Monday, May 11, 2015

MYSTERY MONDAY - WHO'S YOUR DADDY? Brick Walls Post #4 - Catherine Dorsey Thorp about 1842-1898

Green tree with question marks_Catherine Dorsey
CATHERINE DORSEY is my paternal 2nd great grandmother.  She is another of my brick wall mysteries.  Here is what I know about her.

THORP_Catherine with_Annie & Henry_with black frame
Above photo is Catherine with her daughter Annie & son, Horace Henry Thorp, Jr. The photo would be about 1870-1871 based on Annie’s age

Catherine was born about 1842 in Dublin, Ireland. According to her death certificate she was married at age 17 yrs. to Horace Henry Thorp.  In the 1860 census she and Horace (listed as Maurice on the census) were living in Oswego, Oswego Co., New York, ages 24 and 21.  By the 1870 census the couple was living in Detroit, Wayne, Michigan with their children, Ellen, age 10 born in New York, Mary (my direct ancestor), age 8 born in New York, Catherine age 6 born in New York, Vincent age 4 born in Michigan and Henry, age 2 born in Michigan.  This tells me that the couple probably moved to Michigan about 1866 when Vincent was born.  She is again seen in the 1880 census with her family.  Then dies on 12 Jun 1898 in Detroit, Wayne, Michigan.  She is buried, without a headstone, at Mt. Elliott Cemetery in Detroit.

A possible passenger record for her.  I understand that the ages of our ancestors may not always be correct on these lists (as with any other historical document).

(Click on any image to enlarge it)
DORSEY_Catherine Thorp_Posssible passenger records from 1854 DORSEY_Catherine_passenger list_16 Sep 1854_ship Orient
However, this is not the only passenger record that shows up when I conduct a search on
Here is a list of other passenger records.  These are indexes only, but certainly some possibilities.
  Dorsey passenger list of records

She is enumerated in the following census records:
  • 1860 in Oswego, Oswego Co., New York with her husband Horace Thorp on a page with other Irish immigrants.  His name is given as Maurice.  She is listed as being born in Ireland.
  • 1870 in Detroit, Wayne, Michigan with her husband Horace (listed as Horris) and her first 5 children; Ellen, Mary, Vincent, Catherine and Horace Jr., ages 2-10.  This census gives her birthplace as Michigan.  We cannot know who gave the information to the enumerator.
  • 1880 in Detroit, Wayne, Michigan with her husband Horace and 8 children, ages 1-18.  She is listed as being born in Ireland.

  • Catherine died on 12 Jun 1898 in Detroit, Wayne, Michigan. 
    • Address of death 75 Lafayette Pl. in Detroit.
    • Name on certificate – Katherine Thorp, white, female 
    • Age 56 yrs., born in Ireland.
    • Married at age 17. 
    • Parent of 10 children of whom 7 are living. 
    • Name of father – Jno Dorsey born in Ireland. 
    • Name of mother – Mary Dorsey born in Ireland.
    • Cause of death – Endocarditis
    • Burial at Mt. Elliott Cemetery, Detroit, Wayne, Michigan
THORP_Catherine nee DORSEY_death cert_clear copy_1898_Detroit

I have been to Mt. Elliott Cemetery in Detroit and talked to the sexton.  Their records indicate no headstone for Catherine.  I walked the area of her burial and found no headstone.

In 1899 her husband, Horace Thorp is listed on page 1472 of the Detroit city directory as Thorp, Horace H., eng., h 305 13th.  Also living at 305 13th is their son, Vincent.

In 1900 we find Horace still living at 305 13th St., but with his son, George, age 24, single and a daughter, Agnes, age 26 and single.
The next record I have for Horace Thorp is his death on 22 Feb 1907 in Spokane, Washington.  It took me 5 years to locate his death certificate.
NOTE:  In my earlier days of researching I didn’t realize our ancestors moved so far and so often.  Since there were at least 6 of Horace and Catherine’s children still living in Detroit, Michigan, I would not have expected him to move way out to Washington state.  His brother, Monson Thorp, Jr. lived in Spokane and was more than likely the reason Horace moved to that state.  Horace’s residence at time of death was Ash St., the same street his brother lived on.

Here is a screenshot of what I have in Legacy for Catherine.  Note the 11 children and not 10.  There is some confusion over two birth records I have found for Willis and William, the two youngest boys.
screenshot of catherin thorp family
Here are photos or drawings of Catherine and Horace, courtesy of my cousin, Bonnie, in Michigan.

THORP_Catherine_headshot in color_posted by Bonnie Nymberg_enhanced   Thorp_Horace_crop of portrait_enh

I wonder if Catherine came over to America alone?

With all of those children, you would think she would have some kind of headstone.

I have not done any Irish research, but hope to in a few weeks while I’m at the Family History Library.
I welcome your input for how I might locate Catherine’s parents.

For links to my previous "Mystery Monday-Who's Your Daddy" posts please click on the tab at the top of my blog.

If you think you might be related, even remotely, to anyone mentioned in this blog, please contact me!

Happy hunting,
Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2015   Diane Gould Hall


  1. You certainly have some beautiful photos of Catherine and some great documents. I know the frustration of having really quite a bit of information on an individual and yet not enough to find parents. Living in a day of a virtual genealogical explosion of available information, I always hold out hope that just maybe tomorrow I will find the answer.

    1. Me too Michelle. I just keep going back periodically and checking for updates or new records. Catherine is part of my top 10 brick walls list. So far, I've posted four of them. I'm hoping that at least one of those walls will fall when I go to the FHL next month. I was there back in 2011 for the first time. However, I feel better prepared and that I have more experience now. Hoping for the best.
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  2. Hi Diane, (O) Dorsey is an uncommon anglicization of the name Darcy, which will hopefully work in your favour, just to remember, surnames were converted from Gaelic (some via Norman French) to English and back and forth again and again, phonetically, so keep an open mind regarding all the spelling variants. Maybe try to use Griffiths (free at to work out if there were any civil parishes c.1850 where the surnames Dorsey and Thorp(e) overlapped (luckily both fairly uncommon) – the families may have originated in a rural area and known each other before emigrating. There are tools in the National Library to assist with this task but sadly, they are not yet available online. The best records for the period in question are church records, so you need to ascertain their religion on immigration.

  3. Diane, Here are some ideas that may help you find Catherine DORSEY’s parents.

    On her death certificate, her father’s first name is abbreviated as Jno. That is short for John, the same name used for the undertaker listed on the death certificate. See .

    So now her parents are John and Mary. But that isn’t so bad, since if you use the Irish equivalents of those names, you have Sean / Eoin (Ian) and Maiire / Mairin / Malladih. See .

    From your post, it appears that Horace, her husband, was born in the U.S. while Catherine was an immigrant. The history of women being naturalized, in this situation, in this time period, is not consistent as explains. IF there is a naturalization record for her, it should show her parents. Also her obituary may list it. The Burton Historical Collection at the downtown Detroit library on Woodward has a huge set of old library catalog drawers full of obituary clippings. (At least it did the last time I was there, years ago.) And an Irish genealogy society is also nearby.

    Another place to look for her immigration information using all the variations of her name, is in “Irish Famine Passenger Records in the Access to Archives Databases (AAD)” at . You might be able to find that in print at genealogy-type libraries. Look for arrival between 1842 (her assumed birth date) and 1860 (the census record showing her living in Oswego).


I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.