Posted by Ancestry Team on November 4, 2016 in Guest Bloggers, In The Community

This member success story below was shared with us by Sean S. of Massachusetts.

Sweeney Family Reunion

After a family reunion on my mother’s side in 1994, my interest in researching further on my father’s side began. Sure, I knew going back to my grandparents and a few of their siblings; two brothers married a pair of sisters, and how my great aunt two ways ensnared my great uncle two ways, well, that’s another story. Anyway, that was as far as I knew, those were the only Sweeneys and Boyds.

However, after a conversation with my great-aunt, my knowledge deepened.

Sitting at my great-aunt’s kitchen table, she told me about my great-grandfathers, my great-grandmothers, and all of the siblings. Her mother came from Kiltimagh, County Mayo. It became very difficult to confirm this information, only to discover she was actually born two years earlier than it states on the family headstone.

But my paternal grandfather’s father, William J. Sweeney, Jr., is where this particular story begins. William Sr. died in 1924. He was an itinerant plumber, and he had stepped on a nail, the wound became gangrenous, and he eventually died. He left my great-grandmother, Annie Farrell Sweeney, and three minor children, including my grandfather. One of my great-uncles, Edward J. Sweeney, moved to New York City at age 17 to go to work; he sent money back to Fitchburg, Massachusetts, to help care for my great-grandmother, my grandfather, and two of my great-uncles.

During his time in New York, he met a lovely young woman, Mary York. They became husband and wife, and Mary and Eddie had two beautiful girls, Anne and Margie, in the 1940s. Meanwhile in Massachusetts, my grandfather married my grandmother, my grandmother’s sister ensnared my grandfather’s brother during a welcome home party after my great-uncle’s return from World War II (as I understand it, he was at Pearl Harbor, in church when the Japanese attacked). The Massachusetts delegation grew; my father was born about six weeks or so before Anne came along. I was born in 1977.

Now, Eddie and Mary didn’t have a car, so trips back to Massachusetts were few and far between; I understand the same was true for my family, as well. As I understand it, the last Massachusetts visit for all four of them came sometime in the late 1950s/very early 1960s, before my great-grandmother passed away in 1962. Two years later, with my father in the service, my grandparents and my great-aunt and great-uncle and their daughter went to New York City to visit the four of them for the World’s Fair. There’s even the story of how my cousin, 7 years old at the time, thought 16-year-old Margie was “cool” because she owned a transistor radio.

After the last visit, contact between the siblings was sporadic. Eddie died in 1982, my grandfather in 1991, and my great uncle in 1993. Aunt Mary passed in the early 90s, and Margie passed in 1992. My father ended up passing in 2003. My great aunt died in 2009; I remember standing on the steps at St Bernard’s Church in Fitchburg when I saw my uncle, who passed six months later, talking with two familiar-looking women. I said, “Are these the sisters from Queens?” Turns out… they weren’t.

Fast forward to 2014, I recommitted myself to researching my paternal family history on Ancestry. I added everything I knew, discovered things I didn’t know, and made a rather comprehensive online family tree over the course of a year and a half.

In February 2016, I received a message on Ancestry from a woman named Anne T., it read:

“Hi Sean, My name is Anne. I have just begun to research my father Edward J. Sweeney’s family from Massachusetts. My grandparents were William J. Sweeney and Annie Farrell (for whom I am named) of Fitchburg. Since my father’s passing in 1980 I have lost all track of, and connection with, his family in Massachusetts. My mom and dad were married in New York and that is where we always lived. I last saw any family members in 1964 when his brothers Paul and Phil and their wives visited up to enjoy the World’s Fair that year. As soon as I typed in my grandfather’s name today I was directed to the extensive and exciting information you have shared on Ancestry. You have made me very happy today and I wanted to share that with you immediately. I would love to hear how we are related. I remember all of my father’s siblings and their children fondly. Thanks so much again.”

After staring open-mouthed at the message for about two minutes, I immediately emailed Anne back and gave her my number. She called and we spoke for about 45 minutes, she was absolutely legit.

We had been conversing for several months when she proposed a meet-up here in Massachusetts, which was an absolute blast. The years melted away. She brought her husband, children and grandchildren.

In May 2016, I also connected with Annie Farrell Sweeney’s baby sister’s descendants, as well as her other siblings’ descendants, after some extensive obituary searches on Google. Some lived a few streets away from us in the 1980s, and we didn’t even know they were there. We’re hoping to plan a massive Farrell family reunion for next year. With all this research, I’ve also been able to connect with a few fourth cousins going back to Ireland.


  1. Joyce Williams

    What a wonderful story! We always had family reunions but now we are both to old to travel very far. My husband is 84 & I am 81. Thanks for sharing your story.

Comments are closed.