Found- my great great grandfather Sheehan?

The National Library of Ireland last week published its collection of microfilmed Catholic parish records on its web site. There’s a lot of information there, but it isn’t all that easy to find details on specific individuals. The records are only indexed by parish, month, year, and type of record (i.e. baptism, marriage, death)- so you can’t do a search for all the records that mention, for example, the name Sheehan. There are also gaps in the coverage, and the records for Fenor only go as far as 1881. Lastly, the records are hand-written, in Latin.

Despite all that, so far I’ve been able able to find one definite match, and a very tantalizing possible one. The definite match was for our grand uncle Edward Francis Sheehan (1873-1960), the eldest brother of Ellen Sheehan and of my grandfather, Nicholas Sheehan:

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The record shows that “Uncle Ned”, as we knew him, was baptized on August 13, 1873, the son of Patrick and Bridget Sheehan. It also appears to confirm that he was baptized “Edmund” rather than “Edward”. Uncle Ned apparently decided to go by “Edward” after arriving in the US. On the documents recording his arrival at the port of Boston in 1902, his name appears both ways. That suggests that Ellen’s son Edmond (Kevin) Sheehan, and my father, Edmund Francis Sheehan, may have been named after Uncle Ned. (Not to mention my big brother, Edmund Jr., also known as Ned).

Uncle Ned’s godparents are recorded as Nicholas Doody and Maria Crotty. Nicholas may have been Bridget’s brother- which might explain my grandfather’s name.

Now for the possible match. Our great grandfather, Patrick Sheehan, gave his age as 69 in the 1911 census, which would mean he was born around 1842- so I scanned through the Fenor records for 1841-1843, and came up with this:

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The entry isn’t easy to read, but appears to record the baptism of Patrick (Patricius), son of John (Joannis) Sheehan and Bridget (Brigida) on February 27, 1843. The godparents are Michael Walsh and Maria Boland. (Curiously, the names of the baby and parents are Latinized, but the godparents’ names aren’t).

It isn’t definitive, but it certainly seems likely that this is our great grandfather’s baptismal record. Sheehan was not the most common surname in the Fenor records, so it would be quite a coincidence for there to have been another Patrick Sheehan born around the same time in the same parish. All of which means that our great great grand-parents are probably John and Bridget Sheehan

A tree sculpture for the Fenor graveyard

Just happened to come across this news video from RTE about a chain saw sculpture that now graces the Fenor churchyard. This is the church Grandfather Sheehan would have attended before he emigrated. It’s also the final resting place of his brother Patrick, who died in World War I, his sister Ellen, and Ellen’s sons Edmond and Maurice (aka “Mossey”).

F57b_SheehanThis is the stone marking the Sheehan Family plot. There is a separate stone marking Patrick’s grave. I would have thought that Grandfather’s parents, Patrick and Bridget (Doody) Sheehan would have been buried here as well, but their names don’t appear on the grave listing that the parish of Fenor has published online. As a matter of fact, “our” Sheehans are the only ones said to be buried here. There are no Doodys either.

Grandfather Sheehan’s parents found too!

Mom’s mention of Dad’s “spinster” cousins has led very quickly to the identification of our other set of great grandparents on Dad’s side of the family. They were Patrick and Marguerite Bridget (Doody) Sheehan. The first clues were the names of the sisters, Anna and Mary Sheehan. They were pretty easy to find in the 1930 census- two sisters in their twenties, single, and living with their parents. They were easy to trace through the years in the Worcester City Directories. The next clue was the Social Security Death Index record of an Anne (not Anna) Sheehan, born in 1907, having passed away in Worcester in 1986. The difference in spelling made me wonder if it really was the same person, but since “Anne”‘s date of death was given in the SSA record, it was a simple matter of checking the Telegram’s death notices around that date.

Bingo! The Anne who died in 1986 was indeed the daughter of Edward F. and Mary (Murphy) Sheehan! (The mother’s maiden name was new to me). Anne was buried, not surprisingly, in St. John’s Cemetery. A telephone call to St. John’s provided the location of Anne’s grave, and more importantly, the names, and burial dates of the other family members buried in the same plot.

It turned out that Mary, the mother, had passed away in 1948 at the age of 75. Edward died in 1960, and was buried exactly 12 years to the day after his wife. Their daughter Mary died just two years later.

Now that I knew when Edward died, I went back to the Telegram microfilms and found his obituary. The second line reads: “He was born in County Waterford, Ireland, a son of the late Patrick and Marguerite (Doody) Sheehan, and lived in Worcester for the last 64 years.” Confirmation of his relationship to Grandfather Sheehan comes later: “He leaves … a brother, Nicholas F. Sheehan of Perine, Fla.”