Streetwise Professor

May 27, 2024

Patrick Martin–Or Is It Patrick Martins?–Redux

Filed under: Civil War — cpirrong @ 1:35 pm

You may recall my earlier post on likely Civil War ancestor (direct) Patrick Martin. A Memorial Day update is in order.

I ordered from the National Archives the service records of Patrick Martin, Co. H, 1st New York Infantry. Imagine my surprise when the records of “Patrick Martin #1” came back. Not only the “#1” but the fact that this Patrick Martin was not a deserter, but was mustered out with the regiment in June, 1863 threw me for a loop.

A little more digging disclosed that there were indeed 2 Patrick Martins. In Company H. Of the 1st New York. Who enlisted on consecutive days–7 and 8 May, 1861.

Moreover, their listed ages are almost identical: 30 for #1 and 29 for #2. #2 is the deserter–at least in the NY Adjutant General’s records. Only 1 Patrick Martin appears in the Co. H 1st NY muster roll (hence my subsequent surprise).

What are the odds?

Now, based on the 1860 Census my ancestor Patrick Martin would have been 29 in May, 1861: he is listed as 28 in the Census taken in July, 1860. So #2 is the most likely, but given the vagaries of record keeping, it’s not impossible that his age was recorded as 30 by the mustering officer. For example, if he’d been born in December, 1831 and the person enrolling him asked “what year were you born?”, upon hearing “1831” the mustering officer may well have written down “30” as his age.

So he’s most likely the deserter, but that’s not certain.

I tried to find him in the 1870 Census, and originally had no luck. I figured that as a deserter, maybe he took a powder, or laid low when the government came knocking on his door. But my inability to find him was because the census taker apparently had a hot date, or something. I eventually found a Martin Patr and a Kerr Cath in the 1870 Census. (His wife’s name in the 1860 Census was Catharine Carr, as was my great-grandfather’s mother’s name in the 1880 Census). My great-grandfather, recorded in beautiful cursive as “Francis L.” in the 1880 Census, was denoted merely as “F” in 1870. The names of Patrick’s other children were also abbreviated, but at least with more than one letter.

Gee thanks, buddy. Hope you had a good time. You wasted some of mine.

The 1870 Census states that Patrick was a “firefighter.” In 1860 he was a stage driver.

This all makes me wonder what efforts the military went to to track down deserters. Was it easy for one to get lost in the teeming tenements of New York City? The post-March 1863 draft dragnet, which hit New York particularly intensely (as evidenced by the July 1863 draft riots, and the high numbers of draftees in 1864-5 New York regiments) would suggest otherwise.

There was one more candidate Patrick Martin, a 30 year old August 1861 enlistee in the 37th New York (ironically in the same brigade as the 1st). But that Patrick applied for a pension in 1905, and the 1880 Census lists Catharine Kerr as a widow. So scratch him.

Perhaps some additional information will arrive with Patrick Martin #2’s service record from the National Archives. I wait with bated breath, and will report accordingly.

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  1. My wife had trouble tracking down a 19th century ancestor. Name: John Brown. Occupation: Mariner.

    It turned out that there was no shortage of sea-going John Browns from NE England.

    How they cope in Wales, where there is a shortage of different surnames, I have no idea.

    Or on some of the Western Isles. A Scottish broadcaster was known as Donnie B Macleod because when he started school there were five Donald Macleods in the class. The teacher called them Donnie A Macleod, Donnie B Macleod, …

    Comment by dearieme — May 31, 2024 @ 7:22 am

  2. @dearieme. Yes, a common name is the bane of genealogical research. It would be wrong to say that this has led to many dead ends in my research: the real problem is that it has led to myriad forks in the road with no way to know which is the right one. This is especially the case in research of my Scandinavian ancestors. “Ole Nelson.” “Nils Olson.” Gee, quite the leads there.

    Alas I know that the common approach of many is to choose the one with the most illustrious (or at least least dubious) status. Which is another minefield when trying to do research.

    The one upside of “Pirrong.”

    Your mention of the Welsh reminds me of the movie Zulu, where there were so many privates named Jones among the defenders of Rourke’s Drift that they went by numbers–“Jones 593, Jones 716,” etc. Even when talking to one another.

    Comment by cpirrong — June 4, 2024 @ 3:32 pm

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