Friday, July 14, 2017

Willie T. Revisited

     Two years ago I wrote a blog about my search for my 1st cousin 3X removed, John Sheehan, who left home one day in 1875 and was never seen nor heard from again.  I promised an update if I ever tracked John down or alternatively, if I discovered what had caused the unrelated death of his nephew William Thomas Sheehan seventy six years later at the age of only 52.  Well, neither of those things have come to pass.  John is still among the missing and it's clear now that I'm not going to get a cause of death for William unless I order his certificate from the state of California.  I've located a death notice for William, but he passed away in Los Angeles and those big city newspapers didn't devote much print to lengthy obituaries unless the deceased was famous in some way.

     So why am I writing an update?  Because I found something even better than a cause of death for William, I found a photograph!  OK, Ancestry found it I guess and sent me one of those little leaves, but I'm still excited.  It's so rare that I come across photographs.

William Thomas Sheehan (1899-1951
     William was 20 years old when this photo was taken.  The document it was attached to was his application for a Citizen Seaman's Protection Certificate which he filed in September of 1919.  The certificates functioned like  passports for seamen and were issued at all Great Lake and ocean ports by the collector of customs.

     This may have been William's first trip, the spaces provided for listing departures and arrivals is blank on his form, but there is a ship called the Pearl Shell noted on the application. Also included in the file is a notarized, handwritten affidavit from William's mother Lillian Putnam Sheehan giving his date and place of birth.  I found a reference to William's ship in a book online called International Marine Engineering, Vol. 23 that indicated the ship was an oil tanker that was part of the Merchant Marine fleet and had been taken over by the US government.  That would explain the 1920 census which says William was a machinist who worked for the government.

   Below is what is written on the back of the photo and I admit I'm stumped.  I get the "Citz" in pencil that must be an abbreviation of citizen, but the rest?  Any suggestions what it may mean would be appreciated.



  1. I've found similar pictures of my sea-faring relatives too, Ellie, both in these U.S. and in U.K. records - two great-granduncles and one of their cousins - Isn't it just so satisfying to put faces to the names and dates!

    1. Extremely satisfying. I guess I had forgotten you had some relatives over here :)