The name Murphy in Ireland is the most frequently found name in the country and derives from the Gaelic O'Murchadha, meaning "descendant of sea warrior." The main Septs were located in Counties Cork, Wexford, Carlow, and Armagh, but the majority of descendants now hail from County Cork. The Sept system was an integral part of Gaelic society that survived the Norman invaders. The system did not survive the English invasion or colonization of the seventeenth century, and it became a disadvantage to have a Gaelic sounding name.
The Penal laws that were enforced by the colonists attempted to completely subjugate the Gaelic way of life. It was then that many Gaelic names changed to their Anglo equivalent or translation. The O'Murchadha family became the Murphy family.
My Murphy family has its roots in Valentia Island, County Kerry, Ireland. They have been identified as belonging to that island since the actual recording of family names, and all of my ancestors are buried in Kylemore Graveyard on Valentia Island.
My great-grandfather, John Murphy, married Mary Connor (also from Valentia Island) shortly after the potato famine. They settled in a two-room thatched cottage on Ballyhearney West on Valentia Island.
The Murphy family was blessed with eight children: John, Michael, Ellen, Kate, Bridget (my grandmother), Pats, Mary, Nellie, and Julia. The book, Finding My Irish, advertised on this website, will explain in detail my amazing journey of discovery while searching for my Murphy family.
My grandmother, Bridget Murphy, emigrated to America in 1880 at the age of fifteen. She traveled with her sister Julia and brother Michael. Rules dictated that women pack: one dress, one jacket, two woolen petticoats, two sets of underclothing, two pairs of stockings, two handkerchiefs, one shawl, one pair of boots, one hat/bonnet, two towels, one brush and comb, sewing and knitting materials, and one bag/box. Males were expected to pack: one suit of clothes, one overcoat, two shirts, two pair of socks, two handkerchiefs, one muffler, one pair of boots, one hat/cap, two towels, one brush and comb, one rug or coverlet, one bag or box. The ship would provide: a mattress and pillow, a knife, fork, and spoon, tin plate, drinking mug and can, one lb. marine soap. It was difficult for the Murphy family to collect all the items necessary for passage, but with the help of neighbors and friends, they gathered enough to satisfy the emigration officers. From Ballyhearney West, the three young Murphy family members traveled by horse car to Killarney where they boarded the train to Queenstown. Settled into steerage quarters on their ship, The Patagonia, the Murphy family watched the last little part of Ireland fade from sight. Their harrowing journey across the sea frightened them and many a day found them sick in the hold of the ship. The Murphy family arrived in Castle Gardens, N.Y. on May 15, 1880. From there they traveled to New London, Connecticut to meet up with other Murphy family members. Bridget secured employment as a servant in a mansion in Norwich, Connecticut and joined the parish of St. Patrick's Church. It was there she met Michael Shea, the man who would be her husband.
Bridget Murphy was married on February 17, 1885 at St. Patrick's Church in Norwich, Connecticut. The Murphy family gathered for the glorious event, the priest gave his blessing, and they began their lives in the tenement they shared with Michael's brother and cousin.