Mystery on the Railroad Tracks – Or the River?

Jacquelyn became interested in family history years ago, and had made great progress on her own family history research. However, despite using several sources and being a member of a research group, Jacquelyn continued to have a mystery that she could not solve.

Her great grandfather, Mortimer (or Martin) Shea, born in 1859 in County Kerry, Ireland, had come to the United States in 1882. He and his wife, Catherine, settled in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and had six children. Although this all sounds fairly typical, the mystery surrounded the circumstances of Mortimer’s death.

Family stories indicated that Mortimer had been robbed, killed, and left on the railroad tracks. Though a sad and intriguing story, it was difficult to verify. The only death certificate Jacquelyn could find for Mortimer was actually not his, but his son’s. She could not find an obituary. She did not know when he died — all she had to go on were family stories and 1 letter from a child of Mortimer.

Obituary of Catherine Shea in The Evening News (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania); Monday, June 8, 1925; page 15. Downloaded from

Jacquelyn heard about AncestorCloud, and decided it was worth a try. After posting a request, she heard from Robert Ankenbauer, a researcher in the AncestorCloud community. Robert, who had successfully fulfilled several requests, had been able to find documents that helped to resolve the mystery.

At first, Robert did not find anything on Mortimer (Martin) Shea because the time period of death was unknown – leaving a large amount of time during which Mortimer may have died. Robert decided to look for the obituary of Mortimer Shea’s wife, Catherine, which gave him the important hint — Mortimer had died two years earlier.

Based on this new piece of information, Robert conducted an expanded search from that time-frame and then found the articles on martin.

He found a funeral notice and a couple descriptions of what really happened. Based on newspaper articles that Robert found, Mr. Shea’s body was found by a police officer in the Susquehanna River.

Years of looking and Robert found what I needed in HOURS of me sending out my request! I’m so grateful!

Though the story of Mortimer or Martin Shea is a sad one, Robert’s research revealed what had actually happened. It was gratifying for Jacquelyn to find answers after years of wondering.

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