Hey There, Delilah
This post was edited on 12 Aug 2007. See below for details.
So here are some things I find it poignant to bring up about John William and Delilah Murphy that I’ve noticed in my return to real research. I’m sure others have noticed these discrepancies before, but I haven’t found any discussions on them online yet. So here it goes.
[The following has been compiled from second-hand research through Wilma Sander's book. The people I've spoken with have gotten (or claim to have gotten) this information through her book. I do not have the book, so cannot 100% confirm these.]
John William was born around 1789. As far as age discrepancies go, he’s “checked off” in the “50-60″ in the 1840 census, listed at age 56 in the 1850 census, disappeared in 1860, and listed at age 81 in 1870. This causes a few problems because according to the 1850 census, he was born in 1794. According to the 1870 census he was born in 1789.
Delilah has supposedly born around 1791. John William’s “wife” was checked off in the “30-40″ column. In the 1850 census, Delilah is listed by name at age 51, disappears with her husband in 1860, and listed at age 71 in 1870. First of all, the 1840 census puts her age off by nearly 10 years (assuming this is her). She should have been 49 in 1840. In 1850, her birthday would be in 1799, as well as in 1870.
Ancestry.com also lists their birthyears at 1789 and 1791 on their marriage records, with their marriage year shown as 1829.
U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900, online database, Yates Publishing. Ancestry.com, http://www.ancestry.com (accessed August 8, 2007)
Now admittedly, this collection of records on Ancestry.com can not be considered very reliable, as it was compiled by numerous sources including real records, and family group sheets.
So let’s assume for the moment that all the information I’ve gathered from non-census records are correct:
John William was born in 1789.
Delilah was born in 1791.
They were married in 1829.
Now let’s look at the problems that arise.
First problem: John would have been 40, and Delilah would have been 38 when they got married. This seems like an awfully old age to have your first wedding in the 19th century.
Second problem: Here is a list of John and Delilah’s supposed children and the years they were born.
Melinda Jane 
Eleanora Silena 
Abraham Archibald 
Elizabeth M 
Francis Marion 
Thomas R 
Four of their children would have already been born by the time they married in 1829. Imagine what a scandal that would have been.
The third problem would be Delilah’s age when she had these children. Assuming that the birthyears are all correct, and that these are all of Delilah’s children she would have been:
25 when Andrew was born.
33 when John was born.
37 when Hugh was born.
38 when Melinda was born.
43 when Eleanora was born.
45 when Abraham was born.
48 when Elizabeth was born.
49 when Francis was born.
53 when Thomas was born.
and 63 when Joseph was born.
I find it very hard to believe that Delilah was still capable of having children at age 63. To be honest I find it hard to believe that she was capable of having children at 53. So it is at this point, I start my theory.
First of all, it needs to be said that something is wrong here. Either John and Delilah were not married in 1829, or Delilah was John’s second wife. Either is a logical explanation. I also believe that Delilah’s birthyear is just wrong. All census records point to her being born in 1799, and this really makes the most sense to me.
So with that being said, for the sake of argument I’m going to go with the idea that John and Delilah’s marriage date is incorrect.
Let’s say John and Delilah actually married around 1815. John would have been fresh out of the War of 1812, he would have been 26 and Delilah (born in 1799) would have been 16. This would make all of the children Delilah’s. Here’s her age at childbirth now:
17 when she had Andrew.
25 when she had John.
29 when she had Hugh.
30 when she had Melinda.
35 when she had Eleanora.
37 when she had Abraham.
40 when she had Elizabeth.
41 when she had Francis.
45 when she had Thomas.
55 when she had Joseph.
All of these births would be much more plausible, minus Joseph. Joseph has always been a mystery to me. I think the ten year gap (and also Delilah’s age) can only point to one conclusion. Joseph was not their biological son. Either he was taken in to help with the farm or was an illegitimate grandson. Since unofficial “adoptions” were also common, it’s fair to say that not only were either of these options plausible, they were likely. Given the amount of enumerator mistakes when conducting the census, it is also likely that the enumerator never bothered to ask if Joseph was their son or not. I think the most evidence we are given is the fact that age 16 on the 1870 census Joseph is listed as a “Farm Laborer” and not “At Home.” It would go beyond saying that any child still living at home would be working on the family farm. But I think that listing him as “Farm Laborer” implies more than just a son working on the family farm.
John was married to someone before Delilah, and Andrew, John, Hugh and Melinda were not Delilah’s children. There’s also a 5-year gap between Melinda and Eleanora that this theory could explain.
I hope this has shed some light on what I think is a very crucial part in this tree.
EDIT 12 Aug 2007:
This information comes from Marylynn Glover, a fellow McRobie researcher and very distant cousin:
“And yes, John William was married twice before he married Delilah. He had Andrew by the original wife, and John William, Sarah, Hugh, who we found all died young except for John William, he died in 1914. Malinda Jane was also by the second wife, but the descendant who gave me her information, wasn’t able to trace her name. It is felt that she died in childbirth when Malinda was born. He then married Delilah, to help care for the children.”