Monday, April 24, 2017

Mystery Monday: Chasing John Sheehan Part 3 - John and Lizzie

Mystery Monday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that asks us to share mystery ancestors or mystery records – anything in our family history research which is currently unsolved.  With any luck fellow genealogy bloggers will lend their eyes to what has been found so far and possibly help solve the mystery.

Unknown man in 1918 with "John Jr."
Is this John Sheehan?

The 1892 New York City census for Brooklyn included the household of John and Lizzie Sheehan, both born in Ireland about 1862. John was a fireman, which made me think the mystery man in several photos might have been wearing a fireman’s uniform. The couple had three daughters: Mary – 7, Margaret – 4, and Annie – 6.

John and Lizzie Sheehan 1892 Brooklyn, NY census
1892 Brooklyn, NY census
So let’s look at this family through the years as recorded in the census records.

In 1900, there was no John and Lizzie to be found. I even tried Eliza and Elizabeth, but no couples matched the family of 1892. FamilySearch offered up a death record for one Annie Sheehan, age 11, with parents John and Lizzie Sheehan. However, her age is not consistent with the Annie of 1892.

There is something peculiar about that census that makes me suspect the enumerator made an error. Usually children are listed chronologically, but in 1892 Annie was listed as the third child but was older than the second child. If the enumerator entered the names and ages incorrectly, this could be the Annie of 1892.

In 1905, the only John and Lizzie were parents of 4 children: John Jr. - 14, Nellie - 7, James – 5, and William - 2. If this is the right John and Lizzie, why was John Jr. not enumerated in 1892 and where were Mary and Margaret? Possibly they were married by then and out on their own.  Or maybe this is a different family.
John and Lizzie Sheehan 1905 Brooklyn, NY census
1905 Brooklyn, NY census

Yet this same family appeared in the 1910 Queens, New York census. John’s date of birth was 1866, not the expected 1862 or 63. He had changed careers from a laborer at the brick yard to longshoreman. Lizzie reported 4 of 6 children living. However, if this was the same John and Lizzie from 1892, she should have reported 4 of 7 children living. The gap between the ages of John Jr. and Ellen (Nellie) suggests the missing children were from that period. If so, then this is definitely a different John and Lizzie from the 1892 couple.
John and Lizzie Sheehan 1910 Queens, NY census
1910 Queens, NY census

Another John and Lizzie family appeared in Manhattan along with their 5 children. Four of the five were born in Ireland, and the family had been in the United States only since 1904, so this is definitely NOT the family I am trying to track.

New York 1918
Trip to New York 1918
My grandaunt Lillie Killeen in the backseat with "John Jr."
In 1915, John and Lizzie of Queens and their 4 children had moved from High Street to Nurge Street. John was no longer a longshoreman; instead he worked as a laborer with cement. Son John was a chauffeur and son James was a messenger boy. Nellie was a nurse girl, which probably meant she took care of other people’s children. This census made me sit up and take notice because of John Jr’s job as a chauffeur. Among the photos passed down to me from my great-grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh are photos of family in a car with a chauffeur. That might mean nothing, but it could be something.

And with that, John and Lizzie sightings come to an end. There are a few records worth mentioning, however. Italiangen and Ancestry both list a marriage for John Sheehan and Lizzie Latts on 29 August 1886. That date fits well with the John and Lizzie of 1905-15 but less so with the couple of 1892 with the daughter born in 1885, assuming the age and date were accurate. BUT – and it’s a BIG BUT – FamilySearch shows a marriage on the same date between John Sheehan and Lizzie PATTS. John’s parents were John Sheehan and Bridget Russell. MY John Sheehan was son of Daniel Sheehan and Bridget Gorman.

FamilySearch has some birth records for children born to John Sheehan and Lizzie Patts:
  • Margaret 1889 Manhattan (mother listed as Elizabeth Patts)
  • Lizzie 1891 Manhattan
  • May 1894 Mahattan

However, these names and dates do not resemble the families in any of these census records. Furthermore, they also do not appear in any other census records with parents named John and Lizzie.

FamilySearch has death records for several children whose parents were named John and Lizzie Sheehan:
  • John born 1887 and died 1887; no mention of a cemetery
  • William born 1888 and died 1888; buried at Calvary
  • Agnes born 1894 and died 1895; buried at Calvary
  • Annie who died in 1899 was buried at Holy Cross.

FamilySearch also has death records for a Lizzie Sheehan who died a widow in 1906. That is obviously not the Lizzie who was alive and well in 1915.

1.       Of the two couples named John and Lizzie Sheehan who closely fit my research parameters, the one from 1892 is not the one from 1905-1915.
2.       John and Lizzie Patts/Latts Sheehan are not my family as proven by the marriage record which provided the names of John’s parents.
3.       If Lizzie Patts/Latts was the widow who died in 1906, I can eliminate the 1892 family altogether and perhaps pursue the children of the 1905-15 couple for more clues.
4.       John Sheehan of 1905-1915 did not work in jobs that required a uniform, so even if he is MY John Sheehan, he is not the unidentified man in the photo.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. Did you spot anyone living at house No. 506, Wendy?

  2. Thanks, Wendy, for sharing your reasoning. That helps me think about ways to rule out or rule in possibilities for my mysteries!

  3. What kind of death records did you find? Are they death certificates? Did they have addresses on them? there just doesn't ever seem to be a simple answer does there? I can't wait to see what you have figured out.