Kimmitt Genealogical Research

19 January 2015

Week #3 of 52 Ancestors: Philip Joseph Sullivan (1911-1969)

First, let me just effuse about what a good exercise this is! By writing about an ancestor I take a critical look at what I've gathered so far. Things I may have neglected for years look completely fresh and I am inspired to search in the many databases that have been created since I last investigated. I find this preferable to starting over completely.

I get a lot of clients looking for Sullivans. And Sullivans, in Boston or anywhere, are tough to research. There are billions of them and they all used the same eight names. Jeremiah Sullivan is a popular one--nickname Jerry. The client I was working on today had a Jeremiah Jerome Sullivan, aka Jerry Jerry Sullivan!

Today's subject, Philip Joseph O'Sullivan, was my father's first cousin. He was the son of my grandmother Annie Josephine [O']Sullivan's brother, Jeremiah Sullivan, and his wife Roseanne Dunn. While he may not be in my direct line, I love him for two reasons.

First, he was born in New Zealand. Long ago I found in the 1920 and 1940 censuses that his place of birth was NZ. At first I thought it must be an enumerator error, but it wasn't, because his death certificate confirmed it [Mass. VRS, deaths, 1969, Arlington, 2:208]. Then a few months ago I stumbled upon an index to NZ births online, and couldn't resist, so I sent away for his birth certificate. So now, if I go on vacation to New Zealand, I have as a destination: Khyber Pass Road, Newmarket. I like that it provides his parents' ages, AND gives Rose's county of birth as Roscommon as well. I have read that many people from the Milltown area in County Kerry emigrated to New Zealand.

New Zealand, Registrar of Births, Deaths & Marriages, birth certificate, Philip Joseph O’Sullivan, reg. n. 1911006915, 
26 May 1911, Khyber Pass Road, Newmarket, son of Jerry O’Sullivan, 31, b. Co. Kerry and Rose Dunn, 30, 
b. Roscommon; issued 3 November 2014.

I have not seen any evidence that he ever married, and he was single in 1940 when living with his father Jeremiah and siblings in Somerville, working as general job man. I just noticed that for his brother Thomas the enumerator wrote that he had filed his first papers ("Pa"), yet he was born in Massachusetts.

1940 US census, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Somerville, Ward 7, ED 106, sheet 61A,
1256 Broadway, household n. 61, Jeremiah Sullivan; ( : accessed 19 January 2015).
The second reason I love him is that he was naturalized. My grandparents came in the late nineteenth century and never bothered, probably hoping to return to Ireland some day. I wonder if World War II had anything to do with him filing his Declaration of Intention.

There are a few interesting tidbits in this file.

  • He arrived in Boston on 12 June 1913 from Queenstown on the SS Cymric, so his parents must have returned to Ireland before coming here.
  • He officially changed his surname from O'Sullivan to Sullivan. 
  • He claimed to be a chemist!
  • Some time after coming to Boston he lived in Milltown, his mother's Irish home townland. 
  • He was still not married and had no children in 1942.
  • He had blue eyes, black hair, and was 5'7.
  • He gained ten pounds between 1939 (140 lbs.) and 1942 (150 lbs.).
  • Witnesses were Edward F. Woods and John E. O'Brien.

Even better, his paperwork had a photograph!

United States District Court, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, Declaration of Intention, Philip Joseph Sullivan, n. 282025 (red stamp), n. 146348 (printed in black), certificate, n. 5554477, issued 3 August 1942; NARA, Waltham, Massachusetts, received 30 August 2012.
Sadly, my first cousin once removed died without us meeting. He was only 58 when he died on 1 June 1969. Somewhere in a pile in my office is the transcription I made of his death, listing the cause. I imagine he had a hard, lonely life, ping-ponging between continents, working variously as a longshoreman or shipper (or chemist?) I just hope he managed to find a little joy and love along the way.


Unknown said...

Great write up! You're inspiring me to get going with my own blog (planned for 2015). Plus, now I know what a 'kiwi cousin' is! Thanks!


Dear Polly,
2 thoughts about your relative Philip Joseph Sullivan --
a) since he came from a Anglo-Irish cultural tradition, could his "chemist" be a druggist or pharmacist in the USA?
b) Good thing he was applying for citizenship by 1940. My mother came as a landed immigrant from Canada about 1941 as well.
She said that shortly after Pearl Harbor, most aliens not on permenent residency or citizenship tracks were sent back to their countries by the US govt as war risks...
Happy family tree climbing!! KMC

Polly F. Kimmitt said...

Hello KMC!

Yes, he would call a druggist a chemist, but he wasn't qualified to be one from what I've seen. He was a longshoreman--quite different!

Interesting about the war influencing citizenship. Thanks for that info.