My last visit to my job at the Mastic-Moriches-Shirley Community Library has had some dazzling results. I had another return patron sit down with me for a one-on-one research session during which time she told me all about the story surrounding her grandfather's murder; well, at least what she had heard.
It happened long before she was born so Mrs. G never knew her granddad. As she began to tell the story I immediately went to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle online at https://bklyn.newspapers.com/; a free resource. There we found several articles revealing many of the details Mrs. G already knew.
From the date of death, we found the death record for her grandpa. He had a very common name. Without that date I fear I would have never been able to narrow down which man he was - his name is so common; William Walsh. Using The New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949 database (https://familysearch.org/search/collection/2240477) with in FamilySearch.org, though, I found it right away.
From there we learned his parents names. When I got home, I did sort of a back-end search this time in the New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909 (https://familysearch.org/search/collection/2240282). I searched for children born to a couple with the same names as Mrs. G's great grandparents names. This revealed not only her grandfather's date of birth but also several of his siblings and their birthdates.
Armed with the names of some of the members of this family group I was able to find census records for the family. I then moved beyond the censuses to vital records and military records. When all of sudden, what do my eyes behold but three records; two for William and one for his brother (with a much more unusual name) in the U.S. Applications for Seaman's Protection Certificates in Ancestry.com.
I have run across these Protection Certificates before. According to the National Archives catalog, "A typical application contains the seaman's name, the date and place of his birth, his address, signature, thumb print, a photograph, his present or prospective rating, and the name of the vessel on which he served or was expected to join. As evidence of citizenship, birth certificates, affidavits by relatives or friends, or citations to naturalization proceedings were frequently appended." That's right, like naturalization records, these records often have photographs and sure enough staring back at me were images of William; young with eyes full of hopes and dreams. A man his granddaughter has never laid eyes on.
Additionally, these men's birth certificates were appended to the applications which confirmed their parents' names.
I immediately called Mrs. G who was so excited and looks forward to gathering the copies of the images of the documents that I will leave for her at the reference desk when next I visit the library.
During our session together, Mrs. G had burst into tears at one point, so overcome with excitement but saddened by the notion that she had no family members who remembered these people; no one to share her grandfather's story with.
I expressed to her that it isn't necessary that these stories be shared with people acquainted with the deceased. I assured her that there would be many people who would want to hear his story. Many. I told her it isn't always this easy; especially with ancestors who have common names. Sometimes it's very near impossible to discern one common named individual from another. But, some relatives just want to be found. They just want their story known.