Sunday, December 21, 2014

52 Ancestors: #51 - WALSH

Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small has issued a challenge:  write one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor.  It can be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem – anything that focuses on one ancestor.

My dad’s side of the family is one puzzle after another.  If it’s not the Slade saga with its Calhoun DNA, it’s the mysterious Sheehans without a paper trail.  And if it’s not the Sheehans, it’s the WALSH clan with its conflicting stories.

One of the main stories about my great-grandfather John Fleming Walsh concerns his ties to a family business:  a whiskey distillery.  Supposedly a feud over the business led to his complete break from the family.  But who knows? 

John Fleming Walsh
Definite records for John F. Walsh are hard to come by.  The only time I can be sure I found him in a census is in the one for 1910.  He had married the widowed Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen in 1906, according to records at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Portsmouth, Virginia.  Yet the census says they had been married 17 years.  If Mary Theresa was the informant, she apparently wanted or needed to account for having a 16 year-old daughter and to hide the fact that she had been married before.  All seven children are listed with the last name “Walsh” even though the first five were actually Killeen. There’s no shame in having been widowed, but “Secrets” was the name of the game in that family.

John Fleming Walsh’s birthplace was listed as Virginia although according to family lore, he was born in Michigan. The marriage register says John’s parents were Patrick and Mary.  However, I have found no couple with a son John born about 1868 in either Michigan or Virginia. There is one such family in Kentucky and at least three in New York. 

Walsh Pension Application   http://jollettetc.blogspot.comI have even tried looking for him using his alias “John Fleming,” the name he used when he served in the Spanish-American War.  (And what was that about?)

The All Saints Catholic Cemetery is the resting place for 19 members of various Walsh families.  John’s contemporaries include John Joseph, Edward Martin, and Thomas Francis Walsh, but they were sons of John and Ellen.  Cousins perhaps? 

Michael and Mary Hynes Walsh are also buried there.  In Mary’s obituary published on Findagrave, one of the pallbearers was John Walsh.  Could this have been MY John Walsh?  If so, what was his connection to Michael and Mary Walsh? 

If John lied about his own name, could he have also lied about his parents’ names?

Just who were you, John Fleming Walsh?

John Fleming WALSH ( 1868 Michigan or Virginia – 15 Oct 1918 Portsmouth, VA ) & Mary Theresa SHEEHAN Killeen ( 15 May 1869 Ireland – 18 Jul 1939 Portsmouth, VA )  17 Jun 1906 Portsmouth, VA

1. Julia Mary WALSH ( 06 Sep 1907 Portsmouth, VA – 17 Apr 1982 Portsmouth, VA ) & Fred Robert SLADE ( 08 Nov 1901 Princess Anne Co, VA – 04 Feb 1983 Portsmouth, VA )

  • Fred Robert SLADE JR. ( 07 Aug 1928 Portsmouth, VA –  31 Jan 2009 Portsmouth, VA ) & Mary Eleanor DAVIS ( 06 Jan 1929 Shenandoah, VA – 03 Oct 2005 Chesapeake, VA )  07 Oct 1950 Elizabeth City, NC
  • Private
2. Catherine F. WALSH ( 12 Oct 1909 Portsmouth, VA – 02 Oct 1969 Portsmouth, VA ) & Stephen BARANY ( 27 Nov 1906 New Jersey – Jan 1969 Washington DC )

3. Theresa M. WALSH ( 10 Mar 1913 Portsmouth, VA – 18 Mar 1987 Massachusetts ) & m1) James G. CREWS ( 30 Jun 1911 Guilford, NC – 05 Jan 1986 Florida ) ; & m2) Walter J. MURRAY ( - Dec 1984 Massachusetts )

  • Private

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. For real, what was that old show, "I've Got a Secret?"

    and are their pants on fire?

  2. We've discussed family lore and those difficult to find before. It's so frustrating. For me, I want to know not only what they did, but the whys behind it and unfortunately that is often lost in time. Good luck and keep us posted on any progress made!