Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday's Obituary: Sadie Byrnes

Sunday’s Obituary is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that encourages bloggers to post obituaries along with other information about that person.

Throughout March I have been celebrating my Irish roots with stories and photos about the family of my great grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh.

My dad’s side of the family had always been proud to say we had a nun in the family, but Daddy did not know who it was, let alone a name or how she was related. Fortunately, among the photos passed down to me from Mary Theresa and her daughter Helen Killeen Parker was a photo of a nun. “Sadie Burns” was the caption.
Sr. Vincent Carmel "Sadie" Byrnes Aug 1969
Sadie Byrnes Aug. 1969
16 Feb 1907 Manhattan, NY -
21 Jul 1973 Nyack, NY

Julia Walsh and Sadie Byrnes
My granny Julia Walsh Slade on the left
Sadie Byrnes on the right
Sadie! She was my granny’s cousin. I knew that from a photo of the two of them as children. I also knew she was the daughter of Mary Theresa’s sister Elizabeth and her husband Patrick Byrnes. Sadie had 6 brothers but no sisters.

Ever since I saw the photo, I have been curious about Sadie’s life as a nun. With only a photo of Sadie in her habit, I scrolled through Google images to determine her order and guessed she was a Dominican. But now what? I was at a loss as to how to find more information about her. One of my devout Catholic friends on Facebook gave me some direction, but the convent I contacted could do nothing without knowing her religious name.

A year ago my aunt gave me scrapbooks filled with greeting cards that had belonged to Mary Theresa. I was excited to open one of the Christmas cards to discover Sadie’s religious name: “Sr. Vincent Carmel Byrnes.”
Card from Sadie Byrnes

inside of a Christmas card sent by Sadie to her aunt Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh

I thought for sure I would be able to learn more about her now that I had her religious name. However, searches for newspaper articles in GenealogyBank and Newspaper Archive came up empty, not that I expected much anyway, but I had hoped for an obituary. actually gave me a sneak peek that included little more than a death date and location, but I would have to upgrade my subscription to learn more. I was not about to pay $60 to have access to the Journal News of White Plains, New York.

What’s a family historian to do but turn to social media? I posted a polite question in the New York City Genealogy group on Facebook asking where else I might look to obtain Sadie’s obituary. Within minutes, the thing that I secretly hoped would happen actually happened. A genie angel posted the obituary.

Courtesy Susan McNamee
 Sr. Vincent
Carmel Byrnes

Sister Vincent Carmel Byrnes, OP, 66, died Saturday at Nyack Hospital. She had been a member of St. Dominic’s Convent, Blauvelt, and had entered the order in 1928.

Born in New York City, Sr. Byrnes taught mathematics and English in parochial schools in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Yonkers. She served as principal and mother superior at St. Pius School, Bronx, St. Joseph’s School, Millbrook, and St. Catherine’s School, Blauvelt. She had retired from the principalship of St. Catherine’s this summer because of her health.

Surviving are two nieces and two nephews.

The Office of the Dead and Mass will be said tonight at 5:30 at St. Dominic’s Convent.

There will be a Mass of the Resurrection Tuesday at 11 a.m. at St. Dominic’s Chapel. Burial will be at the convent cemetery.

Friends may call at the convent today.

Funeral arrangements were by the Higgins Funeral Home of Haverstraw.
(Journal News, White Plains, NY 23 Jul 1973 on

The obituary confirms that I was right in my guess that she was a Dominican, Order of Preachers. It also confirms that she outlived all her brothers since the only survivors mentioned were nieces and nephews. In my database are the two girls, daughters of Sadie’s brother John who died at age 22 shortly after the second child was born. However, I do not have any boys. Another mystery to solve!

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. Aren't people in genealogy groups the best? They go out of their way to help others. That obituary is very nice & now you have two 'boys' to track down.

    1. I like the genealogy groups. It is amazing how much information you can find if you just ask.

  2. I bet you will always have mysteries to solve. She died so young.


    1. Yes, she did. And she outlived her brothers. It makes me wonder about the genes in that family that they all died so young.

  3. NICE! I'm so happy you were able to get some answers about her - thank goodness for genie angels.

    P.S. I'm a little annoyed that now wants us to "upgrade" for access to newspapers that we used to see with just our regular subscription :-(

    1. Yes, what's up with anyway?

  4. How wonderful to have this obituary and to have solved some mysteries