Great Grandfather Patrick Thomas Flanagan Dies of TB Two Days Before Christmas 1928

Flanagan Brothers GRCOH Family Sheet
Family card from the German Roman Catholic Orphan Home in Buffalo, noting Patrick’s date of death. Click for a larger view. Family files, provided by Catholic Charities of Buffalo, New York.

My 51st entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge.

My 51st ancestor is my great grandfather Patrick Thomas Flanagan (abt. 1897-1928). I have written about Patrick in the past, but not as part of the 52 Ancestors project. I have selected him for this week because he remains one of my major research brickwalls. Also because of timing.

Patrick allegedly died from tuberculosis just two days before Christmas 1928. Leaving behind wife Sarah Kennedy (1898-1930) who would die one and a half years later of the same disease, as well as three stepchildren (ages 18, 12, and 11), two older children from a previous marriage, and three younger children from wife Sarah (ages 8, 3, and 1-1/2). My grandfather Michael John Flanagan (1927-1997) was the baby, who at just 1-1/2 years old never got to know his father.

The family was extremely poor, so I cannot imagine that there was ever much in the way of gifts or fancy meals at Christmas time in the Flanagan household. But it breaks my heart to know that these children lost their father/stepfather and Sarah lost her husband right before Christmas. After watching him grow increasingly ill from TB. Sarah kept home, so she (and Patrick knowing the seriousness of his illness) had to be frantically worried about how she would provide financially for her children after Patrick’s death. Sarah died in June 1930 from the same illness, so it is very likely she contracted it from her husband, probably while caring for him.

Sarah’s fears were justified. By 1930, possibly even as early as 1929, the minor age children had to be committed to an orphanage because Sarah was too ill to care for them. The children would lead hard unhappy lives in foster care, getting split up and losing touch with each other. Patrick had an older brother and a sister who lived nearby in Buffalo. The parents of both Patrick and Sarah still lived back in their hometown in Ohio. But none of these families were well off and had lots of other mouths to house, clothe, and feed. So Patrick and Sarah’s children grew up alone, without family. This Christmas of 1928 was the last Christmas the family would ever spend together.

My grandfather lived the the rest of his life trying to heal this hurt by growing a big family of his own and showering his children and grandchildren with affection and love. He made us each feel like the most wanted loved child on earth. It breaks my heart to know that he never experienced anything close to this feeling himself.

I say that Patrick Thomas allegedly died in 1928 of tuberculosis. This is because I have no real proof of his date or cause of death. I have been unsuccessful in obtaining a death certificate from Erie County or the city of Buffalo, or in finding one at the Family History Library. There is no obituary. And I cannot even locate his burial site. Patrick does not appear to be buried with his wife Sarah or with his older brother Michael, both buried in Buffalo. The only record I have of Patrick’s death is from the orphan records I obtained for the children from the German Roman Catholic Orphan Home in Buffalo. The orphan records note that Patrick died on 23 December 1928 from tuberculosis.

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0 thoughts on “Great Grandfather Patrick Thomas Flanagan Dies of TB Two Days Before Christmas 1928”

  1. michael flanagan

    Luckily my dad had aunt Edna and uncle La Verne Buckley (no blood relation) as a child. This was were my dad learned to love. They were my god parents and we are still connected with their family.

    1. Yes! Grandpa even listed Vern and Edna as his parents on his marriage certificate. I’m not sure he knew the names of his actual parents at that time, but he definitely considered Vern and Edna his family. I’ll have to share some of those photos on here too..thanks for the reminder!

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