Monday, March 5, 2012

Mystery Monday: What child is this?

Mystery Monday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that asks us to share mystery ancestors or mystery records – anything in our family history research which is currently unsolved.  With any luck fellow genealogy bloggers will lend their eyes to what has been found so far and possibly help solve the mystery.

When my cousin gave birth to a Down’s Syndrome son thirteen years ago, the entire family was shocked.  Her pregnancy had been uneventful.  She did not fit any risk profile.  We wiped our tears and concluded it must have just been a fluke.


So when I was going through our great aunt Helen Killeen Parker’s scrapbook, and saw these pictures I gasped: 

This is definitely a boy with Down’s Syndrome.  But who was he?  I suppose it’s possible he was a brother to Helen and I suppose it’s possible he died young and I suppose no one talked about him which would explain why my dad and his sister never mentioned him.  But he’s not in the 1910 or 1920 census with any of our family. 

I wonder if he was a cousin.  In St. Paul’s Catholic Church Cemetery (Portsmouth, Virginia) where the Killeens and Walshes are buried, there is a grave for a John J. Walsh inscribed “Our beloved son.”

Photo by Maggie

The dates 1905-1919 match the date on the boy’s pictures.  However, he is not in a plot near my great grandmother Mary Theresa Walsh.  In fact, he’s half way across the cemetery from any of my known Walsh relatives.  Instead it's more likely he belonged to the Walsh family buried around him.  In 1910, Thomas and Deliah Walsh had a son John, age 5.  In 1920, little John is not in the census with them.  So if this picture is of THEIR son, then why is it in my great aunt’s scrapbook?  Maybe Thomas was a brother to my great grandfather John Walsh whose family I have yet to determine.  This is a terrific clue to expand my research.

And if this little boy was indeed family, it is important genetic information.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. What an interesting mystery! I've honestly never seen an old photo showing a child with Down Syndrome.

    1. Neither had I -- before this one. I think most people shipped their Down's Syndrome children off to an institution.

  2. At that time the life expectancy would have been lower for children with Downs. They are prone to respiratory infections and a lot would have probably died with pneumonia, this would have been pre-antibiotics.

    When I was in Nursing School in the late 60's the majority of them were institutionalized.

  3. As I mentioned when we talked about this little boy, most families in Ireland kept their Downs Syndrome children with them, not like the USA where they were institutionalized.

    It might be worth a shot to look and see if the pictures match any others that we have; such as Mae's house that was around the corner,etc.

    I am hoping that you find the connection with that Walsh family and ours.