – in the north-west of England around this time that it can feel a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack trying to locate the right one.
Irish migration to Liverpool and Manchester was understandably high in the 1840s in particular, due to the effects of the Great Famine.
You should also bear in mind that Michael Sr might have been travelling with his wife and son(s) at the time of the 1861 census, and thus not recorded either at a home address or at a temporary lodging.
This may well be because of a peripatetic army career – or Michael Sr may at that time have been doing a different job, one that required a lot of travelling. Unfortunately, unless you can find an army record for the right Michael, you may have more frustrations to face in trying to locate this branch of your family.