Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Genealogical Journey: Finding My First John Smith aka James Sullivan

One thing led to another.  Having tracked down two of my great-grandfather's siblings' descendants, I was left with the task of finding the remaining two.  (Old Uncle George had no descendants, having had his heart broken, he ran off and joined the Circus as previously mentioned.)  I decided to take a look at finding living descendants of great-grandpa's brother named James Sullivan (1853-1906).  I might as well look for the genealogical equivalent of a needle in a hay stack: John Smith.

Old Uncle George Sullivan about 1915, Staten Island.  ( Courtesy of Drew Van Winkle)  
Agnes Lyons Van Winkle,, with Old Uncle George Sullivan.  ( From the private collection of Drew Van Winkle.)

Utilizing the research techniques that served me well thus far, I searched census forms for Staten Island.  I quickly learned that James S. Sullivan was married to a woman named Julia, and their children were named:  James A., Anna Maria, and Joseph Francis Sullivan.  Those names matched Bill's dad's notes.  More John Smiths to trace, but I had three leads.  At some point I learned that James A. and Anna married but had no children.  To further confuse me, James A. married a woman named Helen whose maiden and married names were both Sullivan.  I wondered if she had to officially change her name.

My hopes of finding living relatives from this branch of the family all rested on a man named Joseph Francis Sullivan.  Via the draft records for both World Wars, I learned that he had blue or grey eyes, a ruddy complexion and worked for the Post Office.  His physical description was keeping in line with most of the Sullivan men, including my dad.  I realized from this form that the letters "P" and "O" next to his name stood for Post Office on Cousin Bill's dad's notes!  (Cousin Bill's dad was also named James Sullivan and also worked for the Post Office.  Perhaps he and Joseph had met there, and sharing the same job, last name and probably looks, struck up a conversation about how they might be related.)

Family tree notes showing descendants of James Sullivan.  Note my grandparents' names William Lagoy and Mary Sullivan.

Above notes credited to James J. Sullivan, Cousin Bill's dad who gave me these invaluable notes. 

The 1940 census showed Joseph Sullivan married to a woman named Alma and their children were listed as Joseph Jr,, John and Carol Ann.

1940 Census showing the family of Joseph and Alma Sullivan on Staten Island.  It was their descendants I was seeking.  Source:  1940 US Census from the Family Search website

I was stuck at this information for a long time and unable to make headway with those names.  More John Smiths.  Then one day, the genealogy gods were with me or Joseph wanted me to find his family.  On the Family Search website, I came across an unlikely record that I thought had no business being online but it was classified as a public record. It stated that Joseph F. Sullivan, aka Joseph James Sullivan and a date of birth of 27 May 1925.  This too, was another stroke of luck.  On the 1925 New York State Census, taken on June 1, 1925, Joseph was listed as five days old, thus I was able to hone in on his date of birth as his age was only days old at the time the census was taken.  I now had a name, a date of birth, and an address from the aforementioned draft card that all matched.  I was getting somewhere.  The bottom of the public record listed possible relatives:  Angelique Phyllis, Beatrice M. and Margaret E. Sullivan.  Finally, there were some names I could leverage and match up with Joseph Sullivan.  Before I tell you the rest of the story, let me remind you about the Clay boys who were put into an orphanage. ( See the three previous blog posts titled "The Cryne Line").  Now let me balance the family tree by showing you the obituary of Joseph's wife Beatrice Sullivan (1927-2013).

Beatrice M. Sullivan (2013) 

AGE: 86 • Brick, New Jersey

Beatrice M. (Schine) Sullivan, also known as "Bea" "BB" "Grandma B" and "Mom," 86, of Brick, died Saturday, July 27, 2013, at Meridian Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Brick. She was born and raised in Staten Island and lived there for 60 years before moving to Brick in 1986. She was a graduate of Port Richmond High School in Staten Island. In her younger years, she enjoyed spending her summers in Highlands, NC and loved reunion trips back to Highlands. She was a parishioner of the Church of the Epiphany in Brick where she taught CCD classes. She was a member and past president of Mater Dei Chapter of the New York Foundling Hospital Center for Development of Children. She was honored by Cardinal Cook for her work in finding homes for children, many of whom were taken in at her home. She was also honored as a Foster Parent of the Year. She loved bowling and was a member of the Columbettes Bowling League and was a member of the Music Club and Italian American Club at the Original Leisure Village in Lakewood.

She was predeceased by her beloved husband of 44 years, Joseph J. Sullivan in 1990. She is survived by 11 children, Barbara Tunnington and her husband, Tom of Brick, Margaret Territo of Manchester, Joseph Sullivan and his wife, Karen of Parlin, Robin Bisogna and her partner, Audie Parker of Staten Island, Catherine Regan of Yorktown, TX, Angelique Reedy and her husband, Ron of Brick, Ginny Romo of Columbus, GA, Azealia Caceres of Philadelphia, PA, Tommy Wong and his wife, Sherry of Utica, NY, Daniel Lenier of Montgomery, AL and Jackie Andujar of Staten Island; 22 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren; and several nieces & nephews. - See more at:

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