Thursday, July 21, 2016

Genealogical Journey: Michele Meets Megan & Michael

Great-grandpa Charles Sullivan had two sisters.  His oldest sister, named Elizabeth, after their mother, was the fourth of the Sullivan children, but the first of the three born during the family's ten year sojourn back to Ireland.  Thanks to Cousin Drew and Cousin Bill's father's notes, I learned that Elizabeth Sullivan's married name was Rogers.  Without them, I was unable to trace her past the 1875 New York State census when she was still a Sullivan.  According to Cousin Drew, Elizabeth had three children:  George, Vera and Elizabeth who was called "Lizzie." Drew met them many times as they were his mother Agnes' first cousins.  Determined to complete Elizabeth's branch of the family tree, I began tracking Lizzie's descendants.

Baptismal transcript for Elizabeth Sullivan.  Obtained in Ireland, courtesy of Bill Sullivan.

Portion of family tree notes by James J. Sullivan ( 1915-2004) showing Elizabeth Sullivan's married name as Rogers.
Filling in this family tree was the inspiration for this blog and my research.  Notes courtesy of Bill Sullivan. 

Like her sister Vera (nee Anna, subject of the previous blog entry) Lizzie was also in show business. She worked at the famous Hippodrome Theater in New York City where she met her actor husband, Frank Sullivan.  Lizzie Rogers married and became Lizzie Sullivan.  She and Frank had a son named Frank, Jr. On the 1930 census, I found Lizzie and her son Frank living with Vera and her husband, Sam in Queens, New York.  I believe Vera had real affinity for her nephew Frank probably because he lived with her for a while.  In addition to mentioning Frank in her will, Vera also bequeathed money to each of his three sons:  Brian, Michael and Pat.  Unfortunately, all of Frank's sons died young. Did they have any descendants?  Drew wasn't sure, but didn't think so.  I decided to find out for sure.  Armed with Frank's wife's name, Rose, I found her obituary.  Once again, a bittersweet discovery as the obituary was several months old.  I was sorry that I didn't get to meet Rose, but her obituary did mention a granddaughter named Megan.  Could I find her?  Would it be appropriate for me to correspond with her?  I was unsure of Megan's age and if she were not an adult, it would not be appropriate to contact her.  What about her mother whose name I didn't know?  Would she want to talk to me about her late husband's family?  I decided to try, proceeding with caution.  Through the Find A Grave website, I found someone had photographed and posted the graves for Frank, Rose and their sons.  I contacted the poster and asked if she was related to them.  The answer was no, but she kindly granted my request to transfer the graves to my Find A Grave account.  By doing so, I was able to post a message, saying who I was, how I was related, what I was researching and who I was hoping to contact on this branch of the family.  After a short time, I received messages from two people who knew the three brothers growing up.  One message from Richard, who knew Brian, the oldest brother, said he was sorry to hear about the passing of all three brothers.  He shared some photos he had of them when they were teenagers.  He had no further information to offer me about Megan or her mother.  I thanked him for the photos and hoped that some day I could share them with Megan.  The second person to email me about the Find A Grave post said she knew the middle brother, Michael and his wife, Debbie.  She and her husband were friends with Michael and Debbie, up to the time of Michael's death.  She even provided me with an email  and a mailing address for Debbie!  I was excited to contact Debbie via these sources but was soon disappointed.  The email bounced back.  The letter came back to me marked "return to sender" after months of not hearing anything.  The woman who originally gave me this info did not respond to my email when I informed her of what happened and asked for other contact information on Debbie.  Was this the end of my research on this branch of the family?  For the time being, it seemed so.  I still left the message on my Find A Grave account as this unorthodox method of searching did yield some results.

Marriage Certificate for Frank Sullivan and Elizabeth Rogers.  Note Elizabeth's mother's maiden name was also Sullivan.  

1930 US Census showing Frank living with his Aunt Vera.  Scroll three quarters to the bottom of the page to see their entry.
Source:  1930 US Census on
In the meantime, I had obtained photos of Vera and a copy of her will from Cousins Drew and Bob. The will mentioned Frank's sons Brian, Michael and Pat.  I hoped that some day I could share this information with Megan.  I was more eager than ever to find her.

I get so many junk emails that I almost deleted Sherri's email with the words "Sullivan Family" in the subject line.  I subscribe to many genealogy sites and they often send emails with that wording in the subject line trying to sell me something.  The ancestors stopped me from deleting this one.  Sherri's email stated:

Hi Michele,

I knew the Sullivan family of Tulsa, Oklahoma from 1966 till now.  I do have information on Michael's family, his wife Debbie and children.  I would also like to email Richard, as I was very close with Brian.  The site would not accept my email and as I have never tried to contact anyone that way before, thought it would be easier this way.  

Thank you,


Wow!  Was I impressed!  She spelled my name right!  One "L", not two.  And she went out of her way to email me directly instead of giving up when she couldn't do it via Find A Grave.  I think you have to have an account to send emails through them; glad I included my regular email address in the message.  I tried to write the rest of what Sherri emailed me, but started to cry, so what follows is directly from Sherri instead.

Hi Michele,

I will get in touch with Megan, as she would be the best choice at this time and give her your email address.  

I am putting together an tree for Megan as a gift and would love to connect some more dots.  You say you are a cousin of Mike's, would that be on his father's side or his mother's side?  I do know quite a bit about their family, in some ways more than Megan, as she never got to know her uncles and was around 12 when her father died.  

I spent quite a lot of time with Rose and we talked a lot about the family.  It was pretty expected by everyone that Brian and I would have been married when I graduated high school.  Mike was our biggest cheerleader.  Brian was three years older and losing him was a huge blow, not only to me, but everyone who knew him.  I spent every birthday of Rose's with her, after she lost everyone and until her death.  I still live in the Denver area and went out every year to be with her,  I went for her funeral and Megan and I spent countless hours going through pictures, talking about their family heritage and telling her stories about her uncles.  

Thank you for getting back to me, it made me feel good to see someone cared enough to create the site for them.  Megan is always placing beautiful flower arrangements on the grave.  Rose did for years and her and I always went and placed flowers as well.  



Again, wow!  She spelled my name right for the second time!  In all seriousness, the kindness of strangers throughout my genealogical journey continues to amaze me.  The forthcoming of information, the documents, the photos and what they had to do to get them:  traipsing through cow pastures in the rain, returning to cemeteries several times before night fall, and searching through chock full storage sheds in the heat of summer, all to feed my addiction to genealogy!  May I be half as kind someday.

I re-read Sherri's email.  She said "Mike's children" as in plural.  So there was more than one.  Megan had at least one sibling.  Why was she the only one mentioned in Rose's obituary?  In genealogy research, I learned that obituaries are unsubstantiated and information is omitted and sometimes just plain wrong.  A death is an emotional time and newspapers are a business charging a fee to publish obituaries.  I know my own grandmother Mary Sullivan Lagoy's obituary was wrong when it stated she was born on Long Island instead of Staten Island.  To be fair, they are the same place to people in upstate New York just like upstate is all the same rural place to those South of New York City.

I waited to hear from Megan.  Sherri said it might take a while for her to respond as she was going on vacation.  Several months went by.  Then the year on the calendar changed.  Still no response from Megan.  I emailed Sherri asking for Megan's email address and even gave her my phone number in case she preferred talking.  Sherri replied:

Hi Michelle,

Happy New Year to you, hope your holidays were blessed.  

I am sorry Megan has not gotten in touch with you.  I have been extremely busy at work, so I have not talked with her as much.  I will relay your message and see if we can get this going. 

Thank you,


This time Sherri spelled my name wrong with two "L's" instead of one.  She was busy at work. Genealogy is often defined as irritating the living and confusing the dead.  I feared that I had irritated Sherri.  But two days later, I received an email from Megan:

Hello Michele.  This is Megan ______.  Sherry told me you have found some information regarding my father.  Do you need me to verify its him or provide further info?  I'm going to be quite honest, since my grandmother's passing I have received correspondence from a handful of "relatives" seeking information for the wrong reasons.  I only wish to share genealogy related info on relatives no longer living.  The estate and family heirlooms have been willed and received.  If this seems harsh and offensive please understand it is not meant to be.  

I was not offended in the least.  She spelled my name right with one "L".  I completely understood her concerns about cyberspace scams and "relatives" coming out of the woodwork after a death.  All the more reason to get to know your family history.  I replied by sending her everything I wanted to share with her:  Vera's will mentioning her father and uncles, Richard's photos of Brian and a photo of Vera. I gave her my Facebook information, link to the online family tree and Cousins Drew and Bob's contact information.  When I went online later that night, I could tell I convinced her that I really was doing genealogy research and that we were related.  I had a Facebook friend request from her.  I had another email from her with the same photo of Vera that I had emailed her earlier; she had the exact same photo in her ephemera.  The lines of communication were opened.  She said she had a brother named Michael and asked me to add his name to the online family tree, which I did.  She linked me to his Facebook page where I said it was nice to finally "meet" them.  They replied in kind; we are all Facebook friends now.

At some point, Timothy O'Sullivan's name came up.   Of course Megan had heard that we were related to him and even had the copy of "the book" about him by James Horan. ( See the blog post titled " The Book, the Box and the Moment of Truth").  I didn't need any more proof that we were related to him by this time, but it was nice to know yet another branch of the family heard of his incredible story.  It was great to be in touch with Elizabeth Sullivan Rogers' descendants ( Cousin Bob descends from Elizabeth's oldest son George, Vera was childless, and Megan and Michael descend from Lizzie)  but little did I know that I wasn't done researching her branch of the family.

Rose Sullivan's Obituary
Photo of Frank Sullivan I posted on my Find A Grave account while looking for his descendants. Courtesy of  Drew Van Winkle (his handwriting. )

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