On this day: April 21, 1676- The death of Nathaniel Seaver

When I wrote about our ancestors who fought in the Revolution, I said I suspected we had some French and Indian War veterans in our family tree, but didn’t know for sure. I still don’t, but I did come across a record of a family member who served (and died) in an even earlier conflict, King Philip’s war:

397px-SudburyMA_FightMarkerNathaniel [Seaver], son of Robert and Elizabeth (Ballard) Seaver, was baptized in Roxbury, January 8, 1645, and was slain by Indians in the battle of Sudbury, Massachusetts, April 21, 1676, during King Philip’s War. He was one of ten Sudbury men who were killed on that day and served in Captain Wadsworth’s company.

The site of the battlefield where Captain Wadsworth so long held the Indians at bay is on what is now called “Green Hill.” While an attack was being made on a small body of eighteen minute-men under Edward Cowell, Captain Wadsworth and his company came upon the scene and seeing a small party of Indians rushed forward with impetuous haste and were caught in the usual ambuscade, for when within about a mile of Sudbury they were induced to pursue a body of not more than one hundred Indians and soon found themselves drawn about a mile into the woods, where on a sudden they were encompassed by more than five hundred, and were forced to a retreating fight toward a hill where they made a brave stand for a time (one authority says four hours) and did heavy execution of the enemy until (Hubbard says) the night coming on and some of the company beginning to scatter from the rest of their companions were forced to follow them, and thus being surrounded in the chase the officers and most of the company were slain. It is said that the savages set fire to the woods and thus forced the disastrous retreat, and only thirteen out of the entire company escaped to Noyes’ mill.

The New England Historical and Genealogical Register,: Volume 40 1886

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The Dunn Genes

danmaryaliceRindgeThere were a few comments about the “Dunn genes” last week, referring to Mom and Uncle Bud’s longevity. If you take a look at the Dunn family tree, though, you might wonder if genes had anything to do with it.

Grandfather Dunn was just 62 when he died in 1958. Nana had died the previous year at 68. All but one of Mom’s grandparents had even shorter lives. Her maternal grandfather, Daniel Farrar, died just two days shy of his 70th birthday- but the rest of Mom’s grandparents all died at the age of 52! Nana Dunn’s mother, Catherine (Creegan) Farrar died in 1905 of “nephritis”, a disease of the kidneys that I’d never heard of before, but which, according to Wikipedia, is the eighth leading cause of death in the world. (Catherine, incidentally, was Daniel’s third wife- the first two, Jane McKee and Florence McQuire, having died at the ages of 28 and 40, respectively.) Continue reading

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Aunt Winnie’s Dog?

winniesdogAnother of the photos Kerry scanned is a slightly blurry image of a dog, with “‘Teddy’ Aunt Winnie’s dog” written across the bottom. And who, you might ask, is Aunt Winnie?

She turns out to have been Winifred (Coleman) Shields. Winifred was born in Ireland in 1890 and emigrated to this country in 1905. Five years later she married Philip Shields, who was the brother of Aunt Belle. Philip’s mother, Bridget (Creegan) Shields was the sister of Catherine (Creegan) Farrar, Nana Dunn’s mother. So “Winnie” wasn’t really an aunt- she was the wife of Nana’s cousin, Philip. Which is why it was just easier to call her “Aunt Winnie”, I guess!

Philip and Winifred had two sons- John, born in 1912, who was a Commander in the US Navy, and worked as a legal officer at the Quonset Point Naval Air Station. David, born in 1915, was my godfather, and, appropriately enough, a post office clerk.

shields1They are all gone now- John died in 1967, and David ten years later. It doesn’t appear that John or David had any children. The last of the Shields to pass away was David’s wife Dorothy, who died in 2003.

All ten members of the Shields family are buried in the family plot at St Francis Cemetery in Pawtucket.

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Our family’s veterans from the Civil War and the Revolution

In the previous entry I wrote about members of our family who had served in the two world wars. We also have veterans who served in wars going at least as far back as the Revolution. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that some of our ancestors also served in the French and Indian War as well, since the Cogswells and Seavers were already well established in Massachusetts by that time, but I haven’t come across any records of that yet.

danmaryaliceRindgeBefore I started my research, of course, it wouldn’t have occurred to me that we’d even have had Civil War veterans in our past, since I assumed I was only a generation or two removed from Ireland in relation to all my ancestors. The person who changed that was Mom’s paternal grandmother, Mary Alice (Smith) Dunn. She’s the woman sitting in front of the home she and husband Daniel shared in Rindge, New Hampshire, where Daniel was the local blacksmith. Mary Alice’s father was Leonard O. Smith, born in Foster, Rhode Island, descended from the Smith and Shippee families that had been prominent in that state from its beginning. Her mother was Lydia (Cogswell) Smith. The Cogswells had come to New England in 1637. Lydia’s mother was Lucy (Seaver) Cogswell, whose ancestors arrived in Boston in 1635. Continue reading

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Mystery Christmas Photo

Update: I subsequently figured out who most of the people in this photo are- see “Finding Uncle William“.

Among the photographs Kerry scanned and made available on Snapfish, I found this one to be pretty interesting. It’s apparently a Sheehan family Christmas gathering. The problem is that I can’t identify some of the people in the picture.

mysteryxmasphotoFirst of all, when and where was the photo taken? Almost certainly at Grandfather’s house, since he’s seated in the center. He bought the house on Marsh Avenue in 1942, so assuming that’s Dad sitting in the front, that would date it to 1945 at the earliest- the year Dad returned home from the war.

So who are these people? Let’s start with the easy ones- Sitting in the front row, on the right hand side is Dad. behind him, seated from left to right, it looks like Grandfather Sheehan, Aunt May, Grandmother Sheehan, and… someone. I believe the two women standing in the background are Aunts Kathleen and Helen. I don’t have any idea who the two men are, but it looks like they may be wearing uniforms?

Going back to the front row- the four young men on the left may be Uncle William’s sons.

William’s sons were (with their ages in 1945): Francis (11), John (13), William Jr. (15), and Thomas (16). William Jr. passed away in 1988, and John died in 1995. Francis died in 2014. As far as I know, Thomas is still alive.

One of the two unidentified women, most likely the one sitting next to Dad, may be William’s daughter Eleanor, whom we knew as “Rusty”, and who would have been 17 in 1945. Rusty died in 2004. The other young woman may be Helen and William’s daughter Mary, who would have been about 19 in 1945. Mary died in 1981.

If anyone has any other suggestions, let me know!

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Six degrees of Mom

I think most people are familiar with the “six degrees of separation” idea- the suggestion that you are connected to everyone else in the world by no more than six individual connections. Whether or not that’s actually true, it is kind of interesting to see how closely people are connected. In particular, I was curious how far back in time can you go to find connections. Continue reading

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The veterans in our family tree

World War II

One of the things I wish I had talked with Dad about more was his military service. I knew that he had served in North Africa, and then Italy and France, but that’s about it. Aside from a few random recollections, like seeing the Sistine Chapel, or swimming in the Mediterranean, I don’t really know any details of his service. As far as I know, he was the only member of his immediate family to serve in the military- his brothers were all more than a decade older. Dad enlisted on February 20, 1941. Here are the details of his enlistment record: Continue reading

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The Sheehans come to America: Bridget

Patrick and Bridget Sheehan had eleven children, and six of them emigrated to America- at least as far as I know at the moment. Here’s a short history…

I believe the first of the Sheehans to come to the US was Bridget, who was also the first born child in the family. Bridget was born in 1871, and probably emigrated in 1891- that’s the date given for her arrival on the 1900 US Census. In 1893 she was living in Worcester, Massachusetts, and in November of that year married Michael Greene, who was also a recent immigrant from Ireland. Their first child was a son, named James, born in 1894. A daughter, Mary, followed in 1896. Mary died from cholera infantum, shortly after her first birthday. Continue reading

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Another Sheehan in 1940 (and some newly discovered cousins in Florida)

When Ancestry announced recently that they had completed indexing the 1940 census returns for New York State, I immediately checked to see if I could find Grandfather Sheehan’s sister Margaret, who had emigrated to Mechanicville in the 1890’s, and who paid Grandfather’s passage when he came over in 1901. Margaret married Patrick Powers sometime before 1910- but I couldn’t find Patrick or Margaret in the 1940 returns. Continue reading

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Our family in the 1940 census

The 1940 census was released on Monday, and I’ve been able to locate some of our family, including both Mom and Dad. Finding people in this census is a bit of a challenge, because it hasn’t been indexed yet. The only practical method for locating individuals is to know where they lived in 1940. You can then use maps the census bureau prepared showing the “enumeration districts” that were used to conduct the count. Then you can go to the National Archives web site and view the individual census form images for that area. That usually means your hunt is narrowed down to a few dozen pages to scan through.
1940 United States Federal Census-MomI knew Mom and her family lived at 480 Sunderland Road in Worcester, so they were pretty easy to find- the Dunns are the next to the last household on the page. There aren’t any major surprises, but it’s pretty fascinating to see that Mom is 18, Uncle Bud 13, that the house is worth $5,000, and that Grandfather Dunn worked 48 hours the previous week. It doesn’t tell us how much he earned, because only wage income was listed, and Grandfather, who at the time owned a roofing business, was listed as an “employer”.
record_image(2)

There is one item that caught my eye- both Grandfather and Nana are listed as being 43 years of age. I knew that Nana was actually older than Grandfather, so I double checked, and verified that in the 1900 census, Nana was reported as being 11, having been born in April 1889. So she would actually have been 50, and about to turn 51 at the time of the 1940 census. And who supplied this misinformation to the census taker? Based on the circled “x” next to her name, it was none other than Nana herself!

Dad’s family was slightly more difficult to track down- the Sheehans moved several times over the years. In the 1939 Worcester City Directory, the family was living on Fairview Road in Greendale, but they didn’t show up there in the census, so I tried the address Grandfather gave in 1942 when he was required to register for the “Old Man’s Draft”- 913 Main St. And that’s where they were. I almost missed them because I saw another family listed as resident there- but the Sheehans show up on the next page, at the same address. The house is a three decker, and it’s actually listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The list of family members contains some surprises, at least for me. Grandfather and grandmother are there, of course, aged 58 and 61. Aunt May is 31, and lists her occupation as “marker” in a mill. “Catherine” (Aunt Kathleen I assume) is listed as a gas station attendant, but that’s got to be an error, and must refer to Dad. Aunt Helen is also there, aged 17.

Now for the surprises- our Uncle William, the father of our cousin Rusty is there. Rusty would have been 12 at the time, but neither she nor her two siblings, Mary and Thomas, nor their mother Helen is there. William is listed as single- not married, widowed or divorced.

There are also two young children in the house- Francis, aged 6, is listed as “son”, which must be an error, given grandfather and grandmother’s ages. The Worcester City Clerk’s web site does show a Francis Edward Sheehan born on Jun 25, 1934, who would be the right age. Unfortunately the web site doesn’t provide any more details. The other child is named Ann, listed as “grand-daughter”, aged 4- and the City Clerk’s records record an Ann Rita Sheehan born in Worcester on May 28, 1936.

I haven’t been able to find any further trace of Ann, but Francis seems to be alive and well (sort of) in Florida- someone with that name and date of birth was arrested for driving with a suspended license in April of last year, according to information I found in a Google search. (As I’m writing this, copies of Francis and Ann’s birth certificates arrived in the mail, confirming that they were the children of Uncle William and Aunt Helen- the Worcester City Clerk’s office is FAST!)

When I mentioned the names to Mom, she immediately said “well those were Bill’s kids”. She said that Bill also had another child, “Jackie”. Sure enough, there is a John M. Sheehan, born on Jan 11, 1932, who might well be “Jackie”. If John M. is Bill’s son Jackie, he apparently passed away on 14 Nov 1995, according to the Social Security Death Index.

When I asked Mom where Rusty, her mother and her siblings would have been in 1940, she said they might have been living with Thomas Sheehan’s family. Thomas owned the gas station on Grafton Street where Dad worked (and where he met Mom). Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate Tom and his family in the 1940 data. That may have to wait until the data is indexed.

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