Mystery Monday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that encourages bloggers to write about mystery ancestors or mystery records – anything in their genealogy and family history research which is currently unsolved.
During the month of March, I am remembering my Irish ancestors by writing about my recent discoveries. The stories still qualify for “Mystery Monday” as there are so many questions yet unanswered.
It seems every other day I am blogging about my inability to identify these people.
I know the children are “Bob” or “Barbie” and John Jr. They are frequently pictured with the woman on the left and that poodle. The young woman in the center is likely their mother, leaving the woman on the left to be a candidate for grandmother. The woman on the right might be a sister to the grandmother and thus aunt to the young mother and grandaunt to the children.
But who the heck were they??
Since I already know my great grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh’s family as well as the families for her sisters Elizabeth Sheehan Byrnes and Delia Sheehan Christian, and her brother Denis Sheehan, possibly the women were Mary Theresa’s other sisters Margaret Sheehan and Johanna Sheehan, or maybe even the wife of her brother John Sheehan.
|Josie with John Jr and "Bob"|
For a while, I was convinced that Margaret was Mrs. Thomas Creamer, the woman listed right after Delia Christian on a list of passengers traveling to and from Ireland in 1936. Surely Delia would not have made that trip alone to visit family left behind in Ireland.
My theory was strengthened when I found a birth record for her children in which Margaret’s maiden name was identified as Sheehan.
And then the terrible news: a death record named Margaret’s parents as Martin Sheehan and Johanna Kiely. It is not unusual for family members to be mistaken about the facts, but these names are just too far off the mark from Daniel Sheehan and Bridget Gorman.
Back to the drawing board, as they say.
As I was preparing this post, I gave FamilySearch another shot at making me a happy girl. I must have entered my search terms differently this time because up popped a marriage record for Margaret Sheehan and John Nagle.
The convincing detail is the name of her parents. Evidently someone could not read her mother’s name but those letters look like they belong to “O’Gorman” (or just plain “Gorman”).
Pinning down the right family has been a challenge – it is surprising how many couples were named John and Margaret Nagle – but I do think I found them.
In 1905 the young Nagles lived on East 101st Street in Manhattan. They had one daughter, Marie age 1.
Five years later they were at the same address. John was a bank attendant. I do not take reports of age too seriously in census records, but I noticed that the ages of John and Margaret widened. Also Margaret’s date of immigration year was listed as 1896 instead of 1893 as previously reported. There were now three children, Mary, Margaret, and Richard.
I could not find the family in either the 1915 or 1925 census.
By 1920 the child count was up to six with Mary, Margaret, Richard, John, Helen, and Maurice. John was working as special police for the bank. Margaret’s immigration date changed once again, this time to 1894 and a date of 1898 for naturalization. They rented a home on Van Sicklen Avenue in Brooklyn.
|Nagles' Van Sicklen Ave home on the right|
from Google Maps
The next census in 1940 brought a surprise. John was listed as married, but “7” was penciled in beside the “M.” That symbol denoted separation or pending divorce. Margaret was not in the household. Unlike typical divorces where children side with the mother, all the children were with their father (except Mary, of course, who was still likely married).
|1940 123 Van Sicklen Ave, Brooklyn, NY|
Maybe the Margaret Nagle at 1064 Madison Ave in Manhattan was our Margaret. She claimed to be widowed, but even as late as 1940, women often claimed to be widowed rather than expose the shame of divorce.
What became of Margaret Nagle after 1940? I do not know. However, I managed to find a few tidbits about the children.
- Mary married a man by the name of McManus, as proven by
her death record dated 23 April 1989. The record names her parents John Nagle
and Margaret Sheehan. I found two possibilities for a spouse in the 1930 census
– Richard or Hugh. There were several other Mary and Somebody McManus, but the
details of birth and parents’ births match only these two. Fortunately a Christmas card in Mary Theresa’s scrapbook
set this record straight: she married Richard.
- Richard died in 1993 in Highstown, Mercer, New Jersey.
- John Jr. died 1 September 1983 in New York. He is buried in the Calverton National Cemetery for veterans. He had served in the Army.
- Maurice died 29 January 1989 and is likewise buried in the Calverton National Cemetery in Calverton, New York. He too served in the Army.
While I am confident I have found the family of my great-grandmother’s sister Margaret, I am disappointed that I still do not know the identity of the family with the poodle. This cannot be Margaret’s family. Why? Because none of her children fit the names and birth years of the mystery children John Jr. and “Bob,” and because her children were too young to be parents about 1917.
Maybe the mystery children and poodle belonged to Mary Theresa’s brother John Sheehan. How many John Sheehans could there be in New York? One or two? I wish. More likely hundreds.
UPDATE: JUST IN
My guardian angel Dara of Black Raven Genealogy couldn’t believe Margaret would be divorced because she was an Irish woman and Catholic to boot. So Dara went hunting and found a death record. (Why did this record NOT come up when I searched?) Margaret died in May 1934. The address was still Van Sicklen Avenue in Brooklyn.
So what about that “M7” code signaling that John Nagle was possibly divorced? He had been a widower for over five years. One explanation I found was that the “7” was often added later by someone going over the enumerator’s records to indicate that a spouse was not included in the household despite one member claiming to be married. It might have been a separation, a pending divorce, an indication that the spouse was away for some reason (such as being hospitalized). Or it could even mean that the enumerator was lied to, that the person was not really married at all. Richard was the informant; surely he knew his mother was deceased, but perhaps in his mind, his father WAS married.
© 2016, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.