Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.
This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt can send Homo Sepians into a variety of directions including groups of three, posing, drinking, or even lurking in the doorway – although this last bit of inspiration was cropped out in the display tag.
The photo of these children looking back at the faceless torso lurking at the door is a microcosm of my world as a family historian. My ancestors – honestly, sometimes I think they’re all nameless lurkers. The champion lurkers are the Sheehan families of New York City, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Richmond Hill. That’s where my great-grandmother’s sisters and maybe a brother lived in the late 1800s and early-mid 1900s following their emigration from Ireland, at least according to the clues left behind in a couple of photo albums.
I have written about photos in these albums before, complaining loud and long about how most are unlabeled except for one thin album dedicated to these children, John Jr. and Bob. (I wrote about how I discovered Bob was a girl HERE.) Unfortunately, none of the adults are labeled, just nameless lurkers waiting to be discovered.
Available sources online produced nothing conclusive for my great-grandmother’s brother and sisters. If I’m going to learn anything about them, it is time to get serious, and by “serious,” I mean creative.
I started with this photo of cousin Sadie Burns, daughter of Sarah Sheehan Burns. It’s shocking how many Sarah Burns with a daughter Sarah or Sadie lived in New York City as if purposely confounding my search. Sadie’s habit is that of the Dominican Order of Preachers. Fellow blogger Marti Kerkhoff Wallace has made herself an expert on Catholic research, so I turned to her for advice. While Marti gave me several people to contact, I was hampered by not knowing Sadie’s religious name or where she might have served.
Facebook ended up being my most productive research tool. I joined the New York City Genealogy Group. My photos and questions led nowhere, but in reading other posts I learned about a website called Italiangen.
Naturally, because my family isn’t Italian, I ignored it at first until a knowledgeable member of the group said that it isn’t just for Italians. That’s where I learned that my great grandmother’s sister Josephine Sheehan Burns wasn’t Burns at all – she was Krause (confirmed by a marriage record at FamilySearch).
|Snip from the database of marriage records on Italiangen|
|John Jr., Josie, Bob|
the back says "Bob sucks her thumm"
It was through this same NYC Facebook group that I learned about the Brooklyn Genealogy Group, so I joined that one too. Some lovely member posted a link to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle where I found an obituary for my great grandaunt Delia Sheehan Christian.
|from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle|
Aha – a married name for her daughter Elmira/Elmyra! Zarek. She was single in the 1940 census but married by 1942 when her mother died. I began calculating – if she had children, they might be a bit older than me but definitely still living.
|Left - My grandmother Julia Walsh (Slade)|
Right - Elmyra Christian
probably about 1920
Those children could be on Facebook!
And that’s when I crossed over to the dark side and became a Facebook Stalker. I used the SEARCH box and looked for ZAREK. There are Zareks on Facebook. And in New York, to boot.
Even though these Zareks have heeded the warnings about privacy settings, they still allowed me to see their list of FRIENDS. One of the friends bears the maiden name “Christian.” Eureka! I found them – my second cousins once removed.
I quickly dashed off private messages, but since they weren’t my Facebook friends, the messages fell into that mysterious “OTHER FOLDER.” However, there is a way to get around the need for FRIEND status in order to send a message. Facebook will send those messages directly for $1.00. Yes, $1.00.
Why, of course, I gave Facebook my credit card on that secure site. I’m a desperate lurker-turned-stalker.
In no time, I heard back from both of them. They’re glad to hear from me. No surprise there – what can I say? However, I confess to being a bit discouraged when one of my new-found cousins did not know of anyone in the family with children John Jr. and Bob. Now I must face the possibility that these cousins are likewise too far removed from their grandaunts to solve the mystery of the faceless woman lurking in the doorway.
For more stories of posers, drinkers, and lurkers, please visit Sepia Saturday.
© 2014, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.