August 30, 2021

An Irish Immigrant Story

In my last blog about Patrick Thomas King, Lost Soldier Found in Arlington Cemetery, I shared the story of my 2nd great grandfather who died from wounds received at the Battle of Cold Harbor during the Civil War, leaving a widow and 4 young children.  In this blog post, I want to share a bit more about his young widow, Margaret Smith King, one of my 2nd great grandmothers.

Margaret Smith was born about 1834, probably in Clones, County Monaghan, Ireland.  She was the daughter of John Smith (abt 1790-1863) and Margret O’Neill Smith (1802-1881).  The family lived in Clones in the 1840’s where her father had a carriage making business.  In 1846, and early in the famine years, an Ireland commercial business directory notes Margaret’s father, John Smith, as a coach & car maker located on Cara St in Clones [see the September 2020 blog post, From Clones to Brooklyn].

While I don’t directly know how the famine impacted the Smith family, it seems likely that the market for carriages and cars must have disappeared very quickly.  What I do know is that by 1849, the Smith family decided to leave their home in Clones, Ireland and immigrate to the United States. 

It was probably late summer of 1849 when 15-year old Margaret left Clones, Ireland with her family for England and the port of Liverpool.  Margaret departed Liverpool with her parents and siblings on August 23, 1849 aboard the ship New World with over 400 other passengers. The ship landed in New York City a month later on September 21st. 

Several of Margaret’s aunts and uncles (her mother’s siblings) had arrived in New York earlier in 1849 and were living in Brooklyn.  So it is not surprising that the Smith family also settled in Brooklyn where Margaret’s father once again established a carriage business known as Smith & Sons. 

When Margaret was nineteen, she married Thomas King on August 19, 1853 at Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Brooklyn.  King was listed as a “grocery store clerk” in the 1855 census, and later as a “coach painter” in the 1860 census.  He was by then most probably working for Margaret’s father.

Thomas King & Margaret Smith King had 4 children:  John born in 1855, Margaret/Maggie born in 1857, Thomas Francis born in 1858, and Ellen/Helen born in late 1861.  And in 1861, the Civil War had begun.  In September 1862, Thomas enlisted as a Private in the 170th New York Infantry.  At the time he enlisted, Thomas & Margaret’s youngest child was less than a year old.

Thomas King was himself an immigrant, having arrived in the United States around 1849 according to the 1855 census.  And as I shared in my last blog post, we don’t know if King was born in Ireland, England, Australia or the West Indies. 

We also don’t know if Thomas King, later known as Patrick Thomas King, enlisted because of a desire to serve his new adopted country, or if his enlistment was simply a decision made for economic reasons to support his family.  He served in the Union Army for almost 2 years before his death on June 30, 1864.

With the 1864 death of Thomas, Margaret Smith King, became a 30-year old widow living in Brooklyn with four young children.  A couple of months later, Margaret filed for, and was granted, a widow’s pension to help support her and the children. I have no doubt that times were very difficult for this young family.

I was not able to find Margaret in the 1865 New York census, but her pension application filed in late 1864 lists her address as 745 Pacific St in Brooklyn which is only a block from St Joseph’s Catholic Church at 856 Pacific St where Margaret’s uncle, Rev Patrick O’Neill, was the pastor.  

By the 1870 census, Margaret is still in Brooklyn as the head of household with her 4 children, and her occupation was “ironing and washing”.  The 3 youngest were in school, and the eldest, 15-year old John, was working in a hat factory.

A curious piece of information that was included in the pension file is that in 1871 Margaret married someone named Duckworth.  As Margaret Duckworth, she had to file for guardianship for her 2 youngest children who were still minors in order to continue their pension payments.  The guardianship and pension continuation was granted.  The pension paperwork noted that Margaret married Duckworth on October 18, 1871, but unfortunately it never listed the full name of her new husband!

Margaret’s Duckworth marriage must have been short-lived or she was widowed again because in the 1875 & 1880 censuses she is once again using the name of Margaret King.  As the head of household, her occupation is “keeping house” and her 2 youngest children are still living with her.  I have never been successful in learning the first name of her 2nd husband, Duckworth.

Though I don’t know the hardships of the Smith family in Ireland, Margaret lost many of her family members during her years in Brooklyn.  Margaret’s older brother, Francis, died in 1854 when he was only 24 years old.  Her sister, Ellen, died in 1862 at 33 years old.  And her father died in 1863, a year before she lost her husband, Thomas.  Margaret’s 2 oldest children also died as young adults.  Maggie, the oldest daughter, died in 1880 of consumption when she was only 23 years old, and Maggie’s 4-month old daughter, Maria, had died a year earlier.  Margaret’s son, John, died in 1885 of tuberculosis when he was 30 years of age.  Margareat's mother died in 1881, and her brother, Joseph, died in 1889 in a poorhouse hospital.  I also believe that her other brother Robert died in 1889, however I haven’t been able to prove that connection.  Margaret was 59 years old when she died in 1893.

Margaret died on January 5, 1893 in Brooklyn.  Her death certificate listed her as a “cook.”  She is buried in the Smith family plots in Holy Cross Cemetery located in Brooklyn.

*  *  *  *  *

 Key individuals: 


John Smith  (1790 - 1863)

Margaret O’Neill Smith  (1802 – 1881)

        Margaret Smith King  (1834 – 1893)

        Patrick Thomas King  (1834/35 – 1864)

                John King  (1855 – 1885)

                Margaret King  (1857 – 1880)

                Thomas Francis King  (1858 – 1926)

                Ellen/Helen King  (1861 – 1919) 


For some time I have believed that Margaret’s second husband could have been Capt Morris Duckworth (1839-1873) who died of consumption in 1873.  Everything that I can find shows that he lived in the Brooklyn and New York City area, however, Morris Duckworth actually died in Milford, New Jersey on September 12, 1873 and his body was returned for burial in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, in the Duckworth family plot.  His obituaries never mentioned a spouse, only his parents.

Unfortunately, the pension file that listed the date of Margaret Duckworth’s marriage, did not note the church in which they married; and I have not been able to find a King-Duckworth marriage in the Kings County or New York marriage records. 

 – Jane Scribner McCrary

August 19, 2021

Lost soldier found in Arlington Cemetery

For decades, members of my family that have been interested in our genealogy have tried to figure out the story of Thomas King, my 2nd great grandfather.  Thomas first appears in the 1855 New York Census in Brooklyn as the husband of my 2nd great grandmother, Margaret Smith King, with a 4-month old infant, John.  That census lists Thomas at 21 years of age as a “grocery store worker”, born in Ireland, and a 6-year resident of Brooklyn.  This last clue means that Thomas would have been already living “in this City”, i.e. Brooklyn at the time of the 1850 U.S. Census, but we have never been able to identify him there.

We find Thomas again in the 1860 Census, though by that time Thomas and Margaret have four young children, John, Margaret, Thomas and Ellen.  That census records that Thomas was 27 years of age, employed as a “coach painter” with $100 in personal estate value, and that he was born in Ireland.  The family is still living in Brooklyn.  We know that Margaret’s family operated a carriage and coach business called Smith & Sons in Brooklyn, so it is extremely likely that as a coach painter, Thomas was working in his in-law’s business.  After 1860, Thomas King disappears from the records.

In the 1870 Census, Margaret Smith King, is found as the head of household with her four children. Her employment is listed as “ironing and washing”.  Her oldest son, John, is 15 years old and working in a hat factory, and the three younger children are in school.

Several years ago, I visited the Tenement Museum in New York City.  There you can see how small and depressing many early immigrant residences could be.  On the Tenement Museum tour, we learned that there was seldom any plumbing before the 1900’s.  Toilets were located only on the first level in many of the buildings along with areas for doing laundry.  Water needs for cooking were met by hauling water up to each tenement.  Imagine the difficulty of doing ironing and washing all day and living in a cramped tenement while raising four young children in Brooklyn.

Of course, the first thoughts that come to mind about our missing Thomas King was that he probably had died in the Civil War sometime in the 1860’s.  Many years of research trying to identify Thomas had proved unsuccessful.  There were actually several men named Thomas King that joined the Union volunteer troops from New York during that time, but there was no way to identify any as our Thomas.  My cousin, Lynn, and I even found a couple of Thomas King's that were noted as deserters on the Muster Rolls.  So, for many years, he was in our minds as “Thomas King - possibly a deserter, but we hope not! 

As more historical files began to appear online, we finally found our Thomas in the Civil War pension files.  In 1867 his wife, Margaret, filed a claim to increase the pension claim for their four children:  John, Margaret, Thomas and Ellen.  The kicker, however, was that the pension file was for Patrick King – not Thomas King.  That name difference had proved to be our stumbling block for so many years.

Margaret’s pension application was for her children named John, Margaret, Thomas and Ellen, all living in Brooklyn.  And the paperwork was also witnessed by Margaret’s mother, Margaret Smith, and her uncle, William O’Neill.  Thus, I have no doubt that Patrick King was indeed our missing Thomas King.  In both his military and the pension files, I have found that our King is also referenced on different documents as Thos P King, Patrick King, Patrick T King, Patrick Thomas King, and even King, Patrick alias Thomas.  No wonder it was so hard to find him!

Patrick Thomas King enlisted in New York City in 1862 to serve three years with the New York 170th Volunteer Infantry, Company I.  He mustered in as a Private, was later promoted to a Corporal, and by 1863 he was a Sergeant.  On June 5, 1864, Patrick Thomas King was engaged in the Battle of Cold Harbor in Virginia where he was wounded.  On June 14th, he was admitted to the Armory Square Hospital in Washington D.C. with a gunshot wound in his left shoulder.  He died two weeks later on June 30, 1864 – probably from infection. 

Sergeant Patrick Thomas King was buried on July 2, 1864 at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia which was not far from where he died at the Armory Square Hospital in Washington D.C.


The first military burial in Arlington National Cemetery was on May 13, 1864.  One month later on June 15, 1864, and just two weeks before Patrick Thomas King was buried, the Arlington 200 acre site was designated as a National Cemetery.  Sergeant Patrick Thomas King was among the group of early military burials in the Arlington National Cemetery.  These early gravesites are located in one of the oldest parts of the cemetery.

*  *  *  *  *

Key individuals:

     Patrick Thomas King  (1834/35 – 1864)

     Margaret Smith King  (1834 – 1893)

             John King  (1855 – 1885)

             Margaret King  (1857 – 1880)

             Thomas King  (1858 – 1926)

             Ellen King  (1861 – 1919)


King’s military rank One confusing item that is evident in the details of King’s military file is his rank progression during the Civil War.   If you drill in on specific documentation dates in the military file, mostly looking at the Muster Rolls, you will see irregularities in his progression from Private to Sergeant.  Several of the muster documents when he was wounded noted that he was a Private, and then others, later when he was in the hospital, record him as a Sergeant.  Also, it appears that he was missing from the regiment during March in 1863.  

17 Sep 1862 - mustered in as a Private

7 Oct 1862 - appointed as Corporal [maybe because he was a bit older (late 20’s) than many in the group and could read and write?]

29 Mar 1863 - arrested in Suffolk, NY near Brooklyn

April 1863 - Corporal promoted to Sergeant

13 May 1863 - Sergeant reduced to Private

5 Jun 1864 - wounded at the Battle of Cold Harbor, noted as a Private

12 Jun 1864 – 170th NY Regiment Volunteers log showing him as Sgt Thomas P King admitted to the Armory Square Hospital

2 July 1864 - buried in Arlington Cemetery as Sergeant Patrick King

If you look at the time progression above, the first thing out of the norm is that Patrick Thomas King was arrested in Suffolk, NY on March 29, 1863.  I assume he left his regiment and went home.  Why?  Maybe because King’s father-in-law, John Smith, died on February 24, 1863.  I would guess that it probably took a little while for him to get the word, and then possibly King left to go and check on his family as his father-in-law’s coach business was the primary source of income for the family.  If that was the case, then why was he promoted in April 1863 to Sergeant?  Maybe the commanding officer didn’t know he had left, and when he found out in May, Patrick Thomas King was busted back down to Private?  And while King was referenced as a Private when he was first wounded, maybe out of respect for a fallen comrade, they put him back to Sergeant while in the hospital and at his death?  Or it could all have simply been a mix-up with King having gotten permission for an emergency family leave that was not properly communicated or documented within the regiment.  We will never know, as the task of keeping track of troops and individual soldiers during the Civil War was unquestionably chaotic. 

King’s birthplace:  Another mystery that has us still guessing is about where Patrick Thomas King was born.  There are a lot of possibilities because various documents tell us that he was born in Ireland, Australia, New York or even the West Indies.  

Conflicting information on the birthplace of our Patrick Thomas King who married Margaret Smith shows:

            Document                                           referenced Thomas King, Sr/birthplace

1855 U.S. Census for Thomas King, Sr                                   Ireland

1860 U.S. Census for Thomas King, Sr                                   Ireland

1861-64 Muster Roll Abstracts                                 Sidney, Australia                   

1861-64 Civil War service file information:  Sydney, Australia & England

1880 U.S. Census for son, Thomas King, Jr                           Ireland

1880 U.S. Census for daughter, Helen King                           Ireland

1880 U.S. Census for daughter, Margaret King Doherty    New York

1880 Death Cert for daughter Margaret King Doherty         Australia

1900 U.S. Census for son, Thomas King, Jr                           Ireland

1900 U.S. Census for daughter, Helen King Gordon            Australia

1910 U.S. Census for son, Thomas King, Jr                           Ireland

1910 U.S. Census for daughter, Helen King Gordon           New York

1919 Death Cert for daughter, Helen King Gordon               Australia

1926 Death Cert for son, Thomas King, Jr                         West Indies 

I tend to think that the correct answer for King’s birthplace might be Sydney, Australia.  We know that his wife, Margaret Smith King, was a first generation immigrant from Ireland and the early census takers could have simply assumed the same for her husband.

And one final possible verbal history clue:  There is another teaser that comes from my cousin, Lynn’s, family branch.  Lynn’s mother had been told that Thomas King’s father was possibly a “British naval officer”.  Well, British could mean English, Irish or even Australian, I suppose.  And possibly King got to New York by way of the West Indies?  I suspect that we will never know…  


 – Jane Scribner McCrary

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