New York, County Naturalization Records, 1791-1980,

It was a nice moment of synchronicity to go from services for Aunt June into the Michigan Genealogical Council’s Fall Seminar this past weekend featuring Paul Milner who spoke on British Isles Research. Inspired by Uncle Bob’s question, “Am I an O’Shea?” (Short answer: Yes), I spent the Friday night Lock-in at the Archives of Michigan focusing on Michael and Patrick O’Shea (probably related, but definitely brother-in-laws by way of sisters, Amy Alvina Conchessa McUmber and Melissa Teresa McUmber). I didn’t find a lot of new information but I do have a line on naturalization records in Jefferson County, New York that might shed more light on their move to the United States. Many thanks to the Archives staff for hosting us all!

Saturday’s seminar was great as well. I would highly suggest Paul Milner as a speaker. I spent my day in the Michigan Historical Center’s Forum for his presentations: Finding Your English Ancestors, A New Location, Finding your Scottish Ancestors, and Irish Immigrants to North America. The talks were chalk full of information to apply to our Packer, Massy, Alison, and Shea lines. It was a particular treat to realize most of his Scottish examples were from Perthshire, Scotland in the same parishes that the Alison, Inglis, and Maxton families called home.

So, I’ve added to my (never-ending) to do list:

  • Making sure I’ve gone through the available BMD indexes
  • Start using Scotlands People
  • Try to figure out where in Ireland Patrick & Michael O’Shea came from in Ireland
  • Confirm where the Byrnes and Cunninghams came from in Ireland
  • Explore more information about the parts of Limerick, Ireland that the Massy family hails from.

So much searching to do and so little time!

Happy hunting,


June06When I talk about Henry Massy, it always starts with a request made by my Grandmother and Great Aunt to find his story. And all along the way they were fabulous cheerleaders, attentive in hearing what I uncovered and appreciative of the time and efforts and I was honored to be able to give them back some of the story lost to them. My Great Aunt died this past weekend. She was one of the nicest people you could meet, stubbornly independent, and a beautiful soul.


When you feel like you’ve run out of records and the trip to New York seems impossible to plan right now… what do you do? I tend to start researching the locations, ideally to unearth more records. For this particular branch of the tree that meant researching Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties in New York.  By looking through the St. Lawrence County Historical Association’s website I discovered the NYS Historic Newspapers project—a fabulous resource for New York researchers! Again, newspapers are the perfect resource for finding out the dirt on our black sheep relatives—what sells in the news business has not really changed… scandal and crime being top of the list. And that’s how I learned another piece of Michael O’Shea’s story.

OSheaMWatertownReunion18860428I was aware of Michael’s existence. He was an Irish immigrant and tailor in Upstate New York. I believe he is a close relative of my 3rd Great Grandfather, Patrick Shea or O’Shea and I know the men married sisters, Amy and Theresa McCumber, and the two couples were listed consecutively in the 1850 United States Census in Philadelphia, Jefferson County, New York. I had already found evidence that Michael and his wife were buried at St Patrick’s Cemetery in Rossie, New York (as was Patrick). But that was pretty much the total of my information prior to finding the newspapers.

Upon searching the NYS Historic Newspapers, I learned that Michael stopped by the hotel of George McLear in Rossie for drinks twice on the 21st of April 1886 and then while walking home that night fell into the Indian River. He was first reported missing but his body washed ashore days later.

OSheaMHisdeathwasnolossIn response, his widow, Amy, filed a civil suit against the hotel owner for serving Michael. The story plays out in articles in a number of the region’s newspapers in two counties as the case was tried, overturned and pursued again later by Michael’s daughter Rosanna. Ultimately the O’Shea’s lost the case when the defense persuaded the jury that Michael wasn’t that drunk and it had been a very dark night to be out walking without a lantern and it was likely just an accident.

His history of drinking didn’t serve the family well either as the defendant in the first trial remarked, “his death was no loss to the plaintiff as he was a worthless fellow and did nothing to support his wife.”


Happy hunting,


So the summer has been a bit overwhelming and I am embarrassed to say I missed my own blog anniversary… but I’m back!

I’ve spent a lot of the summer jumping around in my research. And I’ll be covering a few of my experiences in the next few posts but first and foremost I’d like to give a very late shout out regarding the annual Abrams Foundation Family History Seminar hosted by the Archives of Michigan and the Michigan Genealogical Council last month. For those not in the know, it’s an annual Friday-Saturday event in July featuring  great speakers—generally one nationally recognized presenter (this year, Michael Lacopo) and a number of regional presenters—and a Lock-In at the Archives on Friday evening.

Jill Arnold’s session on World War I records at the Archives of Michigan was my Friday highlight. It was a great rundown of the collections suggested in a new research guide available at the Archives. It gave me a lot of ideas for researching my Shea uncles and cousin who served. My great grandfather was turned away from serving when they realized he had TB but he had three brothers and one cousin serve out of Michigan.

Cornelius Earl Shea's World War I Navy Veteran's BonusI was able to immediately follow up by using my time at the Lock-in to pull cards in the Veterans’ Bonus Files for Uncles Earl, George, Glen, and Cousin Roy Shea. I was particularly fascinated by the Navy cards which listed each posting (ship or base) where my uncles Glen and Earl were stationed including enrolling a day apart in Philadelphia and each serving their first 6 months together on the U.S.S. Massachusetts before splitting up. They served throughout the war leaving the service in March of 1919 having attained the same rank of Electrician 3rd Class Radio.

I was actually able to go back to work the next week and follow up with the book U. S. Warships of World War I by Paul H. Silverstone (available at the Archives) which offers pictures of either actual ships or a sample of their class along with statistics and information. It’s a nice piece of color to add to your understanding of your ancestors and those times.

My Saturday highlight was Michael Lacopo’s presentation “Deconstructing Your Family Tree,” which has undoubtedly become a very popular and needed theme of late. Lacopo reminded us that there are any number of errors within our research or others’—sometimes innocent, sometimes intentional—and we need to effectively evaluate sources getting back to original documents, tracking down the sources of published genealogies, and being mindful of why a document was created in the first place. The line that stayed with me, “If you’re going to give yourself a concussion do it properly,” by banging your head against the correct brick wall versus someone else’s.

In the two days I also attended sessions on genetic genealogy, using Facebook groups for genealogy research, and Michael Lacopo’s presentation on records between the Census. And I presented on my black sheep ancestors (such as Henry Massy)—from my point of view you have to find the humor in the situations and remember their actions  shouldn’t reflect on current generations.

I am fairly certain a good time was had by all. It definitely worked that way for me!

Happy hunting,


Found this while hunting around for something else. The sisters are my Great Aunt and my Grandmother. The poor kid cut out at the top is their younger brother. I believe the girl in the box is a cousin but I’m going to have to double check that.

Happy hunting,



Shea MenI’m likely to end up missing or replacing my Wordless Wednesday post this week, so take this as an early nod.

Here’s a photo from one of my Irish lines. These are my 2nd Great Grandfather Cornelius and my Great Grandfather Robert James Shea. Cornelius was born in New York to an Irish born father. I’ll tell you more about him in a future 52 Ancestors post.

Happy hunting,


Since I’ve already spent a great deal of time on my Grandmother’s parents (Robert and Cora (Packer) Shea) I’d like to explore some of their close family as the year progresses starting with Gran’s Aunt Retta Shea Brooks.

Loretta SheaLoretta M. Shea was my Great Grandfather’s oldest sibling. She was born 10 months after him on October 13, 1889 in New York State, possibly while the family was visiting her father, Cornelius Shea’s family. She grew up with her siblings in Empire Township, Leelanau County, Michigan. In the 1910 Census she was still living at home but was working as a teacher in the public schools. The family then appears in the 1911 directory for Traverse City where Retta worked as a clerk at Steinberg Brothers, dry goods store.

Four years later she married William Ralph Brooks in Frankfort, Benzie County, Michigan. Ralph was the son of Cook and Martha (Snell) Brooks of Benzie and then Grand Traverse County, Michigan where Cook labored in and later owned his own farm. Interestingly the couple started their family immediately with the birth of Donna Marian Brooks, in Woodson Virginia. I have no idea why they were there but multiple sources say Marian was born in Virginia. By June of 1917, when Ralph filled out his World War I Draft Card, they were settled in Traverse City, Grand Traverse County, Michigan, where Ralph worked as a carpenter.

By the 1920 Census they had moved to Kent County and settled near Loretta’s family in Grand Rapids, Michigan where Ralph worked as a carpenter for one of the many furniture factories and their next two children Ralph Jr. and Jack were born. By the 1930 Census the couple owned their own home and had added Lucille, Wayne, Doris and Mary Kathleen. By 1936 the family had moved out to a rural part of Grattan Township, Kent County and added their last children Glenn in 1931 and Clare Ellen in September of 1936 (who sadly died a scant 18 weeks later). In the city directories I’ve looked at so far, it appears that the couple moved back into Grand Rapids and throughout the 1940s and as late as 1960 they were listed as living at 43 Stewart Street SW.

Ralph Sr. died 30 April 1963 and was laid to rest at Resurrection Cemetery, Wyoming Township, Kent County, Michigan. Aunt Retta died in April 1975 and was laid to rest beside him.

Any Brooks researchers out there? I’d love to know why both Aunt Retta and her daughter were born out of state.

Happy hunting!


Note:  The photo is cropped from this larger family portrait.


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