Back in the Sullivan saddle…


It’s been a long time since I’ve either had the time to post or exciting story to post. I am still short in the time department, but I have had a significant find and wanted to share it out with the family.

John William Sullivan was my great grandfather and by most accounts a family deserter and minstrel man. I recently uncovered more truths about him which has provided a newfound respect for the man that I didn’t have before. This respect was for his military career. I wanted to fill in gaps of time that I couldn’t locate him in between census records. I took a shot at the 1900 census one last time because we did know he served during the Spanish American War due to gravestone info. I scrolled down the long list of John Sullivans (and there are many!) and saw location Washington Barracks, Washington DC. Well, anything was possible!

I clicked the record open and it read like a most obvious piece of information. John W Sullivan, check. Binghamton, NY, check. 7 Sherman Place, CHECK! I found him! He was in the federal census as a private and residing at the Washington Barracks which is the Marines HQ in D.C. It has been home to other arms of the military who were preparing for deployment. This record also listed what I needed to truly confirm, Battery M, 7th Regiment, Field Artillery. Now I had what I needed to move forward.

Over the Christmas break last year, I sent away for his possible military records. Everything came up zilch except for a file number provided and direction to write to the Dept of Veterans Affairs. I waited on that and am so glad because of the new info I found.

Battery M, 7th Field Artillery was an additional regiment to the Army due tothe declaration of war with Spain as our military strength was at a deficit. This particular regiment was sent to Puerto Rico to fend of the Spaniards. Google it, there’s some interesting info out there. In one of the books published about the war, I did learn that this regiment was renamed, read on…

I couldn’t understand why his gravestone was incribed (don’t laugh) “15 Bat F Art”. Along with having the incorrect year of death 1930 (actual 1929), I could never reconcile this regiment with the SpanAm war. I learned from an online copy of a book published about the war that this regiment had been renamed to the 15th Battery Light Field Artillery. Check! Digging deeper I went back to a file I kept in my shoebox of an enlistment record.

I read it again in disbelief that my great grandfather’s occupation was listed as jockey and he was 5′ 4″ (huh my Grampa was so tall!) but according to my mother’s historical account from her own research a long time ago, John’s brother Thomas owned a racehorse so this could make sense here. This record not only provides enlistment details, but discharge details as well. His regiment was listed as the 7th and then as 15th, perfect!

His discharge details require some deciphering though. It appears he ended his service Dec 15 1902 and was discharged from Angel Island, CA still as a Private but in fair condition. Could this also mean he served during the Phillipine Insurrection?? I have yet to determine it but it would appear as the reason he was in California at all.

There are several return from post records in 1900 to go along with the census. He was in and out of Walter Reed hospital from May-Aug that year. I don’t know the reason why. Once released from service in 1902, he appeared in the Binghamton city directories from 1903-1906 with USA as occupation a couple of years and then as a shoeworker. In 1907 he was removed to Rochester.

I do have newspaper clippings in 1904 of his time with the Binghamton Minstrels and York State Minstrels.

He surfaces between 1905-1908 in Syracuse newspaper clipping as having attended Valentines parties where he would be mentioned with a certain Mary Thompson whom he eventually marry. He (along with Mary) was also mentioned in stories about the shoeworker union strikes at the time and eventually left for Rockland, MA to work the booming shoe factories there.

Mary also went to MA, but to Brockton as her twin sister Sarah had moved there with new husband Frank in 1909. There they were shoeworkers and in October 11, 1911 Mary and John wed in Brockton. They returned soon after as my grandfather John Edward was born in Binghamton in 1913.

They didn’t stay together very long after their return however they both were shoeworkers at Endicott Johnson. He went on to be part of the EJ Minstrels and various other mintrel shows (Holy Name Minstrels) as a hoofer and singer in blackface. He moved to Elmira, NY for a while where he registered for the draft in 1918 for WWI. Occupation this time, bartender.

I can’t be sure now if he actually was drafted for WWI or not, but at least I have more concrete information to send with my request to the VA. I can’t locate him in any city directories after this time either. in 1921 he is still performing in minstrel shows.

The trail ends with his passing in Albany, NY in 1929 at St. Peter’s hospital. His funeral was held at his sister Nellie (Sullivan) Ryan’s home. He is buried in St. Patrick’s cemetery in Binghamton.

I can’t wait to discover more and hopefully gain new information from the VA. But in the meantime, I am glad to be back in the saddle like my great grandfather and get this info out to the family.



Friend or foe?



Today I am back at Duke University’s Bostock library to hopefully uncover information that will help fill in some leaves on the family tree and provide a general idea as to when my ancestors arrived.
After my unsuccessful last attempt at finding the microfiche which held the Binghamton City Directories, these helpful library folks tracked down the microform (totally different shape and size and material!) that held the 1857-1860 records I was looking for.
I got a quick goosebump chill as I headed down to where the microfilm readers are, anxious as to what I would find. I encountered this machine, the ST Viewscan and wondered if it would be my friend or foe today. I’ve never touched anything like this before and consider myself research challenged when it comes to more ancient technology ;-). I’m hoping to add the photo but the blog is not allowing it.
There was nothing too exciting in what I found other than potentially confirming a family member. However, I now know what they did for a living and know where they lived and potentially see how the Sullivan and Lynch families got together just from living on the same street. More to piece together now!

Memorial Day – Michael Sullivan in the Civil War


Folks are enjoying the 3 day weekend, time by the pool or off to the beach. I’m enjoying it all too, but having started this family research quest a few years ago, I have a new appreciation for those who serve or served this country. Several men in the family have served in different war times but the story of my great great grandfather’s brother Michael Sullivan is of the utmost significance to me.

He enlisted in the Corcoran’s Irish Brigade in 1862 in Binghamton NY. He was a mere 19 years old, the same age as many of today’s soldiers who are serving in the middle east. This was a particular group of Irishman who had recently emigrated and were led by Michael Corcoran who was set free from court martial to join federal forces against the confederacy. Why he was being court martialed had a bit to do with his disrespect toward the Crown of England, but I will leave it to you to secure your own history lesson.

I sent away for Michael Sullivan’s enlistment record and discovered he was already married and had a child while he was serving in the Union army. Long story short, Michael did not make it home from the war and his widow Mary remarried another Civil War soldier Orville Benton who raised Michael’s son William as his own (including a name change to Benton). I am researching the son William and hope that when the 1940 New York census is complete and available online I will learn more.

Michael served is the 155th infantry Company F. They saw several battles and Michael survived most but was wounded at the Siege of Petersburg in Virginia. He was taken as a prisoner of war at Ream’s Station. His final days were spent in the Salisbury NC confederate prison. He eventually died from his wounds and the horrible conditions of the over populated prison. His resting place is a mass grave for Union soldiers in Salisbury and the prison was burned to the ground. He never made it back to Binghamton to be buried in the Sullivan plot along with his mother and brothers Dennis and my great great grandfather Thomas.

Being a transplant in North Carolina from New York and being truly oblivious (until my time here) about the Civil War, I did not fully recognize or appreciate the toll of these battles and the true importance they played in shaping our history and what is now the future state.  Our modern issue over acceptance of gay marriage is reminiscent of the emancipation of slaves, a tortured minority. This war elevated an issue to all consciousness and conscience and the result was a true awakening of what civil rights was about. It seems to me that if this country can move past slavery, then gay marriage too shall come to pass. I just hope it’s in my lifetime not in my children’s.

More about the 155th:,_New_York_Infantry

More about the battle at Petersburg:

More about Ream’s Station:

A mother’s day treat!


I recently came across a tree on that had a distant relative on it; my tree also had this person. Sure I did Google searches to find out more info for this possibly living relative, but I contacted the person who owned this tree and she gave me the phone number of the person who is a second cousin once removed. Well I waited for the right moment to contact this woman in her early seventies while my mom is here for Mother’s Day weekend. We called together both excited and nervous about opening this door.
She picked up, I asked if she was the person I was calling for, she was. I won’t divulge her name but she is a living descendant of the Sullivan family of which my mom and I are also from. She was cautious with info, having me present her siblings’ names before truly opening up. She is a very sweet woman and seemed thrilled with what I knew and the memories I conjured up for her. The one connection we both shared the most info on was her grandpa.
Her grandpa was the captain of the fire department in Binghamton NY for decades. There are many heroic stories about his rescues and dedication to his work that I have found. This granddaughter told me he was the first paid firefighter in the town. She recalled him living with her family in his later life and his being the only person in the house with a radio. She and her siblings used to sneak in his room to listen and upon hearing his footsteps would retreat under his bed where he found them every time.
I have sparked something in her now and she’s reached out to her other 2 living siblings to look through photos and other memories,
Today was a great chat with a sweet person but really opened up a new path to my family research. I look forward to what we can share together. I think we made each other’s Mother’s Day!