Skip to main content

Thomas Murray family papers

Collection MS-2000-017: Thomas Murray family papers


  • Creation: 1814 - 1857

Scope and Contents

These papers document the life of Irish immigrant Thomas Murry and his work in Boston as a Catholic undertaker and bookseller. Materials include correspondence, accounting papers, legal documents, and tax bills.

Correspondence contains letters to and from members of the Murray family. Many are from relatives in Ireland, and several concern the Murrays' guardianship of John Quarry. Early correspondence was sent to the Murrays care of John Cheverus, Bishop of Boston.

Thomas Murray's undertaking documents include account books, fee listings, receipts, and burial and exhumation requests, while his bookselling materials mainly comprise letters accompanying shipments of books with instructions for resale. Murray also noted the birth dates of all of his children in one of his undertaking account books (Box 2, Folder 2).

Lastly, a few business and travel documents for Murray's son, Thomas Selvarus are included.


Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research, except for Thomas Murray's undertaking ledger, which is available digitially.

Conditions Governing Use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note

Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1782, Thomas Murray arrived in Boston in 1810 and became a naturalized American citizen in 1814.

Murray initially worked in Boston as a laborer. He became the sexton of St. Augustine’s church when it was established in South Boston in 1819, and his duties included managing St. Augustine’s cemetery. He was the first listed Catholic undertaker in Boston; over the years, his entry as an undertaker in the Boston Almanac shows his business address changing from Franklin Street to Theatre Alley and finally Dearborn Avenue in South Boston. Murray was also a bookseller and owned a bookstore on Cornhill, not far from Washington Street in downtown Boston.

Murray married Margaret Murphy on October 18, 1821, in a ceremony officiated by family friend John Cheverus, Bishop of Boston. Thomas and Margaret had six children: Mary Anne (July 28, 1822), John Cheverus (June 13, 1824), Margaret (March 19, 1826), Catherine (June 6, 1828), Thomas Selverus (June 20, 1831), and Sarah Elizabeth (February 20, 1833). As well as providing for their own children, the Murrays also took in an orphaned relative from Ireland, John Quarry, in 1822. Several of the Murray children traveled and corresponded back to the family in Boston: Quarry went to Honduras in 1829; John Murray studied at Montreal College in Canada in the late 1830s; and Thomas S. Murray traveled to California in 1849. (Although his return date is unkown, letters indicate he was still in Sacramento as late as 1852.)

The Murray family purchased land originally owned by the Catholic Church on Fourth Street in South Boston in 1834 and began residing there in 1836. The house remained in the family until its destruction around 1964. The Murrays also leased a stone quarry and owned farmland in Milton, both before and after Thomas Murray’s death.

Thomas Murray died on January 8, 1840. He and his wife are buried in the Saint Augustine Cemetery in South Boston.


“Thomas Murray” [Biographical Sketch], Archdiocesan Archives, Archdiocese of Boston.

Dickinson, S.N., Boston Almanac. Boston, MA: Thomas Groom and Co., 1821-1840.


2.25 Linear Feet (2 containers )

Language of Materials



These papers document the life of Irish immigrant Thomas Murry and his work in Boston in the early 1800s as a Catholic undertaker and bookseller.


Family correspondence is placed at the start of the collection, and the rest of the materials are chronological. Correspondence is chronological within its file.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Paul P. Heffernan, 2000 and 2001.

Existence of digital copies

A portions is available digitally. A link is included in the inventory.

Related Materials

J. D. Fallon & Son ledgers, MS.2003.061, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Thomas Murray Family Papers
Laura M. Hemrika and Edward Copenhagen, 2001; updated by Lynn Moulton
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States