Doing family tree research can be such a rewarding experience. Many debate even starting their researching their family trees however because they are afraid of what they will find. We may not like to admit it but we all have ancestors in our family tree that are considered the “black sheep” of the tree. Today, the black sheep of my family tree is my great-grandfather, Michael J. Walsh.
Michael J Walsh (my great-grandfather) was born August 12, 1881 in Kiltimagh, County Mayo, Ireland. He came to the United States through Ellis Island in 1904 and went straight to Springfield, Illinois. In 1906, he married Anne Cunnane (also of Kiltimagh) and they had a son named James in 1907. Anne died shortly after his birth leaving Michael to raise his son alone. Instead, Michael left him with his sister in Springfield and took off to Chicago for years without any contact with his son. This is merely the first instance of the abandonment of his children.
In 1914, Michael remarried and began his life with my great-grandmother, Catherine “Kate” Costello (also from County Mayo). Kate had two children from a previous marriage, John and Margaret Connell. She was appalled and refused to leave Michael’s son down in Springfield any longer. James was brought up to Chicago live with them in 1915. Michael and Kate had three more children together, Michael J (b: 1915, d: 1915), Simon Bernard (b: 1916, d: 1972) and “Baby” Jane (b: 1923, d: 2007). Simon Bernard Walsh was my grandfather. He unfortunately died before I was born. Below is a family photo taken in approximately 1925. Included in the photo are (Back – Left to Right: James Walsh, Michael J Walsh, John O’Connell, Margaret O’Connell; Front – Left to Right: Simon Bernard Walsh, Jane Walsh and Catherine “Kate” Costello Walsh)
Shortly after this photograph was taken, Kate died with bladder cancer in 1927. Again, Michael showed his true colors and his daughter Jane was sent to live with one of Kate’s sisters. Jane spoke of the time she remembers seeing him on the street when she was young and she called out to him. He looked right past her and didn’t even acknowledge her. That memory stuck with her throughout her life. In the early 1930′s Simon was sent to live with another of Kate’s sisters and the other siblings all went off on their own. Shortly after that, Michael died in 1930 of “Hypertension and Heat Prostration”. His children grew up in loving homes with their mother’s families, however the stigma of their father abandoning them lived on.