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Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Sharkey Name Game & A Bad Tattoo

I should be grateful in my genealogical endeavors that my Irish side of the family has a somewhat unusual name.  I mean, it's not the name an author would chose first in identifying an Irish protagonist: James Sharkey.  The name doesn't immediately make you think green fields and barley or a scrappy, jaunty-cap-wearing trap driver.  But you'd be surprised how many Sharkeys there are in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

It is not even the amount of Shakeys that is my real problem though. It's the crazy amount of times the names Dominick, Winnefred, Catherine, Joseph and Mary get reused.  I am stuck and here is why:

My great great grandmother Nora (Honora) Sharkey was born a Sharkey in 1850 and married a Sharkey around 1871.  One must presume she and her husband were some sort of cousins because his name, like her brother's was Dominick.  This sort of thing can certainly happen without being kin--but usually in reverse when a man marries a woman with the same name as his sister.  This happened to me and for a brief moment in time there were two of us named Jennifer Lucas in my family.  Unfortunately, my brother's ill thought-out tattoo "Jen & Rich" in a love heart outlasted the marriage.  I must point out that, oddly enough, I married a Richard but I have not tattooed it anywhere.   But again, my argument is that if the bride and groom have the same surname to begin with they likely have a common ancestor, no?

I started what I refer to as unpicking the knots in the Sharkey ball of yarn almost 20 years ago when my mother died.  At that time, I only knew my grandmother's father was named James.  In the "old" days one had to actually go to an official location to look at microfilm of old census records to find your people.  I still can remember my first squee!-- when I found them through the view finder.  I did literally squeal so loudly that I was compelled to apologize to my fellow researchers.  None of them blinked, none of them cared, all of them were looking for their moment to do the very same.

My first squee! Now easily obtained online.

I was living in New York City at the time so as soon as I could, I went up to Syracuse and found their graves in St. Agnes Cemetery, the streets they lived on and the church they attended.  I found Nora's obituary in the library and learned I was not crazy--there were two Dominick Sharkeys and thankfully she was not married to her brother.  I could not, however, find where they came from in Ireland and the line of this huge family seemed to dry up.  My life took on other focus as my grieving for my mother--which I think sparked this need to know--moved on to other phases.  Genealogy was set aside.

Fast forward to the present and I have found only one relative who comes from this line and admittedly, he knows less than me.  Still, it is wonderful to know someone else cares that these people lived.  On, there are folks that seem to have my people in their trees but it still doesn't pan out for me.  There's no supporting evidence that I can see for the connection.  I can't find where mine were born or married and I can't find what ship they came over on. 

Either Dominick or Nora had a mother named Mary Conlon and a father named Dominick as seen on Nora's death certificate--but I think Dominick answered the questions as if they were being asked of him not Nora.  A few years later on Dominick's death certificate his parents are listed as Dominick and Mary Sharkey.   So no real help.

Suggestions welcome and, as always, think through your tattoos before application.



  1. I had blocked out that tattoo that our brother had. Yeah, be careful with names. It can all go so badly. In fact, don't get a tattoo at all. They fade and sag after a while (um, 25 years and counting) and no amount of re-inking is gonna make it purty again. Plus, if you tattoo your arms up and down you automatically can't where any Lily Pulitzer. Ever. That's just sad.

    Question: Is that Grandma Kate's father's headstone? And if so, why am I just seeing it for the first time here today. What else are you holding out on me with? I am so confused that my fillings hurt. I don't know how you are gonna get the knots out of this ball of yarn. But thanks again for another splendid post. Love, Diana

  2. James didn't have a headstone. Dominick was Gram's grandfather--James' father. I have Nora someplace, too