It's not as daunting a task as it might sound. Until more recent times, Union County was a relatively sparsely populated rural county in Southern Illinois. So I'm tracking a limited number of Murphys. Add a birth place--Tennessee--to the mix and you begin to see patterns form. So when I find a record for a Murphy who is living in Union County but born in Virginia, I can go light on researching this Murphy and concentrate on Murphys born in Tennessee or descendants of Murphys born in Tennessee.
After several months, I can declare that the Tennessee Murphy family is a wild bunch. There are lots of marriages, lots of divorces, several children with "early" birth dates, and lots of drama. I was always able to trace the difficult personalities in the family back to Prudence Murphy. However, I've come to see Pru and any of her activities as just the tip of the ice burg.
Of late I've been working with land records. I bought a book--Family Maps of Union County, Illinois by Gregory A. Boyd, J.D. In the book Boyd plots all of the early land records based on Bureau of Land Management records. The book is handy because I don't have to try to plot locations myself. In addition, because Boyd plots all of the land records, I can spot possible parents of spouses.
Early land records place the Murphy's in three townships:
- T12R1W (Anna) includes land owned by Wilburn Murphy b. Tennessee about 1814...later maps show the area where Wilburn's land was as the Murphy School district. There's also Murphy School Road that runs through the area.
- T12SR1E (Stokes) includes land owned by Wilburn, John (b. Tennessee about 1808), and Williams Murphy (b. Illinois about 1821)...Williams name can be Williams Murphy or Williams Murphey or William Murphy
- T11SR1E (Rich) includes John Murphy
Hiley Murphy--the female found on the 1818 (Federal) through 1855 (state) censuses and most likely the matriarch of the Murphys in Union County--seems to be born about 1770. In 1850, she's living with Williams Murphy. She would have been about 51 at the time of Williams birth...too old to be his mother? Perhaps his grandmother? I'm not sure at the moment.
Anyway that is the state of things with the Murphys at the moment. If I make any earth shattering discoveries, I'll post. In the meantime, it's systematic collecting and interpreting.