Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Edward Hughes Murdered??

So many novice family history researchers think that is the end-all-be-all of online genealogy research. 


Don't get me wrong, is wonderful! It has revolutionized the field of genealogy. I would credit it with making genealogy the ubiquitous past-time that it is today. It has tons of resources but it is not all there. Real genealogy research still requires visits to libraries, archives, cemeteries, and churches. AND there are also many other free and subscription-based databases available besides I recently tried a free 30-day trial of; which is primarily digitized U.S. newspaper articles. I found a lot of interesting things.

Years ago I discovered the death certificates for my 4th great-grandparents; Terrance Hughes and Ellen Sweeney-Hughes. The certificates didn't tell me much more than their ages and dates of death. Both death certificates did reveal, though, that the couple was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. A simple call to Calvary Cemetery directed me to their unmarked plot in Cemetery #1, Section 3, Range 1, Plot A, Graves #1-4.

I knew from census records the names and approximate dates of birth for some of their children; Patrick, Anna, and Edward. Anna Hughes-Gray was my 3rd great-grandmother.

A simple search in for last name: Hughes, first name: Terrance, limited to New York (where he died), and then limited further by his death (1873) kicked back an obituary for him from the New York Herald.
Hughes - On Saturday, September 20, after a long and painful illness, TERRANCE HUGHES, a native of Lincolman [Liscolman], parish of Connmare [Connemara], county Wicklow, Ireland in his 73d year of age.
The relatives and friends are invited to attend his funeral from his late residence, 603 East Ninth Street, on Monday afternoon, September 22, at one o'clock.
Dublin and Carlow papers please copy.
What a find right? It's very difficult to do Irish research without a parish and county. So that's very nice.

Then I found an obituary for Ellen Hughes; like her husband, Terrance, it was also in the New York Herald. The obituary was posted on March 12, 1884 and reads as follows:
Hughes - On Monday, March 10, ELLEN HUGHES, mother of the late Patrick Hughes, in her 81st year of age.
Funeral from the residence of her daughter, Mrs. Gray, 535 East 11th St., Wednesday, March 12 at half-past one P.M. Internment at Calvary Cemetery.
Mrs. Gray, again, was my 3rd great-grandmother. There was no mention of a son Edward though, who like her son Patrick could have predeceased her.

So then I tried to look for Edward whom I know nothing about except his name, approximate date of birth, and a guess at the date of death I gleaned from the NYC death record index; March 22, 1874. Now keep in mind that his date of death is just from the index, I did not actually see the death record and so I may have the wrong Edward Hughes. My Edward Hughes had a lot of contemporaries of the same name living in the same city; New York City. However, I found these headlines which coincided with the date of death for an Edward Hughes:
New York Herald - March 22, 1874 - "Coroners' Cases"
New York Tribune - March 23, 1874 - "Two Probable Homicides"
New York Tribune - March 27, 1874 - "Supposed Homicides"
Was MY Edward Hughes Murdered???

A simple call to Calvary Cemetery answered my question. I asked the woman who answered the phone if she could give me the plot location for a man named Edward Hughes who died in March 1874. Sure enough he is buried in Cemetery #1, Section 3, Range 1, Plot A, Graves #1-4. That is the same plot as my Terrance and Ellen Hughes; Edward's parents.
March 27, 1874 - New York Tribune 
Supposed Homicides
Coroner Woltmann held and inquest yesterday in the case of Edward Hughes, who was found dead on the 20th inst. at his home in Thirty-third-st. near Tenth-ave.
James Cory, residing at No. 787 Tenth-ave., testified that he had seen Hughes and a man named Cain fighting near Tenth-ave. and Thirty-third-st. on the day previous to Hughes's death. He did not know that either of them was drunk. James Goss testified that Cain struck Hughes several times in the face, holding him in the back of the head, while Hughes was so drunk he could not stand nor get up when he was knocked down. Dr. Shine testified that death apparently ensued from alcoholism, there being no signs of any bruises on the body. The jury rendered a verdict that Hughes died from alcoholism, death being accelerated by the beating received, and Coroner Woltmann committed Cain to the Tombs to answer in default of $5,000 bail.
So according to a jury of his peers, James W. Cain did not murder Edward Hughes; Edward succumbed to alcoholism in a very sad and dramatic scene. 

I tend to have a very soft spot in my heart for those relatives who, like Edward, leave no heirs. No heirs theoretically means that there are no relatives to visit the grave, to remember who he was, to keep the memories of him alive. Edward's story reaches me very deeply, though. Today I pray especially hard for those who suffer from the same affliction as Edward, and for those who judge them, and for those who beat them down.


  1. I LOVE the things you can find out through a newspaper archive search! Did you like GenealogyBank? Would you recommend it?

  2. I would recommended GenealogyBank - - for its trial version. Go in, hit it hard, glean what you can BUT if you have primarily NY ancestry, like I do, the free Old Fulton Post Card site has many many more NY newspapers than GenealogyBank.