Saturday, December 3, 2016

Sepia Saturday: Sister Dea

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

As Sepia Saturday turns to thoughts of the holiday season with a vintage German calendar, I am reminded of this Christmas card from 1935.

1935 Christmas card from Dea Christian to Mary Theresa Sheehan Walsh

1935 Christmas card from Dea Christian to Mary Theresa Sheehan Walsh

It was sent by Delia “Dea” Sheehan Christian to her sister Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh, my father’s maternal grandmother.

If the sheer number of cards from Dea in Mary Theresa’s scrapbook can be relied on as evidence of their relationship, they were close despite the ten years age difference and the 400 miles that separated them.

Born January 26, 1879 in Limerick, Ireland, Dea was the baby of the family of Daniel Sheehan and Bridget Gorman. When she reached the age of 17, she immigrated to the United States just as her sisters had done previously.

In 1900 she was living in Manhattan, New York with an aunt and uncle, John and Delia Hogan. Four years later she married William Henry Christian. They had a baby girl right away, but she did not survive. Five more children came in regular intervals, but sadly one baby boy did not live.

Julia Walsh with Grace and Elmyra Christian
Grace Christian, Julia Walsh (my grandmother),
and Elmyra Christian 

While Dea ran the household, her husband William worked as a shipping clerk for a time. In 1920, they were a farm family in William’s home state New Jersey, but by 1925 they were back in New York, Brooklyn to be exact. William went into the dry cleaning business.

Dea died June 8, 1942, in Brooklyn.

Even though I found Dea’s granddaughter on Facebook, I have been unable to learn anything new about this family. Promised photos never came. Questions were never answered. Family trees on Ancestry posted by descendants of Dea’s daughter Grace know less than I do. They do not even know Dea’s maiden name. They also do not know names and dates associated with Grace’s brothers Raymond and William and sister Elmyra.

Evidently the affection and regard for family in one generation does not always pass to the next generation. Still, since someone posted a family tree, I have hope that eventually I can learn more about a much loved sister.

Delia Sheehan (26 Jan 1879 Croom, Limerick, Ireland – 8 Jun 1942 Brooklyn, New York ) & William Henry Christian (1 Nov 1881 New Brunswick, New Jersey) married 24 Apr 1904 Manhattan, New York
  • Baby Girl (1904 – 29 Oct 1904 Manhattan, New York)
  • Elmyra Dorothy (29 Jun 1907 New York – 29 Mar 1996 New York) & Edward T. Zarek (9 Sep 1909 Rhode Island – 8 Mar 1978 New York) married 1942
  • William (1910 – 27 Sep 1910 Manhattan, New York)
  • Grace (6 Jan 1912 New York – 19 Mar 1997 Ossining, New York) & Charles Anthony Smith (1907 Brooklyn, New York – 2 Dec 1965 Brooklyn, New York)
  • Raymond (1915 New York – ) & Theodora Brown (22 Jul 1918 – 2006 Westbury, New York)
  • William Patrick (17 Mar 1918 New York – 17 Jan 2002 Flushing, New York) & Mildred Mae Meyer (1 Nov 1920 Brooklyn, New York – 28 Jul 1970 Brooklyn New York)
Please visit Sepia Saturday to see what others have marked on the calendar.

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. I really like the way you start with Dea's lovely Christmas card and then tell her story. Touching to think that your great-grandmother saved Dea's cards all that time. One day, I hope, you'll learn even more about Dea's life. Happy holidays!

  2. You're a great researcher,'ll find and pull those pieces together, I'm sure! I'm amazed when people don't know (and more amazed when they don't care) about family history.

  3. You’ve probably done more for Dea’s memory than anyone else and here she is memorialised and admired by a host of Sepians and others (and many more to come, who read your blog). I really like the style of that card and the way the wishes are spread over the Festive period.

  4. How wonderful to have Mary Theresa's scrapbook. The Christmas card has such an individual style about it. Good luck in finding out more on Delia's story.

  5. An interestingly different sort of holiday card, and you have done some excellent sleuthing about to find out about the family as much as you have!

  6. I think blogging is another way of creating a 21st century scrapbook, with miscellaneous stuff virtually preserved in pages on the internet, but without that musty odor of old paper. However these blogger scrapbooks get shared with the world and you never know who will one day take a digital thumb through your collection of ephemera. Earlier today someone found a story I wrote five years ago about a 1920s family band from Pennsylvania. They left a comment that one of the musical children, now 97, still keeps a beat playing drums in a retirement community band!

  7. Mike is right. I also have had contact with distant relatives or local historians through blogs written a while ago.
    Cute photo of the girls on the steps :)

    1. I meant to add...
      Iv'e never seen a card with a week of Christmas wishes.

  8. That's a lovely old card with lovely sentiments. It is frustrating when you find someone's descendants but while they may like to have your information, they aren't interested in sharing anything more with you. I think organisations like Ancestry have a lot to answer for.

  9. The 1935 card is quite fascinating - I don't think I have ever seen anything like this before. And surround that great old image with interesting family research and information and you have a very classic Sepia Saturday post.

  10. A lovely card and a lovely post.

  11. I'll join the ranks of those who have never seen a card like this one. What a treasure. And what a great story! I understand your frustration, though. I've run into countless brick walls while researching my own family history. Hang in there and keep looking! Information is constantly changing and a lead can suddenly pop up where before there wasn't one. Thanks for sharing!

  12. That is a fantastic card. I can't understand the unwillingness to share family info, although I have seen it before.

  13. How very interesting, and I hope you find satisfaction eventually on the family histories. Ancestry is sometimes fun, sometimes very frustrating. I'm surprised at the amount of anger that is displayed when people contact me asking "why do you have so and so related" in this way? I didn't invent these relationships! But there are many mistakes that get repeated over and over, so easily.

  14. Isn't that a perfect 1930s greeting card?! The colors, the illustrations, the lettering. It looks in great shape, too.

    Maybe it's not lack of affection or even an unwillingness to share family information so much as a lack of interest. My sister is devoted to our living relatives and though she's aware of many of our direct ancestors she doesn't really have much interest in learning about them. I hope you're eventually able to find more information about Dea.

  15. I agree with Mike. He nails what is so wonderful about sharing on the net. There's so much ugliness online that beautiful posts like this remind me of why blogging is worth it.