Friday, September 12, 2014

Sepia Saturday: Confessions of a Facebook Stalker

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.



NOTE: The information about Josie Krause is in error. You can read the most current research on Josie Sheehan HERE. Also information on Sadie Burns (actually Byrnes) is updated HERE.


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. 


John Jr and Bob New York 1920  http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
John Jr. and Bob and the family poodle
New York 1920

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.

Sadie Burns Aug 1969  http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Sadie Burns
August 1969
   
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, and Bob 1920  http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
John Jr., Josie, Bob
1920
the back says "Bob sucks her thumm"
My speculation that Josie was grandmother to John Jr. and Bob so far has proved to be wrong.  She had no son John to father a John Jr., and the Krause daughters either didn’t marry or married long after John Jr. and Bob entered the picture.

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.

Julia Walsh and Elmyra Christian http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
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.

50 comments:

  1. Nameless Lurkers, what a great description. I have to confess that I have been lax in labelling photographs, which has hampered my own efforts in scanning and moving them to a digital album, so you have done really well (even if it did entail crossing to the dark side!).

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    1. I started a labeling project some time ago but never finished. I have been pretty good about labeling in my scrapbooks though.

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  2. "Nameless lurkers" is an apt label for many photos. I liked the way you related lurking in photos to lurking on Facebook.

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    1. Thank-you. Lurking quickly became stalking! HA!

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  3. Great work! I've stalked cousins on fb too, with good results. Good luck with tracking down John Jr and Bob eventually. Perhaps one of their descendents is even now reading your post and getting ready to write you!

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  4. Oh Wendy, I love this post! I really need to be more of a facebook stalker---and after all, it should come somewhat natural to a genealogist right? But you have perfected it my friend, and have inspired me....I'm off to see what I can find! (P.S. I am really curious as to why someone would take a picture of the back of two kids heads while they look at someone important enough to catch their attention, but not important enough to have been captured in the picture!)

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    1. Amen to that last part of your comment. Why do these people have so many mysteries?

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  5. That's one heckuva lotta sleuthing! Good going. And good luck with the rest of the search!

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    1. Thanks -- I need a big bucket of luck right now!

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  6. What a great story...real live detective genealogy, in this day and age, all revved up with FaceBook stalking. Loved it!

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    1. Oh that makes me laugh -- detective genealogy. I wish I were as good as that sounds.

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  7. Another terrific post about the travail of family history research, Wendy. I suppose there is a fine line between a history detective and an internet stalker. But both do require a persistent determination.

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    1. Indeed, "persistent determination" certainly paints a nice whitewash across that stalking piece.

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  8. Great job girl, being a detective pays off! I'm glad your $1.00 worked out!

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    1. Yes, money well spent. I'm glad stalking is cheap.

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  9. What a great job you did!! I must confess to being a fb lurker as well.

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  10. FB lurker/stalker - fantastic stuff.

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    1. I hope so -- certainly don't want to look creepy.

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  11. Oh Wendy, this is awesome! And, I wouldn't say "stalker." I'd say "detective" instead. Great detective work Wendy!

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  12. Fine research! I am so impressed! Isn't it a great feeling when you finally break through after much time and effort digging?

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    1. Now if they can identify some of the people in other photos, I'll be thrilled.

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  13. Oh wow! What a great story. Talk about persistent. You are a model for all family historians. I never knew that about Facebook passing on messages for $1. Great stuff. Really inspiring.

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    1. I'll accept "persistent," but "model" and "inspiring" are too much to live up to.

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  14. You are a fantastic detective. So you have crossed over to the dark side. That's just beautiful. I can't stop grinning.. I must admit to being a face book lurker too and I'm always amazed at what people are willing to reveal. A great post.

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    1. I'm grateful that these cousins didn't shut the door on allowing lurkers/stalkers like me to see their list of friends; otherwise, I couldn't have been sure I found the right people.

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  15. Wendy, I'm glad you found out about Italiangen. That was one of the sites I was going to tell you about. Lots of helpful documentation there.

    Even though your new-found distant cousins may not know about John Jr. and Bob, work on their line as well. At some point, you may find a nexus that brings you to a name needed to solve your own mysteries. I can't tell you how many auxiliary lines for which I've built family trees, just to find a clue that gets me back on track in my own line.

    Glad you found the Brooklyn group as well. I think they are very helpful. The old genealogy forums for Brooklyn may offer some help as well--although of course, the old genforum will soon be converted to "read only" status. But you can still search these to see if anyone else is researching your same lines.

    I didn't know about that $1 charge. I wonder if that is a recent change. I have to confess I am a genealogy facebook stalker as well, having recently attempted contacting someone I believe to be a distant cousin. Haven't had any response to my fb message though. Maybe it's because facebook operates on a "show me the money" basis now.

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    1. Jacqi, If you tried to contact someone who is NOT your FB friend, the message went into that "other folder." I never knew there was an "other folder." But when you hit "Send," you'll see a link to "learn more" or something like that which explains the $1 trick.

      Yes, I have lots of auxiliary trees too. I know some people track only their direct line, but I typically grab every name and date I find. These 2 FB cousins have given me the "I'm busy right now" routine, so I've given them time but now I need to get back to them with specific questions.

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  16. I love that term "nameless lurkers!" what an apt description. I also love facebook groups, they are so helpful. I've had a few mysteries solved by joining them and also helped solve a few.

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    1. I've joined several other groups too. Each seems to have a different personality with some more helpful than others.

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  17. Love your nameless lurkers! I've sent a few messages on Facebook to people I believe to be distantly related, and have paid the charge, which you may be surprised to learn is only 58 cents in Australia, (converts to 52 US cents) but so far it hasn't paid dividends, ie. no replies as yet :-(

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    1. Wow -- how are you getting off so cheap? I'm surprised you've received no replies. I wonder if people are just over-reacting to all the warnings about the "evils of social media."

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  18. I guess I would fall into the lurker class and don't label enough photos either. I have become disillusioned with genealogy websites as just when I think I am getting somewhere they demand fees to see the important details. Facebook however did find a long lost niece.

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    1. I hear ya! I have been reluctant to pay for some websites, but I have recently caved in and joined a couple that have actually paid off.

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  19. What a very up to date definition of a lurker and I think all we family historians do it with newsgroups and mailing lists; and I have found some relatives by poking around in Facebook too. For me it's the modern equivalent of having a penfriend.

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    1. I hadn't thought of it that way, but you're right. Penfriend. I have made a lot of "friends" online that I've never met in person -- we are indeed "penfriends."

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  20. I love the idea of ancestors as faceless lurkers...they certainly give us a run for our money. But what a great solution you've come up with and such a good tip re Facebook groups.

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    1. The trend of the day to write clever captions rather than pertinent information - like NAMES! - has certainly challenged our skills at putting a family history together.

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  21. What a fun post...I was hoping the end would reveal some nameless lurkers :)
    Maybe by your next post?
    Happy Monday!

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    1. Next post??? HA HA you're a funny one!

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  22. Wendy,

    I want to let you know that your post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2014/09/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-september_19.html

    Have a wonderful weekend!

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    1. Well thank ya veddy much, Jana! I always look forward to reading the great blogs you find.

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  23. You have been very creative in your efforts, Wendy. Keep going and it won't be long till you find their identities. (Doesn't that sound just like a fortune in a fortune cookie?)

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    1. I hope that fortune cookie does the trick!

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  24. Wendy, I've been searching for Shehan or Shehen in England in mid-1800s, originally b. Ireland abt 1801. Do you have anyone around those times in those places? It's a long shot but thought I'd ask. Also I loved your tale of FB lurking.

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    1. Hello Marian, I'm so glad you found my blog even though I probably have nothing to offer you. But who knows -- maybe eventually there will be a link.

      My great-grandmother Mary Teresa Sheehan was born in Ireland 1869. Her parents were Daniel Sheehan and Nora Sullivan. I know that from death certificates, but I don't know if they came to America and I don't know any dates for them, but surely they were both born before 1850. Supposedly Mary Teresa came from Cork, but I don't know if that's the city or the county, or if she merely sailed from Cork -- she could have been from anywhere!

      And that's all I know. Sad, isn't it?

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  25. Great work, Wendy! I connected with my mother's half sister via facebook and she seemed so eager to 'talk' to me even though she and my mother barely knew each other. I don't know if I scared her off or what but once I sent her an e-mail answering some of the questions she had, she clammed up never to be heard from again. I sent her a message after my mother died telling her that her SISTER had died and still nothing. I've given her enough space and have now just, essentially, written her off. :-(

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    1. Oh that's disappointing. Did they know each other at all growing up? As a family historian, I realize there are some chapters in people's lives they don't want to think about and secrets they don't know what to do with, but their reluctance to tell their side of the story makes your story incomplete. So frustrating.

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