In today’s “How I Solved It” guest post, Diane Gould Hall (Michigan Family Trails) shares her methodology for tracking her great grandmother Catherine Dorsey Thorp from Ireland to New York to Michigan. Her search illustrates the importance of examining records for the whole family, working backwards, forwards, and sideways to identify family, friends, associates, and neighbors and other clues which may become important when she moves on to records in Ireland.


CATHERINE DORSEY is my paternal 2nd great grandmother.  She is another of my brick wall mysteries.  Here is what I know about her.

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  I understand that the ages of our ancestors may not always be correct on these lists (as with any other historical document).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

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.

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


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.

Here are photos or drawings of Catherine and Horace, courtesy of my cousin, Bonnie, in Michigan.

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



You can read Diane’s original post, with excellent comments, at

If you have ideas or stories to share in our “How I Solved It” series, please let us know!

Diane Gould Hall
Diane has been researching her family history for over 13 years. She is a member of the DAR, the San Diego Genealogical Society, the North San Diego County Genealogical Society, the Aberdeen, Scotland Historical Society, and the New England Historical Genealogical Society. Her hobbies also include traveling, riding horses and reading. She's happily married and retired. Visit Diane's Website