Local man discovers his roots

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, July 5, 2023

“Finding Your Roots” is a popular PBS series examining ancestral histories of celebrities, including Glenn Close, Anjelica Huston and Robert Downey Jr.

And while Mike Murtaugh didn’t have Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. to help him, Murtaugh decided to conduct his own research into his family.

“A cousin of Ian’s connected with me in 2015,” Murtaugh said, referring to Ian Murtaugh’s cousin Bob Leonard. “… He was doing genealogical research, and he had found in an online source something I had posted about my great-great-grandparents who lived here from 1856 and after.”

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Leonard had discovered his family lived in the area in the 1870s and ’80s. So the two decided to work together to determine how they were related.

“It probably is fourth cousin, something like that,” he said. “But we share the Murtaugh name, we share the same origin county in Ireland from the mid-1800s.”

Leonard’s first cousin is Ian Murtaugh.

“Leonard and I are very, very closely related,” Ian said, noting that while the family was intact, it was large.

When Leonard contacted Mike, it spurred interest from both Ian and Mike, so much so the family created a Facebook page.

Ian’s father was one of 10 children, and according to Ian any Murtaughs not in the New York/New Jersey metro area lived in the New England area.

He also knew his grandfather, originally from Vermont, moved to Albert Lea as a child. While the family eventually moved back to New England, Mike invited Ian,

John Dippolito and Neale Hoskins to a family picnic.

“We knew that my great-grandfather, James, had moved to Albert Lea, because we believe he had a cousin here that enticed him to come for the free land the government was giving away or the opportunity that existed,” Ian said.

According to Ian, living in the area proved difficult for his great-grandmother, with three young children, back in the 1880s.

“They moved back to the relative warmth of New Hampshire,” Ian said.

After Mike and Ian got to know each other through the family Facebook page, Ian decided to take a trip as part of his and John Dippolito’s third annual long motorcycle trip. Dippolito is a cousin of Ian’s through marriage.

“It was about time to go to Minnesota and meet Mike Murtaugh for the first time,” Ian said, noting this was his first time in Albert Lea.

But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t excited, and said he was wide-eyed taking everything in for the first time.

While here, Mike also planned to give the three a tour of the area, including Alden.

“Their family, when they were here, had property land in Alden, and I’ve got a record of that from 1881 when they purchased the farmland,” Mike said.

Taking them through the area during the Third of July celebration was merely a coincidence.

“We had done this trip usually the first two weeks of July, and that was not part of our plan, but it was just a happy coincidence,” Ian said. “I’ve seen on the family Facebook page … and this is an opportunity to really connect some dots.”

Besides Ian and Dippolito, Neale Hoskins — whom Ian described as an honorary cousin — is also in town through the Fourth of July. Following the Fourth, Ian, Dippolito and Hoskins plan to head to Rapid City, South Dakota, before circling back though Colorado and Missouri.

“It’s a motorcyclist’s mecca,” Ian said.