Tuesday, January 8, 2019

52 Ancestors - CHALLENGE: In Search of Nephews

Speaking of CHALLENGE - How much time do you have? Nothing kicks my genealogy derriere harder or longer than my Irish ancestors. I plodded along unsuccessfully for years before Dara of Black Raven Genealogy handed me my first breakthrough: birth records for all of my great-grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh’s sisters and brothers, some of whom I had never heard of, PLUS a marriage record for their parents.

Those records certainly provided the traction needed to get out of my rut.

Christmas card from Sister Vincent Carmel aka Sadie Byrnes https://jollettetc.blogspot.comA second breakthrough occurred when my aunt gave me my great-grandmother’s scrapbooks in which she had glued greeting cards from friends and family. A Christmas card signed by her niece Sadie Byrnes revealed her religious name: Sister Vincent Carmel. That enabled me to find an obituary.

And that brings me to my current challenge.

The obituary noted that Sr. Vincent Carmel, known affectionately to family as Sadie, was survived by two nieces and two nephews. Hmm. I knew of the nieces already. Her brother John and wife Madeline had two daughters, so that accounts for the two nieces. However, they were not the parents of two boys. Poor ol’ John died at the young age of 22 in 1925, the same year his second daughter was born.
John Byrnes New York City 1919 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
John Byrnes
New York City 1919

Madeline remarried to a man who was a chauffeur, just as her husband John Byrnes had been. In the 1930 census, husband #2 appeared as Joseph MOLENEY. The Byrnes girls Madeline and Patricia were there in the household, but there were no little boys. The family was not to be found in 1940. In my grandaunt Helen’s wedding book is recorded a gift of silver candlesticks from “Mr. & Mrs. J. J.
Wedding Gifts Book Helen Killeen Parker 1927 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Helen Killeen's wedding gifts book 1927
MAHONEY” of New York City. So I looked for Mahoney, Maloney, Moleney - nada. I looked for Madeline Byrnes and Patricia Byrnes. Nada. I looked for them with the Mahoney / Maloney / Moleney surnames. Nada.

So maybe the boys belonged to a different member of the Byrnes family. Mary Theresa’s sister Elizabeth and her husband Patrick Byrnes had six boys and one girl, Sadie. Let’s examine each one. We will skip Sadie since it was HER obituary that alerted me to the nephews.

Richard A. Byrnes was born in 1899 and died in 1932. His death record says he was single. Unless there is a family secret to uncover, he is off the list.

John Byrnes has already been eliminated.

William Byrnes died as an infant, living only 2 days in 1905.

Joseph Byrnes seemed to be a likely candidate, especially considering the wedding gift of six teaspoons to Aunt Helen from “Mr. & Mrs. J. Byrnes” of New York City. Helen married in 1927, so that “J” did not belong to John who died in 1925. In 1940 Joseph Byrnes supposedly was a credit man at a silk house. He and wife Elizabeth, a dental assistant, were boarding with Anna Kraft and others in the Bronx. Just when I thought I was making progress, along came a death record for Joseph Byrnes in 1935 with parents identified as Patrick Byrnes and Elizabeth Sheehan. As if to laugh in my face over the mistaken identity, this Joseph was also SINGLE. So the 1940 census record could not be for MY Joseph. I suppose it is possible Joseph married SOMEBODY and divorced before 1935, but no records have been found to support that.

Patrick and Sadie Byrnes 1919 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Patrick and Sadie Byrnes
New York City 1919
Patrick Byrnes Jr. was the baby of the family having been born in 1911. He married Margaret Cook in 1937 but died in 1940. It is possible they had two children before his early death, but no records have been found yet.

Robert Byrnes and Helen Killeen New York City 1919 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
"Atop the roof, New York. Cousin Bob & I"
Helen Killeen and cousin Robert Byrnes
New York City 1919
Then there’s Robert, actually child #2 whom I skipped on purpose. I knew a name like “Robert Byrnes” was going to be a challenge, especially since “Byrnes” was often spelled “Burns” or “Byrne.” Surprisingly it was not too difficult. I found him in Miami, Florida in 1935. I found a marriage record dated 1936 in Henderson, North Carolina for Robert Byrnes and Lorraine Garfunkel of Miami. They were in the Miami, Florida census in 1940. Lorraine was in the newspaper often because of her position as principal of an elementary school in Florida. She was an innovator in the school system and was often called on to speak at education conferences.

While Robert did not make the paper often, he sometimes was mentioned in the social columns, especially when they hosted a fund-raising event or a party for Lorraine’s niece upon her marriage. It turns out he was a boat captain and a Navy veteran.

I do not know what made me expand my search by using Lorraine’s maiden name, but I did, and that is when my little Byrnes family of Florida disintegrated. Lorraine’s wedding announcement made the news. It was one of those lengthy wedding announcements complete with portrait and detailed description of her gown, her flowers, and her traveling attire. The little mention of the groom noted that Robert, a native of Connecticut, was the son of THOMAS and MARY Byrnes. WHAT????

The next sound you hear is the swoosh of the folder of newspaper clippings being deleted from my database.

Back to the research drawing board. Maybe Robert married and had two boys. I surely hope so. Of course, it’s possible that Madeline Moleney/Maloney/Mahoney and Joseph had children. If I could just find them!

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. Wow..challenge is right. My head was 'swooshing' while trying to keep up. This does give me hope for my years and years of saved Christmas Cards...scrapbook on the horizon...LOL! And so the Nephew Search continues...you are up to the Challenge, I sure of it.

    1. Yes, the search continues. Can't wait to read about what your Christmas cards reveal.

  2. Its got to be hard to be on a trail and then to come to the end of it and realize how much time and effort was spent to be proven wrong and then to have the fortitude to start again on another trail, hoping that is the right one for the info you are seeking.


    1. Yes, it is disappointing to learn you've followed the wrong trail, especially when you can't find the right one in order to start over!

  3. Happy New Year, Wendy. Imagine you only had Irish ancestors to work on :-) Best of luck with your challenge in 2019.

    1. HA HA - you're right, Dara. It could be worse. At least I have a little diversion now and then with my mother's side of the family.

  4. Oh dear, I've had that feeling several times in the last year, all that work for nothing! I have started doing the 52 ancestors thing, but can't find a place to post a link. If you know, please send it to me too! Thanks, Barb.

    1. I post my links in the Generations Cafe on Facebook. If you joined the 52 Ancestors challenge on Amy Johnson Crow's website or through her email, you should have been directed to the Generations Cafe. If not, you can search for it on FB and ask to join.

  5. Wow, that is definitely a challenge. Is it possible that there were two "nephews" who really weren't nephews at all but the children of very close friends?

    1. Hmm, there's a thought, but it doesn't make the challenge easier. I need easier, please.

  6. I have not begun researching my Irish ancestors and this post doesn't give me much desire to begin soon, Wendy. What a challenge! I know the challenge is not just with Irish ancestors but I keep reaching stories of very challenging research. One of these days I'll be up to it.

    If you have any thoughts of having these old photographs repaired there are two Facebook groups (probably more but I now of these two) with many experts who willingly give old photographs new life at no charge. They are Random Acts of Photo Restoration and Restoring and Coloring Old Family Pictures. The great thing is that your photo stays just the way it is but you get one or more versions of the "improved" photo. Just a thought....