Today’s post will be my first look into the life story of George Faulkner McMurry, one of the two brothers adopted by James Miller McMurry and his wife Grace Aitken. My cousin Crystal turned me on to this story, and if you haven’t read her post on George, you should go read it now!
Crystal learned that George and his brother Douglas survived a shipwreck that killed their parents. The brothers were then adopted by James and Grace McMurry in Port Townsend, Washington. She also learned that George was married briefly, and that he was murdered in San Francisco in June, 1945. All tantalizing stuff!
In addition to this story having a lot to recommend it on its own, I suspect that the story of George and his brother may shed light on Grace Aitken’s family in New York, and that it may help explain why widower James McMurry moved in his later years to Sutter County, California, where he apparently had no family.
This won’t be a full biography of George, but rather an exploration of a few documents I’ve recently found that advance our understanding of George a bit. The first document I’d like to present is George Faulker McMurry’s Petition for Naturalization and its accompanying documentation:
It was interesting just discovering that this Petition for Naturalization exists, as George had previously stated that he was a U.S. citizen who had been born in New York City.
From his Petition for Naturalization, we finally learn the truth: George Faulkner McMurry was born on September 14, 1899, on the island of Curaçao in the Dutch West Indies. And he claimed that his full name at birth was George Talbot Faulkner (although as I’ll show below, this wasn’t completely accurate). He also stated that he was a British citizen by virtue of the nationality of his father’s mother.
George was 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighed 160 pounds, had blue eyes and brown hair, and had tattoos on both arms.
He also stated that he had gotten married to Fay O’Connor of Colorado on March 5, 1928, in San Francisco, California, but that they had since divorced.
According to the attached Form N-400, “Supplement Re Service On American Ships,” between May, 1918, and November 1943, George worked on at least 15 American ships that were over 20 tons, serving on at least 18 voyages on these ships, for a total of 7 years, 5 months, and 20 days at sea over that 25-year period. He may have been at sea even longer if he worked on any smaller ships or non-American ships.
George’s Petition for Naturalization was dated February 25, 1944. Why did he seek formal naturalization when he was nearly 45 years old, and not earlier? I suspect it had to do with World War II and an increased scrutiny being put on the citizenship of those serving on ocean-going vessels, but this is just a hunch.
According to the Petition for Naturalization, George emigrated to the United States in May, 1900, when he was only 8 months old. The ship he was on was the “G.B. Lockhart.” This is the ship that would later sink with George and his family aboard, taking the lives of his parents.
Now that we know that George was born in what was then called The Colony of Curaçao and Dependencies, a Dutch colony from 1845 to 1936, we can turn to the wonderfully organized, accessible, free, and mostly bilingual archives of the Netherlands, wiewaswie.nl. Sure enough, since George was born on Dutch soil, the Dutch have a record of his birth. And not just one record, but two records—one for when he was born with both of his parents’ names, and one registered 3½ months after his birth with just his father’s name and a statement that the father is aged over 50 years.
First birth record for George (click here for full record):
|Child’s name||De George Talbot Faulkner|
|Birth date||September 14, 1899|
|Father||Rupert de George Faulkner|
|Mother||Chrissie Harlan Jordan|
|Note||“Kind werd op 01-05-1900 (Stadsdistrict) erkend door zijn moeder en door Rupert De George Faulkner” (Child was recognized on 1 May 1900 (City District) by his mother and by Rupert De George Faulkner)|
Note that George’s full first name is De George, his father’s middle name.
Second birth record for George (click here for full record):
|Child’s name||De George Talbot Faulkner|
|Birth date||September 14, 1899|
|Father||Rupert de George Faulkner|
|Mother||NN (no name given ?)|
|Note||“Leeftijd vader is 50” (Aged father is 50)|
Willemstad is the capital of Curaçao, a charming Old-World-esque city that was founded in 1634.
The next document I found was George’s Application for Seaman’s Certificate of American Citizenship or Intention Papers, dated December 12, 1918, when George was 19 years old and just beginning his career as a mariner. The first thing you’ll notice about this application is that it contains two copies of a photo of a 19-year-old George:
On this application, George claims to have been born in New York City, and the Deputy Collector of Customs for Washington certifies that he has seen proof of George’s citizenship. While I have no evidence of this, I suspect that the Deputy saw a white, blue-eyed boy with an American accent and figured there was no cause to suspect that he was anything other than the U.S. citizen he claimed to be. It’s also possible that George didn’t know at this point that he was adopted, as he claimed his father’s birthplace was Illinois, which is actually the birthplace of his adopted father, James Miller McMurry. I don’t believe that was the case, however, as the 1910 census shows George and his brother Douglas living with James and Grace McMurry in Port Townsend, and has both George and his brother clearly marked as adopted sons (see detail image below). I find it hard to believe that they would freely disclose this to the census taker if they were trying to keep it secret from their sons.
Finally, from this application, we learn that one of George’s tattoos was an anchor on his right forearm.
I also found the 1930 census for George, which catches him living with his wife, Fay O’Connor McMurry, and her 15-year-old son John O’Connor (lines 33–35):
The G. B. Lockhart
I’d like to turn now to the ship that took the lives of George’s parents. According to page 188 of the Reports of the Harbour Commissioners for Montreal, Quebec, Three Rivers, Toronto, North Sydney, Pictou and Belleville: Report of pilotage authorities—Reports of port wardens, shipping-masters and of wrecks and casualties, the G.B. Lockhart was a 16-year-old wooden-rigged sailing ship registered in Windsor, Nova Scotia, Canada, when it was wrecked on May 31, 1906:
Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, Volume 1, has additional information of the G.B. Lockhart (see line 4, below), including that the G.B. Lockhart was a 305-ton, 120 foot 8 inch vessel that was sailing under a British flag. And most importantly, the captain of the ship was listed as “R. de G. Faulkner.”
I haven’t been able to find any accounts of the wreck of the G. B. Lockhart so far, but I did find this one brief mention in the Report on the Trade and Commerce of Curaçoa for the Years 1905–06 by British Consul Jacob Jesurun (1907, pages 4–5):
Thanks to the Connecticut Digital Archive of the University of Connecticut, we have this gloriously large image of the G. B. Lockhart taken during a stop it made in New Haven, Connecticut:
The Connecticut Digital Archive’s caption for this print is: “Starboard view of the brigantine G. B. Lockhart at Canal Dock, New Haven, taken from Long Wharf. Buildings and smokestacks spewing smoke can be seen in the background.”
The shipwreck that killed George’s parents
The British Consulate in Curaçao recorded the deaths of George’s parents. George’s father Rupert is listed on line 5 of page 2:
George’s mother Chrissie is listed on line 1 of page 3:
A few interesting things to note:
- George’s parents, Rupert and Chrissie, are apparently the only deaths reported from in this document from the wreck of the G.B. Lockhart. As a wooden-masted sailing ship, Rupert would have needed a crew (other than his wife and two small children), so either there were crew members who survived the wreck, or they were not British subjects, so their deaths weren’t recorded on this British document.
- The wreck happened off the coast of Bonaire, an island just 40-50 miles east of Curaçao.
- The wreck and the deaths occurred on May 30, 1906, and the date given in the Lloyd’s register and in the Reports of the Harbour Commissioners is the following day, so these references were probably recording when they received notice of the wreck, not when the wreck actually occurred.
- Chrissie’s death certificate lists her name as “Chrissie Harlam Sears,” but George’s birth certificate lists her name as “Chrissie Harlan Jordan.”
I had seen that other researchers have looked for contemporary news accounts of the sinking of the G. B. Lockhart without success, but I thought I’d give it a shot anyhow, given the rapidly increasing number of digitized newspapers becoming available. And sure enough, after a short while I discovered the Caribbean Newspaper Digital Library site and saw that they had digitized issues of a historic newspaper from Curaçao for the years 1884 to 1986. What a glorious time to be alive!
Taking up nearly all of page three of the June 2, 1906, issue of Amigoe Di Curaçao was an account of the sinking of the G.B. Lockhart:
If you don’t read Dutch, what follows is the best translation I’ve so far been able to muster (if you do read Dutch, please let me know in the comments section below of any errors in my translation):
Het treurig bericht van het vergaan
De volger.de bijzonderheden hebben
Het was een hooge zee, er liep
Plotseling omstreeks vier uur in
Door schrik overmeesterd wisten
Toen het licht begon te worden
De geredde bemanning is vol lof
Woensdag tegen den middag tegen
Tegen drie uren ging de bemanning
De andere Curagaonaar, welke gered
Wel toevallig, dat de Lockhart juist
De lading, waaronder 3000 kilo
Wij hopen, dat aan de bemanning
De gevaarlijke lading, dynamiet
Wanneer zal op dezen „doodenhoek”
The sad message of the perishing
The following are the details we
It was a high sea, running a swift
Suddenly at about four o’clock in
Some of the sailors were not over-
When morning light began to break and
The rescued crew is full of praise for
At eleven o’clock on Wednesday morning
The crew went at three o’clock from
The other Curaçaoan who was saved is
It happens to be that the Lockhart,
Its load, which included 3000 kilos (6,600
We hope that a small fee for this
The dangerous cargo, dynamite and
When will this “corner of death” of
George would have been 7 years old at the time of the wreck, but the story talks about his father Rupert throwing a 4-year-old child into the sea, so I’m guessing that at 7 years old, George was better able to fend for himself, and the 4-year-old thrown into the sea was George’s younger brother Douglas.
Let’s look a bit more at George’s biological parents.
George’s father Rupert
While in his late teens and early twenties, George’s father Rupert trained to become a ship’s captain. He was awarded his Certificate of Competency as a First Mate on July 9, 1870, in Liverpool, England, where he was living at the time:
A year later, Rupert was awarded his Certificate of Competancy as Master, issued on April 5, 1871, in Liverpool, England, where he was living at the time:
A deeper look into Rupert’s family and history will have to wait for a future post, given how much else I’m covering in this post.
George’s mother Chrissie
Christina (“Chrissie”) Harlan Sears was born in September 1867, in New York City, probably in Brooklyn) to Thomas A Sears and Freelove Ada (Douglas) Sears. While she would later contend that she was born a few years later (ca. 1870), the 1875 New York census clearly shows her as an 8-year-old girl with a 14-year-old sister, Kate D. Sears (page 64, lines 33–36):
Her father was a clothing merchant, and he owned land (presumably the brick house they lived in at 292 134th Street in Brooklyn).
By the time of the 1880 census, taken on June 5, 1880, Chrissie’s family was no longer living in their brick house, but were instead living in a boarding house at 55 Concord Street in Brooklyn. Chrissie’s father was still working as a clothing merchant, and a third daughter, Grace Sears, had now joined the family:
Chrissie married Francis “Frank” Emery Jordan on March 1, 1887, when she 19 years old. By the time of the 1900 census (shown below), enumerated on June 15th, Frank and Chrissie had been married 13 years and have two children—10-year-old daughter Ada S. Sears, and 7-year-old son Frank Atwood Sears. Frank’s occupation was recorded as “Sea Captain,” and Frank and Chrissie were now living in her parents’ house along with her unmarried 38-year-old sister Kate. Both Chrissie and Kate were now stating that they were born 3–4 years later than they actually were.
At some point between the June 15, 1900, and December 3, 1901, Chrissie and Frank got divorced. At this point, I don’t know what became of their two children—11-year-old Ada and 8-year-old Frank—immediately after the divorce of their parents. By 1910, however, a 20-year-old Ada had moved to Barnstable, Massachusetts, married a man named Eugene Adams, and had a daughter with him around 1910 that they named “Chrissie.” By 1910, a 17-year-old Frank was living with his maternal aunt, Kate Sears, and his grandfather, Thomas Sears.
According to their marriage record in the Netherlands Civil Marriage Index, a divorced Chrissie married a widowed Rupert on December 4, 1901, in Curaçao.
At the time of the 1905 New York State census, we find Rupert and Christina Faulkner married and living in Brooklyn at 172 St. James Place. They now have two sons—6-year-old George Faulkner and 3-year-old Daniel Douglas Faulkner (the latter just called “son” on this census):
Still left unresolved
The Relationship of George Talbot Faulkner to Grace Aitken
- I haven’t so far been able to find any relationship between the families of Grace Aitken and either Rupert Faulkner or Chrissie Sears, but it seems most likely that the it’s the Sears and Aitken families that will cross paths, as Rupert’s time was largely spent in England and Nova Scotia.
More details on the life and family of Rupert de George Faulkner
- I know from his marriage record to Chrissie that his parents were David Weir Faulkner and Hannah Beekwith. From Rupert’s time and training in Liverpool, and from George’s statement that he had British citizenship on account of his paternal grandmother being British, I believe that Hannah Beekwith was British, perhaps from Liverpool.
The murder of George Faulkner McMurry in 1945
- So far I haven’t found any evidence concerning his death or its cause, but I’ve had so many other topics to look into that I haven’t tried terribly hard, either.
Well, thank you for surviving another post. If you have anything to contribute about the story of George Faulkner McMurry, his background, his adoption, or the relationship between the Faulkners/Sears family and the Aitkens/McMurry family, please let me know in the comments section below.
Hopefully with two McMurry cousins on the case, we can get to the bottom of George’s fascinating story. Crystal—tag, you’re it!