For St Patrick’s Day- another Patrick Sheehan turns up (and two more Johns…)

It seems appropriate on St Patrick’s Day to add another Patrick to the family tree. I’ve also found two more John Sheehans- one of whom was the (presumably) proud father of seven daughters!

We’ve known for some time now that our great grandparents were Patrick and Bridget (Doody) Sheehan. Last summer the newly published Catholic Parish Registers provided documentation that Patrick’s parents (and our great great grand parents) were named John and Bridget Sheehan. [Note: when I speak of “our great grandparents”, or whatever, I’m speaking of my generation: the grand children of Ellen Sheehan in Ireland, and of Ellen’s brother Nicholas Sheehan and their sisters Margaret (Sheehan) Powers and Bridget (Sheehan) Greene in America.]

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that John and Bridget had more children than just our great grandfather Patrick- and I recently came across a document that provides more information on Patrick’s siblings.

An extract from the 1851 census lists John and Bridget, said to have been married in 1839, and their children Mary (11 years old), Patrick (8) (our great grandfather), and Ellen (6 months). There is another child not listed on the extract- because he hadn’t yet been born. That child, born in about 1857, was named John, after his father. We know this because he is the person who requested the census extract from the records office in 1921, probably as documentation for a pension application. A note on the extract refers to the “applicant” as John Sheehan of Coolnagapoge, son of the head of household in the census record.

The 1901 and 1911 census records show a Sheehan family living in Coolnagoppoge, which is between Fenor and Tramore. The head of household was a John Sheehan, born in about 1857. His wife’s name was Kate Corbett. Based on the 1851 census extract, it now appears certain that this John Sheehan was the son of our great great grandfather John, and the brother of our great grandfather Patrick.

That means that we probably have more Sheehan relatives in the area. They may not be easy to find, however, since seven of John and Kate’s eight children were girls, and so would have changed their names if and when they got married. The son was named Patrick. He was born in about 1891, and was still alive twenty years later, at the time of the 1911 census. That would make him about the same age as Ellen Sheehan, and about ten years younger than Ellen’s brother, and my grandfather, Nicholas Sheehan. (And just to add some confusion to the tree, this Patrick is about the same age as the Patrick who died in World War I, who was his second cousin) So, assuming this Patrick went on to raise a family, there may well be some of his grandchildren still around!

So that’s our new Patrick, and one new John. The other “new” John in the family tree is the child of our great grandparents, Patrick and Bridget. According to the Fenor church records, John Sheehan was baptized on 31 March, 1880. That’s about all I know about this John at the moment. He doesn’t appear on the 1901 census with the rest of the family, but that wouldn’t be unusual. At the age of 21, he could very well be working for wages on someone else’s farm, just as his younger brother Patrick was at the time of the 1911 census.

It’s also possible, of course, that this John Sheehan didn’t live to adulthood. But there’s an even more intriguing possibility- that he came to America. That’s actually a very likely scenario, because six of his seven siblings born prior to 1886, are known to have emigrated. So we may very well have more Sheehans to find on both sides of the Atlantic!

The brother and sister Dad never knew

Dad came from a pretty big family, ay least by current American standards- Nicholas and Mary (Casey) Sheehan had seven children who lived to adulthood. I’ve always had the suspicion that there might have been more children who didn’t make it that far- partly because of the gaps between birthdates of some of my aunts and uncles, and partly because of an odd entry on the 1910 census. On that census, Grandmother is reported to have given birth to four children, of whom only two survived. The problem is that the same form says the couple had four children alive at the time of the census- and we know that all of them lived to adulthood- Uncles Frank, William and Thomas, and Aunt May.

So I wasn’t totally surprised the other day when the Familysearch web site popped up a “record hint” concerning one Anastatia M. Sheehan, born on August 3, 1914, in Worcester, to Nicholas and Mary Sheehan. I had found my Aunt Anastatia without even knowing that she existed.

Anastatia was a popular name in Ireland at the time, and it was also the name of Grandmother Sheehan’s own mother, Anastatia (Morrissey) Casey. Anastatia doesn’t appear on the 1920 census listing of the Sheehans, so my assumption was that she had passed away prior to 1920.

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It turns out that Anastatia was just three when she died, on 3 September, 1917. The cause of death was “diarrhea – enteritis”. It’s hard to imagine nowadays, but diarrhea, brought on by a bacterial infection, was one of the leading causes of death for children in America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This was particularly true in crowded manufacturing cities like Worcester. Twenty years earlier, in 1896, Grandfather’s sister Bridget lost a daughter to a similar disease, cholera infantum.

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Anastatia’s death wasn’t the only tragedy to befall my grandparents in 1917. While searching for her death record, I found another unexpected document. It was a death certificate, recording the birth, on January 20, 1917, of a premature, stillborn male child to Nicholas and Mary. The death certificate does not give a name for the infant.

So Dad had an older sister and brother that he would never know. Dad himself was born just over a year after Anastatia’s death, when Grandmother Sheehan was 41. By the time my Aunt Helen came along in 1923, Grandmother was just shy of her 46th birthday. To put that in perspective, Helen was already an aunt at the age of three, after the birth of her brother William’s first child, Eleanor (aka “Rusty”), in 1926.

That leaves open the question of whether or not there were additional children born to Nicholas and Mary that we don’t know about. I can’t say for sure, but it seems unlikely. My grand-parents were married in Mechanicville NY on 21 May 1902. Their first child, Francis Patrick (Uncle Frank) was born in Mechanicville on 13 March, 1903. No room there for an additional birth. Their second child, William, was born in Worcester on 17 September 1904. In theory there could be an additional birth in between, but if you do the math, there is a window of only about 14 days during which such a birth could occur. The Worcester City Clerk’s database doesn’t list any births of Sheehan children during that period.

I did the same calculations for the gaps between the births of the rest of the Sheehan children, and found that all of the babies born during those “windows” belonged to other couples.

Keefe Place is near the top of the image, just left of center. Note Kendall St at the bottom, which is still there, but cut off by 290.
Keefe Place is near the top of the image, just left of center. Note Kendall St at the bottom, which is still there, but cut off by the Expressway.

Anastatia’s death certificate provided another interesting piece of information- the family’s address in 1917. It’s another example of the Sheehan family’s habit of moving every few years. In 1917 they lived at 7 Keefe Place, an address I hadn’t previously come across. You won’t find that location on a current map, but a 1911 map of Worcester places it on the west side of Lincoln Street just about where the Expressway overpass is now. Their next door neighbor to the north was St. John’s Episcopal Church, which, like Keefe Place, was demolished in the early 60’s to make room for the Expressway. To the south was the original location of Sawyer’s lumberyard. In the back was the very polluted Mill Brook, the source of the Blackstone River, and beyond that, the Fitchburg railroad line. A far cry from Islandikane and Tramore!

By the time of Dad’s birth in 1918, the family had moved again, to 2 Union Place, near Posner Square.

More about that address here.

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.

More on Patrick Sheehan and the Machine Gun Corps

Insignia of the Machine Gun Corps
Insignia of the Machine Gun Corps

I posted a while back about some additional information I’d found on our grand-uncle, Patrick Sheehan, who is buried in the Sheehan family plot in the Fenor Churchyard. Patrick was the brother of Ellen Sheehan, and of my grandfather, Nicholas Sheehan. His gravestone indicates that he was a member of the Machine Gun Corps in the British Army in World War I, and his grave is listed in the Commonwealth War Graves directory. The medal card I found online in April didn’t really provide much beyond confirming that Patrick did see active duty on the continent, so I contacted Graham Sacker at the Machine Gun Corps database web site to see if he might have any additional information on Patrick. The response was a bit disappointing (a large number of British military records, likely including Patrick’s, were destroyed when a German bombing raid struck the War Office repository in 1940), but provided useful background on the MGC, and how Patrick may have ended up in the corps: Continue reading “More on Patrick Sheehan and the Machine Gun Corps”

A new clue about Patrick Sheehan

Patrick Sheehan Medal CardWith all of the talk about the World War I centenary, it’s appropriate that I recently came across another piece of information about my grand uncle, Patrick Sheehan, who served in the Machine Gun Corps in the war. Patrick was the brother of my grandfather, Nicholas Sheehan, and of Ellen Sheehan. Patrick died in 1919, and he’s buried in the Fenor churchyard, next to the plot containing the graves of his sister Ellen, Ellen’s sons Maurice (Mossy), and Edmond (Kevin), and Edmond’s wife Joan (Wade) Sheehan. Patrick’s gravestone includes the insignia of the Machine Gun Corps, as well as his regimental number, 88773.

patricksheehangraveWhen I first saw the photo Leon took of the graves a couple of years ago, I thought that the number would be a key to discovering more about Patrick, but, unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Just as many American military records were destroyed in a 1973 fire at a St. Louis records center, many British military records were lost when, in 1940, the London building housing them was destroyed in the blitz. It doesn’t appear that Patrick’s records survived that fire.

So I was surprised to discover this “medal card” in the online records hosted by the UK National Archives, that includes Patrick’s name and regimental number. It doesn’t, unfortunately, add a great deal of information on its own. It does indicate that he was eligible for the Allied Victory, and British War medals. These were awarded to all who served in operational units in the war.

The medal card also contains a cross-reference to the actual “medal roll”- in this case, 10 1B58, page 4841. Sadly, the medal rolls themselves are not available online- you have to actually visit the archives at Kew to access them. While the rolls don’t include any detailed information about the individual, they would at least reveal the specific unit Patrick was assigned to, which might provide some additional leads to pursue.

Finding Uncle William

When I started researching the family history, I managed to figure out the basics of all of Dad’s siblings except for his brother William. He was Grandfather and Grandmother Sheehan’s second child, born in Worcester in 1904. The only other fact I knew in the beginning was that our cousin Rusty was his daughter. Rusty’s real name was Eleanor, (probably named after Grandfather’s sister Ellen) and we used to see her and her husband George Brunt when we’d visit Florida. I remember being confused when Mom told me Rusty was my cousin, because she seemed to be close to Mom’s age (she was born in 1928). To me that made her an aunt, not a cousin!

William married Helen Gaffney sometime in the early 1920’s. In addition to Rusty, they had another daughter, Mary, born in 1926. In later years, Mary lived in Grafton, and I remember visiting her house with Mom and Dad when I was younger. There was also a son, Thomas, born in 1929, who became a very successful lawyer and insurance executive. The family appear in the 1930 census, living in Worcester. William was 25, and worked as an office clerk at a “loom works”, probably Crompton & Knowles. That was the last record I could find prior to the 1940 census being released in 2012. Continue reading “Finding Uncle William”

May 26 1877- Grandmother Mary Casey Sheehan is born

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Ballaghavorraga (Ballymarket), County Waterford. Photo from Google Street View

One hundred and thirty six years ago today, on May 26 1877, Mary Casey was born in a little village called Ballaghavorraga (or Ballymarket) in County Waterford. Mary was the sixth child born to Michael and Anastasia (Morrissey) Casey. In 1891, at the age of just 14 years, Mary emigrated to the US, settling in the railroad village of Mechanicville NY, where she worked as a domestic servant in the home of a prominent factory owner.

Several members of the Casey, Powers and Sheehan families moved to Mechanicville in the following years, including, in 1901, Nicholas Sheehan. Mary and Nicholas were married in Mechanicville on May 21 1902. Their first child, Francis Patrick Sheehan, aka “Uncle Frank” was born in Mechanicville the following year. Shortly after that, the family moved to Worcester, where Nicholas’s brother Edward (“Uncle Ned”), and sister Bridget had settled.

Nicholas and Mary lived in Worcester until 1951 when they retired to Florida, along with their daughters May, Helen, and Kathleen. Mary died in Coral Gables Florida in 1962.

Mary Casey – I15 – Individual Information – PhpGedView.

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!

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 “The Sheehans come to America: Bridget”