I have had no luck finding archives regarding Detective Frank (Franny, Francis) Murphy.

As a boy My Grandmother would show me a photo album with page after page of his exploits on and off duty! I was always amazed and have been unable to locate a thing now. The police department said, Do you know how many Francis Murphy's we have had?

I said he was a detective and he said it did not matter, I recall he was in Roxbury and he was in the SS, secret services? My Father told me Franny was the kind of cop they wrote about, he lived on a boat in Boston and worked as security for a TV/Radio station in 1968 the year he retired and died.

My Mother showed me her album since then but I cannot find the paper I wrote down the names of his partner on.

I read he was very active in crime fighting, it was as if I was reading scripts for a detective TV show! My Father said Franny was well known as was his Mother and sister Mary, all the police knew them and Franny. Franny lived at home with his Sister and Mother when young and My Grandmother said they could go weeks without seeing him come or go, he was hiding his black eyes and stitches etc from his Mother. There was a story where he jumped off a fire escape and broke a guy's leg, another he was at a bar or restaurant and 2 robbers came in and he killed them off duty! There was one where he and his partner were the subject of an all night ride along, The reporter described Murphy as a squat large built person who could instantly move like lightning and was very good with his fists! It was as if his best buddies were reporters and they wrote about his many adventures to the point I assumed some body would recall him, but no.

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    What is your question? I presume it is 'How can I find out more about his Police service'. Is this what you want suggestions for or something else? You can edit your question.
    – Colin
    Sep 19, 2013 at 7:53
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    The fundamental element of a good search strategy is knowing where to search. You need to identify the place most likely to contain relevant information. If I was looking for a Boston cop in the 1950s, I would head for a collection of newspapers of the day.
    – Fortiter
    Sep 19, 2013 at 9:17
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    If you still have the photo album, you might be able to find clues in there that could help you identify him.
    – Luke_0
    Sep 19, 2013 at 13:56
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    And if you don't have the photo album, make a list of all your relatives and grandmother's decedents and begin, one by one, calling or writing to them to ask them what they know about Francis Murphy. Their memories may guide you to some concrete evidence. The photo album may also turn up :) Sep 21, 2013 at 14:27
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    Hint: the obituary is pretty easy to find if you don't restrict yourself to the 1968 death date.
    – Jan Murphy
    Dec 8, 2013 at 22:40

2 Answers 2


Create a biographical sketch and timeline, and a research plan. To find his records in any archive, first you need to have enough specific information to be sure that you are asking about the right individual.

You read newspaper accounts in the scrapbook, so if you don't have access to the scrapbook, step one would be to find the newspaper accounts, and his obituary. Newspaper sites like Genealogy Bank, Newspaper Archive, Google News Search, etc. might be available for search at your local public library if you can't afford a subscription. When looking for an obituary, put in 1968, but search for a range around that year in case your father's memory of the date of death is not quite accurate. Use a keyword search to look for combinations of the keywords in your original question. (SS = special services)

Assemble the information you find in chronological order to make a timeline.

The purpose of this is to make it easier to ask for and find any records which might exist. The problem with genealogy these days is that advertising from big sites like Ancestry.com encourage us to start immediately searching by name when there are other things we need to consider first. Find his date of death and work backwards from there. Use what you find as the basis for other research questions. Which radio station was it? How long did he work there? When was his retirement from the BPD? How long was his career?

There's a huge difference between asking someone "Do you have any material on Francis Murphy?" and "Where can I find records about members of the Boston Police Department who served in the period 1940-1970? The detective I'm researching worked in special services and retired in 1965."

As you've seen, if you ask the question the first way, especially with a common name like Murphy, you'll get the answer that there are too many Murphys to answer your question; if you ask the second way, you may get the answer that BPD service records are not available to the public, or they might be able to direct you to someone who might know (e.g. at the City Archives). After you find a collection of records that might be relevant, then you ask "is there anyone named Francis Murphy in this collection?" and "How can I tell if this Francis Murphy is the one I'm looking for, or someone else with the same name?"

After gathering more information, if I wanted to hunt down the service records, I might search at the Boston City Archives or seek help from the reference desk of the Boston Public Library. I would expect much more information to be available locally and off-line than I could find myself using online services, but before I reached out to those organizations I would collect whatever I could find that might help identify the person I wanted to research. I would also expect that some records would not be available due to privacy concerns.

If I could not research in person, after assembling a precise set of questions that I wanted to know the answers to, and establishing a budget, I would consider hiring a professional genealogist. But no matter who does the search -- whether you do it yourself, or whether you hire someone to do it for you -- the search will be far more productive if you have a clear picture of what you want to know, and search for the answers to specific, focused questions.

Pay close attention to the specific information you find in any records or newspaper accounts you seek; when you search for more records, it helps to record and use the specific language that the records themselves will use. Researching the general background of the city and the Police Department gives context for what you find -- if you find important events, add that background information to your timeline as well.

For example: according to the newspaper the Boston Record American, in February of 1964 the special service squad was broken up and the men were transferred to other units (Source: Genealogy Bank; published on Thursday, February 27, 1964, in the Boston Record American (Boston, MA). page 4, column 1). This fact now gives you two things to search for -- before 1964, you search for references to the special service squad; after the reorganization, you search for the Criminal Investigative Division (CID).

In this particular case, it is especially helpful to study Murphy's associates. Collect the names of other detectives and officers who are mentioned in the newspaper articles that you find him in. Searching for their names may help you find other newspaper articles in which Murphy also appears. Newspapers are often transcribed or indexed by computers using a process called optical character recognition (OCR), which isn't perfect. You can't depend on every instance of 'Murphy' being transcribed as 'Murphy' because the computer can make a mistake. (One common mistake seen in Ancestry's City Directories: the middle initial H is read as II.)

Displays of search results and articles displayed from the search may also be limited on how many hits they report per page. If you search for 'funeral' on Genealogy Bank and choose the setting that highlights the word 'funeral' on the chosen newspaper page, it may only highlight the first several instances of the word, so if you have an entire page of funeral notices, look at the entire page to make sure the notice you seek isn't buried at the bottom without a highlight.

A brief death notice for retired police detective Francis J. Murphy was published in the newspaper Boston Record American (Boston, Massachusetts) in the Saturday, December 16, 1967 issue, page 21, column 1, and can be seen at Genealogy Bank (requires a subscription). According to the article, he worked for the department for 20 years (many of them on special services) and for radio station WHDH for two years as their head of security.

Another brief article appeared in the Boston Herald (Boston, MA) the following day (Sunday, December 17, 1967, page 64, column 3). The Herald says that he was appointed to the Boston police department Dec 18, 1946, and was assigned to District 19, Mattapan, before he got the assignment to the Special Service squad at headquarters. "He subsequently was promoted to first grade detective and assigned to the headquarters detective bureau for city-wide investigative assignments."

Working backwards from this date, and varying the keywords, you can find other articles.

If you don't want to subscribe to Genealogy Bank, you may be able to access these articles at your local public library, if your library has NewsBank (both are owned by ProQuest). WorldCat lists some holdings for the Boston Record American at the Library of Congress and at the State Library of Massachusetts (in Boston). Wikipedia's list of online newspaper archives may also be useful.

When using any library or online subscription service, make a note of the coverage for the collection you have searched -- collections are often incomplete, and one repository may have issues of a newspaper that another one lacks.

His police service records may not be accessible to the public; if you want to hire a professional, be prepared to provide proof of your relationship.

Another thing to consider: Boston historical societies and/or genealogical societies might be able to help you. For instance, the New England Historical and Genealogical Society (NEHGS), which is based in Boston, has both free events which are open to the public, and paid workshops for people who want to learn more about their family history. (One such example: "The New England Historic Genealogical Society is participating in the Free Fun Fridays program sponsored by the Highland Street Foundation. On Friday, July 11, 2014, NEHGS will open our doors at no cost to visitors all day long." NEHGS also has free 15-minute consultations, but space is limited, and you have to sign up in advance.)

If you have a digital camera or scanner, you could take photos of the scrapbook. That way the original scrapbook could stay safe at home, but you would have copies that you could take with you while you are doing research. (NEVER take originals out on the road with you -- they might be damaged or lost.)

One other thing to consider: your relative died in 1967. Reading the scrapbook of his cases, which were written as they happened, will leave you with a feeling that not much time has passed. But if you are talking about someone who served in the 1960s, fifty years have passed since then. How long is the service career of detectives like your relative? Speaking of career terms rather than lifetimes, two generations may have gone by. I would ask at the City Archives or a historical society to find out if anyone specializes in the history of the BPD -- that would be one way to find out others who may know more about your relative, or other detectives in his unit.


I have discovered more information and just located news archives with many Frances Murphy incidents of bravery and duty.

"Slattery's Raiders", a group of officers under the command of Captain John J. Slattery, Jr. that was formed to combat vice and street crime in Boston.

Members of the elite unit called Slatterys Raiders.

John J. Slattery, 86, deputy supt. of Boston Police Joseph Michael "Joe" Jordan is a retired American law enforcement officer who served as Commissioner of the Boston Police Department from 1976 to 1985. Emmett F. McNamara Frances Murphy

John J. Slattery, 86, deputy supt. of Boston Police.(Obituary) Article from: The Boston Herald | March 18, 1997
John Joseph Slattery of Braintree, formerly of Port Charlotte, Fla., a retired deputy superintendent of the Boston Police Department, died Feb. 16. He was 86.

Born in Boston, he lived in Florida for 30 years after his retirement. He served in the Marine Corps in Nicaragua in the late 1920s. He was made a drill instructor on Parris Island at 19 years of age. He served in the state police for two years before joining the Boston Police Department, where he was placed in charge of a crime-fighting team of officers called "Slattery's Raiders." Joseph Jordan, a member of his team, was a past commissioner of the Boston Police. …

Joseph Michael "Joe" Jordan is a retired American law enforcement officer who served as Commissioner of the Boston Police Department from 1976 to 1985. He was the first uniformed BPD officer to rise through the ranks to become commissioner.

Early life Jordan was born in South Boston. He was the youngest of six children. As a child, Jordan wanted to be a police officer.

Early career In 1946, Jordan joined the Boston Police Department as a traffic patrol officer. In 1950 he became a detective. During the 1950s and 60s he was a member of "Slattery's Raiders", a group of officers under the command of Captain John J. Slattery, Jr. that was formed to combat vice and street crime in Boston. In 1967 Jordan was chosen to command the department's narcotics unit. Two years later he was promoted to Deputy Superintendent and Chief of Detectives. In 1973 he was placed in command of Area C, which consisted of the Allston,

Brighton, Back Bay, and the South End. On July 17, 1974, Jordan was promoted to Superintendent and placed in charge of the Bureau of Field Services. He was later named Superintendent-in-

Chief, the second highest position in the BPD after Commissioner.

In 1946, Jordan joined the Boston Police Department as a traffic patrol officer. In 1950 he became a detective. During the 1950s and 60s he was a member of "Slattery's Raiders", a group of officers under the command of Captain John J. Slattery, Jr. that was formed to combat vice and street crime in Boston. While serving as a police officer, Jordan took courses at Northeastern University as a way to study to promotion exams. He spent sixteen years as a student at Northeastern and earned his bachelor's degree in 1969. He later completed a master's program in public administration.

January 15, 1985, Jordan announced that he was retiring effective January 31. After his retirement from the BDP, Jordan became an associate at Cass Associates, a Boston security consulting and investigating firm that developed security and drug programs for hospitals and technology companies.

Emmett F. McNamara

Emmett F. McNamara Obituary - 89 years old, of Braintree, retired Boston Police Detective of 35 years, He was born in Roxbury and formerly of Jamaica Plain and Hyde Park. Emmett was a World War II veteran of the U. S. Army and a proud member of the Greatest Generation and was chosen to be in the OSS office of Strategic Service during the war. Prior to the war, he was a member of the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). After the war, he was hired as a guard at the old Charlestown Prison, and then was appointed to the Boston Police Department in 1954. He was a member of an elite unit called Slatterys Raiders. He earned several citations and was promoted to Detective 3rd grade. In 1964, he single handily apprehended four suspects of an armed robbery of the Progressive Credit Union and was promoted to Detective 1st grade and continued to distinguish himself through the rest of his career until his retirement in 1988.

Frances Murphy

Franny's career paralelled the rest of the members in that he was appointed in 1946, distinguished himself as an officer and was made a detective and Slattery's Raider. Franny died in 1967, retired in 1965 and was head of security for WHDH-TV, a CBS affiliate, owned by The Boston Herald-Traveler Corp.

  • Welcome to G&FH SE! Thanks for taking the time to look into this question that was asked a while ago.
    – PolyGeo
    Jan 18, 2015 at 7:05

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