Monday, March 14, 2016

Mystery Monday: Sadie's Family

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.

Information about Robert Byrnes has been proven to be in error. Please disregard. His story has been updated HERE.

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.

Julia Walsh and Sadie Byrnes New York
Julia Walsh and Sadie Byrnes
between 1917-1920
I grew up with my cousins. We were close as children and remain so today. Even though my paternal grandmother’s cousins lived miles away in New York while she lived in Portsmouth, Virginia, my great-grandmother made sure her children knew their cousins by making frequent trips to New York. One of my favorite photos is of my granny with her cousin Sadie.

Another photo of Sadie was taken in 1969 when she visited her Portsmouth cousins. I had always heard that there was a nun in the family, and there she is. I tried unsuccessfully to trace her life as a Dominican nun, but without her religious name, no one could help me.
Sr. Vincent Carmel "Sadie" Byrnes Aug 1969
Sadie Byrnes August 1969 Williamsburg, VA
Sr. Vincent Carmel

Then a little bit of serendipity came my way. My aunt recently gave me Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh’s scrapbooks where she had saved greeting cards. Several are from her loving niece “Sr. Vincent Carmel Byrnes.” In that one card I learned both Sadie’s religious name and the correct spelling of her last name. I had searched census records for “Sadie Burns” or “Sarah Burns” because that is how someone spelled it on the back of the photo.

I also had sought Sadie with a mother named Sarah. An old family chart identified one of Mary Theresa’s sisters as Sarah Burns. But the census records offered too many possibilities in some years and unlikely possibilities in other years, such as the one with Sadie still living at home at age 30. Surely MY Sadie would have been a nun by then.

The same scrapbooks came to the rescue with cards signed “Pat and Peggy Byrnes.”

Crossing my fingers in the hopes that Pat or Patrick was Sadie’s brother, I went to FamilySearch and entered “Patrick Byrnes” born in New York between 1890 and 1915 with a sibling named Sadie. One possibility looked especially promising. It was a 1920 Manhattan, New York census.   

from 1920 Manhattan, New York, New York census

Robert Byrnes and Helen Killeen New York 1919
Cousin Bob and Helen  1919
"Atop the roof, New York"

Looking at the children’s names, I recalled some photos belonging to my grandmother’s half-sister Helen Killeen Parker. The one of “Cousin Bob” with Helen “atop the roof New York” in 1919 is probably Robert who was born in 1901. He looks to have been about 18 in the photo.

Then “Cousin Jack” is probably John who was born about 1903.
Jack or John Byrnes New York 1919
"Cousin Jack"
possibly John Byrnes

The two younger children are not identified, but the girl resembles the early photo of Sadie. The boy appears to be younger, so maybe this is either Joseph or Patrick. They would have been about 10 if Joseph or 8 if Patrick; Sadie would have been about 11 or 12.
Possibly Joseph or Patrick and Sadie Byrnes 1919
Cousins in New York 1919

Any thoughts that I was perhaps forcing the pictures to match the census dissipated when FamilySearch gave me a death record for Patrick Byrnes. Parents named were Patrick Byrnes and Elizabeth Sheehan. And just for good measure, the spouse was Margaret, for which Peggy is a common nickname. Ding Ding Ding I think we have a winner.

So Sadie’s mother was not Sarah after all. It was Elizabeth. The third daughter and fifth child of Daniel Sheehan and Bridget Gorman, Elizabeth was born in Croom in County Limerick, Ireland, April 18, 1871 and baptized in the Roman Catholic Church six days later. One point of confusion in the record, however, is that her parents were identified as Daniel Sheehan and Margaret Gorman, not Bridget as was recorded in every other birth and baptism record for this family. Whether this was an error on the part of the recorder or an indication of either her first or middle name is not known.  

Baptism record for Elizabeth Sheehan, daughter of Daniel Sheehan and Margaret Gorman
Ballingarry Diocese of Limerick
April 24, 1871
from Catholic Parish Registers at National Library of Ireland

The New York census records are fairly consistent in details of Elizabeth’s and Patrick’s lives. Both came to the US in 1888 and were naturalized in 1896.  They married about 1897 and had 8 children, two of whom died before 1910. Patrick worked most of his life as a driver for a brewery although in one census he was a carpenter for the hospital.

As for the rest of the family, I have found only bits and pieces:

  • Robert moved to Florida and worked as a boat captain. On July 22, 1936 he married Lorraine Garfunkel in Henderson, North Carolina. Their home though was in Miami, Florida. In 1940, Robert was a salesman of motorboat supplies. Lorraine was a public school principal.
  • Joseph worked as a bank clerk according to the 1930 census. In 1940, he was boarding in a home in Bronx and working as a credit man for a silk house. His wife Elizabeth was a dental assistant.
  • Patrick worked as a clerk in a silk factory. In 1937 he married Margaret Mary “Peggy” Cook. They were still just newlyweds, really, when he died three years later.
The Byrnes Family:
Elizabeth SHEEHAN (18 Apr 1871 Croom, Limerick, Ireland – After 1930 probably New York) & Patrick BYRNES (1868 Ireland – After 1930 probably New York) married about 1897 New York

  1. Richard Aloysus BYRNES (9 Aug 1899 Manhattan, New York – 10 Dec 1932 Manhattan, New York)
  2. Robert BYRNES (3 Aug 1901 Manhattan New York - ) & Lorraine GARFUNKEL  married 22 Jul 1936 Henderson, North Carolina
  3. John BYRNES (1903 Manhattan, New York - )
  4. William BYRNES (5 May 1905 Manhattan, New York – 7 May 1905 Manhattan, New York)
  5. Sarah “Sadie” BYRNES (16 Feb 1907 Manhattan, New York – about 1970)
  6. Joseph BYRNES (27 Jan 1909 Manhattan, New York - ) & Elizabeth UNKNOWN
  7. Patrick BYRNES Jr. (1911 Manhattan, New York – 5 Nov 1940 Manhattan, New York) & Margaret Mary COOK married 6 March 1937 Manhattan, New York
© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. Well done on finding Sadie Byrnes, Wendy. Don't you just love it when it all falls into place.

    1. I do love it! Now if I can only find those other sisters and brother!

  2. Again, I do admire your detective work and your persistence. Glad you were able to put together more of the pieces in your family's ancestry.


    1. Thanks Betty. I'm glad too, but the search continues.

  3. Amazing how the collections of old greeting cards have been so helpful!

    1. They really have. I keep going back to them looking for names once unfamiliar to pop out as the latest clue.

  4. Another fun find! You are killin' it. =)

  5. Whew...I can just imagine your piles of this here and that there and who's on first circus of connecting the dots. Neat that you have close cousins and a Nun in the family tree. Great research and record connections.

    1. Piles of this and that -- yep, that about sums it up!

  6. Don't you just love it when something that might have been thrown away years ago ends up in your hands and provides clues for you? Nice work!

    1. Exactly! I know these scrapbooks have reached the end of their line (I doubt my girls will care about them), so I need to make good use of them right away.

  7. What what a wonderful discovery! I love it when something relatively simple ends up holding such a important hint, but I also think you are a smartie for going over the cards so carefully and finding that clue. I don't know that people still save cards like they use to, but this is proof they can be worth the space in the attic!