The hardest part about being a family historian/researcher is keeping up on all the living people at the end of the branches. I am not talking about the low hanging fruit of the younger generations, but those who find themselves in the years older than me. Those who are the matriarch and patriarch of their branches.
This became particularly evident yesterday when I went on am ‘Elmer Fudd’ hunt in the middle of some serious research efforts. Out of the empty recesses of my mind, I decided to look for the obituary of Maureen Hannigan Shay, who I thought was the matriarch of that branch of the family tree. I now know that she has two older sisters who have outlived her.
Tragedy struck the Shay family on September 2, 2001 when your son called his wife to let her know he arrived at the office. For them, it was a daily occurrence, sort of like a “I’m okay” moment after traveling the ferry and subway. Robert worked on the 110 floor of the World Trade Center and just moments after hanging up with is wife, disaster struck. I don’t think I need to recount the horror of the day and will probably append this later with some links to stories about Robert.
Last year (2020), Maureen ‘s husband passed away. Robert Sr had retired from the FDNY as a Lieutenant. He had raised his nine children and was enjoying life on Staten Island. But, alas, father time came knocking on his door.
I never knew my Staten Island relatives. For years my dad had often asked about Francis P Hannigan, the USGA officials and golf expert commentator about a family connect. But there was never an acknowledgement of the question, nor a response. It seemed that Frank had lived a difficult life growing up and he just desired to forget about his past. Then an outside tidbit provide a gleamier of hope to the Mott Haven clan when it appears a younger brother had stood as the witness for his brother’s citizenship processing. In the end, the connection was made, marriage proof in Nenagh, Tipperary, Ireland were uncovered and the travel to the land of new opportunity on the SS John Clarke was discovered. Michael Hannigan and Mary Quin only had one child that was birthed and that was in 1864 on the trip across the Atlantic Ocean. They named him Cornelius “Neil” George after his grandfathers and he was baptized in New Jersey some weeks after birth. In early 1870 they are in Westchester County. But for the second census for New York City residence in 1870 they are living on 35th Street in Manhattan. Eventually the family moves to Staten Island where Neil marries and raises his family of nine children.
Carroll was the last born son and the father of Maureen that I mentioned above. Carroll only had four children, unlike his father or his daughter. Maureen and Robert met at a pizza joint on Staten Island and were married in 1965. It was there that they raised their family and it was there in the family home that Maureen passed away just before Halloween. I had communicated with my cousin Jerry through Ancestry.com just the week before she passed and we were unaware of her recent health battle. Fortunately, at least from what we can find out, the recent SARS2 epidemic was not listed as the cause of death. Jerry recounted in an email yesterday of spending some time with Maureen and the stories she could tell. Unfortunately, neither an audio recording or a video filming of the event were not prepared. Now only the memories of the stories remain in the minds of the listeners.
So now that branch has fewer living stems. The two older sisters are all that remain from Carroll’s line. Maybe, someday soon I will be able to connect with them and they will be able to share the stories like their younger sibling.