Friday, August 28, 2015

Sepia Saturday: Pay Attention to the Woman in the Hat

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

NOTE: The information about Josie Sheehan and Carl/Charles Krause is in error. This is a different family, not the Josie who was sister to Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh. You can read more recent research on Josie Sheehan HERE.

This week’s Sepia Saturday photograph of the travelers aboard the WALSH Royal Mail and Day Car has prompted me to revisit my mystery family in New York. My great-grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen WALSH made many trips from Virginia to visit her sisters and possibly a brother. However, I doubt she ever traveled to New York by postbus.

I can sit for hours trying to coax clues from the photos of Mary Theresa’s relatives in New York. I feel that I’m soooo close to identifying not just the relationship but also the names. Unfortunately, too often the clues lack the facts to support a conclusion.

Take this photo, for example.

Relatives of Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh New York 1918
1918 New York

The men in the front seat are unknown, but I can GUESS that the man riding shotgun is John Sr., last name unknown. Why? Because of photos from 1917 and 1918 with “John Jr” and the same poodle.

Relatives of Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh New York 1918
John Jr. 1917 New York
John Jr and "Cutey" New York 1918
John Jr. 1918 New York

The two women with him are my grandaunt Lillie Killeen on the right and possibly John Jr’s grandmother on the left in a hat. I used to think the older woman was my great-grandmother Mary Theresa, but other photos make me second-guess myself.

Relatives of Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh New York 1918
1918 New York

In this view, the younger man has been replaced with an older man, who was likely John Jr’s grandfather. The same older gentleman is pictured with John Jr in other photos.

John Jr and Unknown New York 1918
John Jr 1918
John Jr and Unknown New York 1921
John Jr 1921

I know for a fact that Mary Theresa had a number of sisters:  Josie, Sarah, and Delia. There also might have been a brother, possibly named John, but that has not been confirmed. Supposedly there was another sister whose name is unknown.

Josie with John Jr and Bob/Bobbie/Barbie 1920
Josie with John Jr.
and Bob/Bobbie/Barbie 1920

Because of this photo of her sister Josie with John Jr and his sister Bob/Bobbie/Barbie, I wanted to think that this was Josie’s family. Josie looks somewhat like the woman on the right in this group photo below.

Mary Theresa Sheehan Walsh relatives New York 1921
New York 1921

If so, the older man in the first photo is NOT Josie’s husband Carl/Charles Krause. He was a carpenter, not someone who would wear a uniform. Besides, Josie was a widow and head of household by 1920. In that census, only one child was out of the house:  Hannah. But marriage records at do not name a husband “John.” The three records for any Hannah Krause and variant spellings do not pan out since no appropriately named children appear in the 1920 census.

John Jr and grandmother maybe 1917 New York
John Jr 1917 and maybe his grandmother
Relatives of Mary Theresa Sheehan Walsh, John Jr and Bob/Bobbie/Barbie at the beach 1921 or later
This photo from 1917 with John Jr shows a light-haired woman who might possibly be the grandmother. In 1920, the children seem to love this woman whose hair color makes me think they are the same woman. While she does not look particularly like the woman in the hat, she does resemble the woman at the beach with John Jr and Bob/Bobbie/Barbie – despite the darker hair – and the one in some Southern locale with the children.

John Jr and Bob/Bobbie/Barbie Richmond Hill, NY 1920
John Jr and Bob/Bobbie/Barbie
and Unknown 1920
Bob/Bobbie/Barbie and John Jr. with poodle and maybe grandmother
The children had whooping cough, according to the back of a similar photo.

So now assuming that the older woman and man in the car are the grandparents of John Jr and Bob/Bobbie/Barbie, the question is whether the couple are Mary Theresa’s sister and brother-in-law or brother and sister-in-law. If this is her brother, then which of the young parents is the direct relation? I doubt “John Sr” was a Sheehan because I cannot find John Sheehan Jr with a sister named Barbara, Barbie, Roberta, Bobbie in the 1920 or even 1930 census. Besides, the group photos seem to emphasize the women, suggesting that John Jr’s mother was the daughter, and therefore Lillie’s cousin.  (Still with me?)

Relatives of Mary Theresa Sheehan Walsh 1921 New York
Relatives of Mary Theresa Sheehan Walsh 1921 New York

Based on the hatted-woman’s general appearance and body-type, I guess she is Mary Theresa’s sister. Not Josie. Not Delia. Possibly Sarah. I can confirm only one child for her - Sadie, who became a nun – but it is possible she had other children.

That said, I fear the worst – that this is the sister whose name has been lost to history.

Hop aboard a postbus, wagon, or open car and take a ride to Sepia Saturday.

© 2015, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. It's frustrating trying to figure out who is who in old photographs with no identification. Sometimes you just have to 'let go' for a while until at some point in the future, if you're very very lucky, another photo comes to light & bingo! You see what you've been looking for. Or not. Sometimes there simply isn't an answer. The best idea, however, is to hold a good thought . . .

  2. What a difficult task. Would the quality of photographs/paper/ink make a difference to the colour of hair at all?

  3. It is indeed a mystery to try to solve. I bet you'll continue to work on it though.


  4. Wendy, wonderful family snaps in your collection. You have talent in identifying people. It would be nice if we could just ask someone who is photographed. So often in most families this info is lost too many times forever.

  5. Boy, that's a tricky sequence, Wendy! And to make it more confusing, one of those women might be a nanny...not related to anybody at all. I think Gail's right, though -- you might come across another photo that will provide the key to's hoping!

  6. Riddles within puzzles. The uniforms are interesting clues. The hat style is not like the army or navy but the difference in color suggest the white one is a senior commander. I think the style is more like fire department than police. It's possible they might be uniforms for a fraternal group as some societies had a quasi-military uniform but they usually have more distinctive badges or emblems.

  7. I know how frustrating it is, but you do at least have photos of someone, and then some census reports of someone, even if they never end up being definitely the right link. Good to think about though!

  8. This is what makes family history such a fascinating challenge. Good luck with your research.

  9. Oh the unmarked pictures----beyond frustrating! I have the same song going on with the handful of pictures I have. They are good clear pictures but oh if you only knew who they were!

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    1. How intriguing! Interesting that you describe John Sr as riding shotgun, meaning that he is a front seat passenger

  11. I hate unmarked photos. Of course I have tons of my own and sometimes I can't even tell my own children apart. I hope you're able to solve it one day!