Who Was George Washington Boyer’s Mother?

One of the open mysteries in the Boyer family is who was George Washington Boyer’s (1848-1926) birth mother?

Wilbur R. Boyer (1923-2011) told me on several occasions that George Washington Boyer (GWB) had only half-brothers and sisters. Bill had an excellent memory for this type of detail passed on to him by his father and which was common knowledge in his family. Bill also remembered meeting GWB’s siblings, Aleah, Ann and John. ”Leah owned a farm in Richboro or Ivyland which was next door to her sister Annie’s farm. She ran the farm with her brother John Boyer.”

It is clear that Jacob Boyer married Margaret Merion and that Margaret raised GWB. Margaret is mentioned in several census records and in the death certificates of her daughters.

1845 Jacob Boyer m. Elizabeth Merion

A good possibility for the name of GWB’s birth mother is Elizabeth Merion. The thesis is that Elizabeth Merion and Margaret Merion were related – possibly sisters.

According to church records at St. James Church in  Kingsesslng, Philadelphia, Jacob Boyer married Elizabeth Marion on 3 July 1845. The key question of course is if this is “our” Jacob Boyer.

If Elizabeth died shortly after George W. Boyer was born, it would not be uncommon to re-marry her sister. The timing of an 1845 marriage fits with GWB’s birth in 1848 and with the 1850 Census showing that GWB is not married, but living in the same house with Margaret Merion.

The published genealogy “American Boyers” also says Elizabeth Merion was Jacob’s wife.

1848 – George Washington Boyer is born

We don’t have a birth or baptism record for GWB but his death certificate says born 21 Feb 1848 and died 16 Jan 1926. The interesting bit is that “Don’t Know” is entered on the certificate for the name of his mother. In contrast, the death certificates found for his siblings Sarah and Annie list Margaret Merion as their mother.

1850 US Census – Bristol Township, Philadelphia, PA

The 1850 census record for Jacob Boyer and his son is interesting for several reasons. It confirms that Jacob has no wife living with him at that time, and that he has a son George two years old.

The 1850 census also shows Margaret Merion is living in the same household. If she was married to Jacob she would be listed as Margaret Boyer as was the convention in the census. Also, Margaret would traditionally be listed second, and before GWB, if she was married to Jacob.

  1. Jacob Boyer, age 34, b. Pennsylvania, Occupation: Sawgrinder
  2. Gorge Boyer, age 2, b. Pennsylvania
  3. Margaret Merion age 21 , b. Pennsylvania. (if she was married to Jacob she would be listed as Margaret Boyer.)
  4. John Butler, age 32, b. Ireland, Occupation: Sawgrinder
  5. Elizabeth Butler, age 30, b. England

Its worth noting that the census data above was taken in Bristol Township which was dissolved in 1854 to become part of Philadelphia. It is today known as the Olney-Oak Lane section of the city, and an area where other Boyer ancestors lived.

Note the location of Bristol Township near Germantown and Oxford Townships.

September 1850 Jacob Boyer m. Margaret Merion

September 1850 is a guess for the marriage date based on the birth of their first child Anna Boyer on 16 April 1851. They were living in the same household but were not married in the 1850 Census which was taken on 28 Aug 1850.

March 1917 – Sarah Boyer and March 1933 – Annie Boyer death certificates

Sarah Boyer Chase’ death certificate lists her mother was Margaret Merion, b. Pennsylvania. Attested by her husband George W. Chase. Annie Boyer’s death certificate lists her mother as Margaret Merion. Attested by Brunner Boyer her brother.

Additional Thoughts

Could George Washington Boyer be adopted? This isn’t supported by the 1850 Census that shows Jacob had no wife but did have a two year old son. It is possible, but unlikely that a single young man, especially in that era, would adopt a child.

Could Margaret and Elizabeth be the same person? Perhaps Jacob’s wife was named Margaret Elizabeth Merion or Elizabeth Margaret Merion? It’s possible but not supported by the 1850 Census that shows Jacob had no wife but did have a two year old son. It may exist somewhere, but so far we have never found a document where her name appears this way.

Could Margaret be a nickname for Elizabeth? This doesn’t seem likely. Liz, Lizzy, Beth, Bets, Betsy, Betty, and Eliza are common nicknames.

Could the verbal family history be wrong? Possibly, but doubtful. Wilbur R. Boyer (1923-2011) on several occasions when I interviewed him was very clear that G.W. Boyer had only half brothers and sisters. He remembered meeting many of them, and going to their farms.

There are many other possibilities as well of course. I have am working with Susan’s cousin, Wendy Smythe to solve this little mystery – we are keeping an open mind so please stay tuned!

Boyer vs Boyer

According too the terms of John Boyer’s Will, all property went to his wife Mary, and then after her death to her children and grandchildren. Mary died in October 1834 and the Notice below was placed about one year later in September 1835. So it looks like there was a dispute regarding the division of the estate among the children and grandchildren.

John Boyer’s will dated 8 Jun 1812 and proved 29 Dec 1814 is summarized as follows:

Boyer, John. Bristol Twp. Co. of Phila. Yeoman. June 8, 1812. Dec 29, 1814. All estate to wife Mary and after her death unto his children and grandchildren.

Children: Gabriel, Peter, John, Jacob, David, Henry, Elizabeth now the wife of William Bowman, Sarah now the wife of Jonathan Quicksall and Mary now the wife of John Dewees, Jr.

Grandchildren: Mary now the wife of Thomas Norton, Rudolph Mower and John Mower, the children of late daughter Rebecca. Execs: Two sons Gabriel and Peter Boyer.

The Notice below is packed with our Boyer ancestors. It appeared on 24 September 1835 in The National Gazette, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Each person in the Notice is listed below, along with a guess (and link) as to how that person fits into our family tree. There are also links showing the relationship Wilbur R. Boyer (1896 -1985) “WRB”


  1. Peter Boyer (b. 1780-1866, age 55). Son of John Boyer “Rev. War” (1750-1814). Peter is the great uncle of WRB.
  2. Henry Boyer (b. 1790-1877, age 45), younger brother of Peter above. (Henry is the great uncle of WRB)
  3. Elizabeth Bowman “formerly Elizabeth Boyer”. Sister of Peter and Henry above and great aunt of WRB.
  4. Sarah Quicksell (d. 1845) “formerly Sarah Boyer who survived her husband Jonathan Quicksell” Sister of the Boyer’s named above.
  5. John Dewes “and Mary his wife and grantee of John Boyer” – Mary Boyer is sister of the Boyers named above. John Boyer is brother to the Boyers named above.
  6. Margaret Wilson Boyer (b. 1780, age 55) “widow and devisee [meaning: a person to whom real estate is left by the terms of a will] during widowhood of Gabriel Boyer” (1772 – 1827). Gabriel is bother to the Boyers named above.
  7. James Boyer (b. 1804, age 31) son of Margaret and Gabriel
  8. John Boyer ( b. 1796, age 39) son of Margaret and Gabriel
  9. Ann Boyer daughter of Margaret and Gabriel, and wife of Samuel Lawrence “in right of said Ann”
  10. Catherine Boyer, daughter of Margaret and Gabriel, and wife of James Thompson “in right of said Catherine”


  1. Jacob Boyer – Brother to the siblings above.
  2. William Fisher “and Mary his wife, formerly Mary Norton who survived her husband Thomas Norton, in right of said Mary”. Mary is Mary Mower, daughter of Rebecca Boyer (deceased) and John Mower and granddaughter of Gabriel Boyer. Rebecca Boyer is the deceased sister of Jacob Boyer above. So – possibly William and Mary are the care takers for Jacob and his siblings in this group?
  3. Rudolph Mower – son of Rebecca Boyer and John Mower.
  4. Margaret Boyer (b. 1814, age 21) – daughter of Gabriel Boyer
  5. Rebecca Boyer (b. 1818, age 17) – daughter of Gabriel Boyer
  6. Jeanette Boyer (b. ~1820, age 15) – daughter of Gabriel Boyer
  7. Ann Jeanette Boyer – daughter of Gabriel Boyer

Fatally Burned At Her Home

Reece -> Boyer -> Howell

Our family has passed down conflicting versions of the tragic story of Gwendolyn Reece Boyer’s untimely death in a late 1800’s fire in Philadelphia. When exactly was the fire? Who died in the fire? Was it just Gwendolyn, or were one or more of the children also killed? Contributing to the confusion are death records of two girls in the family who died young… were they victims of the fire, or did they die of other causes? A recently discovered article from The Philadelphia Inquirer published on 11 Feb, 1897 clears it up:

The Philadelphia Inquirer
February 11, 1897

Mrs. Gwendoline Boyer, of Olney, was so badly burned on Monday night that she died. Her baby, which was in her arms, was saved by her husband, who leaped from a sick bed to try to save both.Enveloped in flames that leaped from her oil-soaked garments, Mrs. Gwendoline Boyer, aged 37 years, met a horrible death at her home in Olney. Miraculously, almost, her infant, which she was holding at the time her clothing took fire, escaped without injury, but her husband, George Boyer, and Emil Wireman, a farm laborer, were both severely burned in their efforts to put out the fire.

The Boyers live in a three-story stone house on Maple avenue near Old Second street turnpike, and have carried on prosperous trucking business on the few acres which surround the dwelling. Some time ago Mrs. Boyer was taken sick and her illness developed into a severe case of grip. Her husband, too, became ill and was confined in his bed. Last of all the baby was attacked by the same malady, and with a ll the family down things were decidely gloomy.

Slowly the parents improved, but the baby grew worse. So critical was its condition on Monday that hope was about given up, and it was then decided to have it christened at once. Rev. Dr. Upjohn, of Germantown was sent for and performed the ceremony in the presence of the sick parents and Miss Ruth Ingram, their nurse. Toward night the baby rallied somewhat, and when at 10 o’clock preparations for retiring were made the babe was carefully disrobed while lying in its mother’s arms.

Mrs. Boyer sat near a washstand on which was a good-sized kerosene lamp and in reaching for some clothing for the baby the lamp was overturned. It crashed against the marble-top of the stand, the burning oil spreading all over the baby and Mrs. Boyer. In a twinkling the mother’s clothing was a mass of flames.

From his sick bed the husband leaped to aid his wife and child. He succeeded in taking the baby unharmed from the mother’s arms and he quickly laid it on the bed. The he rushed to his wife’s rescue. Meanwhile the screams of the woman had brought Wireman and another farm hand to the rescue and the three men worked like mad to save her. They beat at the flames and finding that this did no good they carried the victim to a window and literally tore off the burning garments strip by strip. They threw the burning rags outside. Finally the carpet was torn from the floor and with this the men managed to smother the flames. When this was done the woman was burned from head to foot.

Dr. Rush was called and hurried to the house. he saw Mrs. Boyer was fatally hurt, but with morphine he managed to alleviate in a measure her awful pain. The poor woman lingered until morning when she died.

The shock, excitement and burns have caused Mr. Boyer to take to his bed again and he is pronounced seriously ill. Wireman is badly burned about the hands and arms, but is not seriously hurt. Quite recently Mrs. Boyer had come into posession of a considerable sum which was left to her by a relative. With this the couple had intended building a home in the city and quitting the truck business.

George and Gwendolen Boyer had four children. The baby mentioned in the article was Wilbur Russell Boyer, Sr. born 7 Dec 1896 – he was barely 2 months old at the time of the fire. Wilbur’s brother, George Washington Boyer, Jr. was 4 at the time of the fire, and the boys’ older sister, Mabel G. Boyer was 7. Mabel died a few years later, at age 11 in Dec of 1900 from diptheria, unrelated to the fire. The family’s first child, Edith, died an infant in October 1888, eight years prior to the fire.

The article mentions that the Boyer’s “have carried on prosperous trucking business..” – the meaning is not that they owned motorized vehicles, but that they were vegetable farmers. According to the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, the term ‘truck farmer’ was in use long before autos and trucks existed. The root of the word ‘truck’ in this instance comes from ‘troque’, the Old French word for ‘barter’.

A copy of the original article can be viewed here – and here in pdf format

Gabriel Boyer – American Boyers

Boyer -> Boyer

Wendy Smythe forwarded pages from the Boyer genealogy published by The Association of American Boyers that show the family of Jacob Boyer. We believe Jacob is the father of our George Washington Boyer, Sr. and this is the first independent confirmation of that conclusion. (See the Genealogue entry posted here in September 2003.).

This genealogy also reveals to us the ancestry of Jacob Boyer going back to the immigrant to North America – Gabriel Boyer b. 1700 in Tartary ( a region in central asia) “where his German parents had gone for some reason or other according to tradition recorded by his great-granddaughter, Mrs. McCahon”.

Some other interesting facts:

Gabriel Boyer is the 4th Great Grandfather of Bill & Evelyn Boyer. When exactly he came to America is not known, but he is reported to have owned a large farm in Oley, Berks County, PA (which is near Reading, Pa.) as early as 1733.

Gabriel came to Frankford, Bristol Township, Philadelphia, PA a few years before his death in 1766.

Two of Gabriel’s sons, John Boyer (Bill and Evelyn’s ancestor), and Peter Boyer apparently fought in the U.S. Revolutionary War. John Boyer’s granddaughter, Mrs Mary J. Kluhenspies (4 – AG168), “reported that he was built stout and straight, six feet three inches tall, called the strongest in a thousand. She said he was a soldier, probably in the Revolutionary War, and that he was a favorite with the officers, frequently dining with them.”

William Murchy – born to Scottish parents in Maine

Murchy -> Carlin -> Boyer

The spelling of Margaret Elizabeth “Murchie”‘s surname, to the dismay of many present, continues to be a topic of discussion at family reunions. Boyer family lore says that maybe the spelling was really Murphy but misspelled by well-meaning immigration officials.

Here is a new hypothesis on the Murchie/ Murphy spelling issue – MURCHY.

If correct then it is likely that we’ve located a ‘new’ ancestor – William Murchy, father of Margaret Elizabeth Murchy who married John William Carlin. This makes William a Great Grandfather to Bill & Evelyn Boyer.

William Murchy was born in 1831, in Maine – his parents were born in Scotland. By 1862 he was living in PA, as this is where his eldest child, “Minnie” was born. He appears in a special supplement to the U.S. Census as having served the Union Army in the “war of the rebellion” (U.S. Civil War) from 1862 to 1865 in “Ordinance.” By 1870 he is living in the Frankford Arsenal, Bridge St., where he was a U.S. Soldier, a private specializing in “Ordinance”, and where he spent at the very least 10 years with his family.

This hypothesis originates with the 1900 Census listing for John W. Carlin & Family on Bridge St. Philadelphia as follows:

1. John Carlin, head, b. Aug 1864, age 36, married 13 years, b. PA, father b.PA, mother b. PA, works in government.
2. Margaret E, wife, b. Oct. 1864, age 36, married 13 years, 5 children born, b. PA, father b. Ireland, mother b. PA (below all b. PA, parents b. PA)
3. Ralph H., son, b. May 1889, age 11, at school
4. Edith, daughter, b. Oct 1891, age 8
5. William R., son, b. Feb 1893, age 7
6. Florence, daughter, b. Oct 1897, age 2
7. Elizabeth M., daughter, b.1899, age 7/12.

Bill Boyer and Wendy Hinsdale Smythe agree that #1 is John William Carlin, Bill’s grandfather, and #7 Elizabeth M. is Bill’s mother, Wendy’s grandmother.

The interesting thing (noted by Wendy Hinsdale Smythe) is that if you look at the next two lines of the 1900 census there are two more people listed as boarders:

8. Peter Murchy, boarder, b. Sep 1863, age 36, single, born PA, parents born PA, works in government 9. George Murchy, boarder, b. Oct 1870, age 29, single, born PA, parents born PA, rope maker.

Now, if you take a small leap, maybe these Murchy’s are the Boyer’s Murchie’s/ Murphy’s? And just maybe they are relatives of #2 “Margaret E.” (Margaret E. Murchie/Murphy Carlin.) From the men’s ages, they look like they could be her brothers….so that sends us on a brand new quest looking for #2, #8 and #9 living together as a Murchy family in an earlier census..

And guess what that turns up? Living on the same street (Bridge St.), 30 years earlier, in the 1870 census we find the following family:

1. Wm. Murchy, age 40
2. Annie, age 20
3. Minnie, age 8
4. Peter, age 6
5. Margaret, age 5
6. Ann Wright, age 75

And then in the 1880 census on Bridge St. again:

1a. William Murchy, age 49, U.S. Soldier, b. Maine, Father b. Scotland, mother b. Scotland – p.18-19, Bridge St., District 482, Philadelphia, PA
2a. Anna, 28/29, wife, housekeeping, self and parents b. PA
3a. Amelia, 18, daughter, servant, b. PA, father b. Maine, mother b. PA.
4a. Peter, age 16, son, app. to Machinist, b. PA, father b. Maine, mother b. PA 5a. George, age 8, son, at school, b. PA, father b. Maine, mother b. PA
6a. Laura, age 3, dau, at home, b. PA, father b. Maine, mother b. PA

Bill Boyer remembers his mother’s Aunt Minnie from when she was probably in her 90’s in the 1950’s – If this is correct she is #3 (Minnie) in the 1870 census and #3a (Amelia) in the 1880 census. Minnie would be 96 years old in 1958. Laura (who Bill also remembers) #6a is Minnie’s younger half sister by 15 years so she would have been 93 in 1970 (but we don’t at this point know how long she lived).

Independently and prior to this research, Bill Boyer mentioned that “Mr. Murchie/ Murphy had three daughters: Laura from one wife, Margaret and Minnie from another wife.” – all those names also appear above, and the ages make sense if you assume that Annie, age 20 in 1870 is the second wife.

George Washington Boyer

The mystery of “who died in the fire” still continues…..

Family stories say that one or both of George Washington Boyer’s daughters and possibly his wife died in a house fire. Up until the visit to Greenmount Cementery last week we did not know the death dates were all different, but that is exactly what the cemetery’s plot record shows. So from this it does not appear that more than one person could have died in a fire.

The cemetery records also show that the only gravestone marking the plot is that of Baby Edith Boyer, however upon visiting, no gravestone, other than one that was illegible, could be found. Here is a photo of the plot at Greenmount – not much to see!

Jacob Boyer

A new Boyer generation is discovered with the family of Jacob Boyer. Born cir. 1815, he appears in the 1870 U.S. Census living in Germantown, Philadelphia, PA – age 55.

It is Jacob’s unknown first wife who had a son, and only child, named George Washington Boyer who was a homebuilder, and also a night watchman at the Fern Rock water bureau facility. George Washington Boyer is the direct ancestor of our Boyer line shown here.

Jacob’s second wife, Margaret MERION, age 45 appears with him on the 1870 U.S. Census. Jacob and Margaret had 10 children including Del Boyer who lived in the Frankford section of Philadelphia and was an auto agency owner and John Boyer who worked on his sister Aleah’s farm.