Tuesday, March 9, 2021

52 Ancestors - NAME'S THE SAME: John and Madeline

During the month of March, I will be shining the light on my Irish roots.

John Jr and "Bob" the Bronx 1921

In my never-ending search for the identity of the children known as “John Jr and Bob,” I have tried to determine who JOHN SR might be. All the photos point to someone who would have been a relative of my great-grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh, more specifically a relative in one of the boroughs of New York City.

Captioned "Cousin Jack" 

A likely candidate would have been born probably in the 1880s or 1890s in order to have been old enough to father a child in 1917. One likely suspect was John Byrnes, son of Irish immigrants Patrick Byrnes and Elizabeth Sheehan, my great-grandmother’s sister. However, he turned out to be NOT so likely since he was only 14 when “John Jr” was born.

John did marry, though. He and his wife Madeline Kerr had two daughters, Madeline and Patricia. John was killed in 1925, not long after the birth of their second child.

The year of John’s death – 1925 –  is one reason I was surprised to see a gift from “Mr and Mrs J Byrnes, New York, NY” in my grandaunt Helen Killeen’s wedding gift book. She and Herbert Parker married in 1927. Any thoughts that the 6 teaspoons could be a gift from John’s brother Joseph were quickly dashed when I realized Joseph never married.

So who was THIS “Mr & Mrs J Byrnes”? Hold that thought.

Also in Helen’s gift book is a lemon dish and silver pickle fork from Mr & Mrs Edward Byrnes of Portsmouth, Virginia. 

A quick search in Ancestry revealed two interesting details: Edward's first name was actually JOHN, and his wife was named Madeline, Madeline Reitelbach, to be precise. So there we are: two couples named John and Madeline Byrnes.

However, there is nothing to suggest that the Portsmouth Byrnes are related to my Killeens. They were probably just friends from church. John Edward and Madeline are buried at all Saints Catholic Cemetery as are my Sheehan-Killeen-Walsh family.

Courtesy Maggie McAllister

As for “Mr & Mrs J Byrnes,” I have no idea, but I do have one observation that might be key: all the known New Yorkers who sent gifts were relatives.

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.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. Daddy spoke of the Byrnes and I bet Uncle Leo might remember them. Call Desi or Leo and ask.

  2. Makes me crazy when someone is Mr. and Mrs. J (or some initial) rather than a complete name. And my mother, as many women of her time, always went by Mrs. Husband First Name Last Name rather than using her own first name. So glad that practice ended.