Wednesday, August 26, 2020

52 Ancestors - UNFORGETTABLE: These Darn Children

I am obsessed with these children:
John Jr and "Bob" in The Bronx 1921
John Jr and "Bob" 1921

I write about them all the time.
John Jr and Bob at the beach probably 1921
John Jr, Cutey, and Bob
a beach in New York - maybe Rockaway

Because I can’t figure out how they are related to my father’s maternal grandmother’s side of the family. It is driving me crazy because I feel like I am THIS CLOSE to breaking through that wall. Those bricks mock me.

Here is what I do know:
My great-grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh and her eldest daughter Lillie Killeen thought enough of the family to travel from Portsmouth, Virginia to New York City in 1917 to greet the baby.
Lillie Killeen and John Jr 1917 New York
Lillie Killeen and John Jr 1917

My great-grandmother and the children’s family were close enough that an entire photo album was dedicated to pictures of the children and given to my great-grandmother.

The children were named John Jr (born 1917) and “Bob” (born probably 1919 or 1920).
Josie, John Jr and "Bob" in Richmond Hill, NY about 1920
This was captioned "Bob sucks her thumb."

Bob was a girl. I can’t tell by the handwriting on the back of the picture. Was she also called Bobie or Barbie?

They lived in Richmond Hill, a section of Queens
Lillie and one of the children at their home in Richmond Hill 1920
Lillie and John Jr. in Richmond Hill 1920

They once had the whooping cough.

John Jr and Bob 1922
On the back of the photo is written
"These were taken Mar 1922 while they had whooping cough."

Here is what I think:
Mary Theresa’s sisters were NOT the mothers or grandmothers of these children. None of them had children as late as 1917. The only sister old enough to have had a grandchild born in 1917 was Johanna Sheehan Hederman. Only 2 of her children survived. Catherine married a man named Charles Fraundorf making it improbable that they named a son John JR. Johanna’s son John was still single and living at home in 1920, so he is not likely the father either.

This photo of WOMEN with the children makes me think perhaps the young woman was daughter of Mary Theresa’s brother John Sheehan. If that is so, then she must have married a man named John.
Sheehan in New York 1921
In New York 1921
Poodle is named Cutey
The children are "Bob" and John Jr.
The Women are ???
I think this man is the father:
Sheehan relations in Richmond Hill, NY 1920
Maybe the father of John Jr and Bob
1920 Richmond Hill, Queens, NY
I think this man is John Sheehan, possibly the grandfather of the children.
John Jr and Cutey plan unknown man 1917 NY
Is this John Sheehan with baby John Jr and Cutey, the poodle?
1918 New York possibly John Sheehan
Is this John Sheehan?
1918 NY

My plan of attack:
I have researched every man named John Sheehan born about 1866 in Ireland who lived in New York between 1887 and 1940. And there were plenty of them! They either had no children or too many children. None had children that fit the John Jr and Bob profile.

Was John Sheehan the father or grandfather of the children?

I need to take a closer look at the daughters of these John Sheehans. Perhaps a marriage record will offer up a husband named John and census records will reveal a John Jr and “Bob.”

I should also consider that maybe John Sheehan did not stay in New York. Maybe he lived in some other part of New York, or maybe Boston, or even Canada.

Sometimes I want to just stop looking for an answer, but I can’t. These children are just unforgettable.

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.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. Did anyone live at #506 or #629 in the 1920 census? Any ideas on the uniform? Was Lillie the godmother? Arrgh!

  2. Interesting! Another mystery to try to solve! Oh how easier it would be if people marked their pictures a little more carefully. But then everyone thinks they will live forever.


  3. As Betty said, many people do not label their photos and I am one of them. My daughters are both in their 40's and sometimes when looking at photos of them when they were babies, I'm not sure who is who. Getting old sucks! Good luck - hope you figure it out.

  4. I really admire your perseverance, Wendy. It's the mark of a real genealogy detective. The toddler's nickname reminds me of my mother's, Bob or Bobbie, for Barbara, but I suppose it would also work for Roberta too. Recently I have had good luck tracking down names in city directories. The policeman/fireman next to No.506 makes a great clue.

    My grandparents kept very close friendships with old former neighbors that always remained part of my mother's collection of distant non-family relations. It was an old-school social network of postcards, letters, and Christmas cards that I have only a fractured knowledge from hearing their stories as I was growing up. The names on countless school photos, vacation snapshots, holiday family photos, have lost any meaning for my son, so I'm ashamed to say I can't justify saving them anymore. The trash can is the sad inevitable fate of most ephemera.

  5. I love a good mystery. Hope you can solve this one!