Background Information

Anne Joyce [my great-grandfather, Coleman Joyce’s sister] was born 1 August of 1891 in Lettermore, Oughterard, Galway, Ireland. She left Ireland and arrived in Boston, MA in 1911 aboard the Ivernia to see her sister Mary (Joyce) Keady.

Annie Joyce married Coleman Kelly on 25 January 1914 in Boston. On Coleman Kelly’s WWI Draft Registration Card it said he was married with two children. I was able to track Coleman Kelly via city directories through 1918, but then he fell off the grid. My theory was that Coleman Kelly died prior to the 1920 United States Federal Census and Annie either re-married or left Boston. About three months later I found a death record for Coleman Kelly who died 22 September 1918 of Spanish Influenza which confirmed my theory – but what happened to Annie and the two children?

A Surprise Cousin
A while back I met a new cousin named Sheri who turned out to be Annie (Joyce) Kelly’s great-granddaughter. She was able to fill in some gaps in Annie’s story, but it left us with more questions. Annie Joyce and Coleman Kelly actually had three children: Mary Margaret b. 1914, Catherine Anna b. 1916, and Rita V b. 1918. After Coleman Kelly died of the Spanish Influenza, Annie (Joyce) Kelly returned to her birthplace (Lettermore, Oughterard, Galway, Ireland) with her sister-in-law and three children. That was when the trail went cold again.

Summary of a Murder Mystery
I was contacted a while ago by an Irish researcher[1] who is writing an academic book on decision-making in Ireland in death penalty cases and I was not prepared for the story he told me. Annie (Joyce) Kelly did go back to Ireland with her three children where she met and married a Daniel “Sunny Dan” Walsh in the summer of 1919 after only a short period of time after she met him.

She would have three more children with “Sunny Dan”: Donal b. 1922, Thomas b. 1924, and Annie b. 1926. According to the Irish researcher Annie “formed a relationship” with her second cousin Martin Joyce and on 30 May 1928 “Sunny Dan” Walsh was found dead in a shallow stream some distance from the Walsh Cottage.

Initially it was ruled an accident however, rumors started flying and with pressure from Dan Walsh’s relatives the case was re-opened and led to different results then the initial investigation.

Martin Joyce, Annie’s second cousin was charged with murder and Annie (Joyce) Kelly Walsh was charged with conspiracy to commit murder. The two of them were convicted in June 1928 after a trial in which her three children by Coleman Kelly were the primary witnesses.

The two of them were sentenced to death but on appeal the sentence was changed to prison time. They were both released on different dates in 1936 and returned to Ros Muc [where Thomas Joyce, Annie’s father was born]. It is unknown who Martin Joyce’s parents are. Annie served 6 years and 7 months and Martin served 7 years and 5 months for the murder. The trial was covered by the Irish Times Newspaper and an Irish Researcher was kind enough to send me the twelve articles covering the trial through the change in sentence.

One Last Mystery

The Irish Researcher, Sheri, and I are left with one more question. What happened to the children that Annie had with “Sunny Dan” Walsh? They seemed to have disappeared after Annie was arrested.

I have contacted some Irishmen that live in Ros Muc, but no one will talk about the scandal. I have found through my research that the Irish do not like to talk about bad things that happened in the past. Hopefully someday we will find the answer we are looking for. Until then this is where the story ends.

[1] At this time the Irish researcher requested to be anonymous until he is finished with his book


I recently taught a RootsMagic 6 workshop that covered the basics of the software and I explained why it was a good idea to have genealogy software on our hard drive and not just have family trees online, i.e. Ancestry.com.

During the workshop a question was asked about tape recording family members and whether it was a good idea.  My answer was a definite “YES”. However, I felt I had an even better suggestion – VIDEO.

I got my first webcam in 2002 to stay in touch with close friends moving to Europe. I never did think of it then to use it for genealogical purposes.

In 2006, my Nana [Dad’s mother] needed to have an operation and would be in the hospital for a week. I volunteered to spend the week with my 91-year-old grandfather to alleviate any worries the rest of the family had. I also saw this as a great opportunity to do an in-depth genealogical interview with him.

The second day I was there I pulled out my interview questions and tape recorder and sat in front of him at breakfast.  I was surprised to learn my grandfather could answer open-ended questions with just one word.  The only new thing I learned was that he had seen every Charlie Chaplin movie.

On the third day, I woke up early and my grandfather walked in on me making a video diary of my trip with my webcam.  He looked like he had seen a ghost – I didn’t know what was wrong. Then he smiled – then he frowned. Just then I realized my grandfather had never seen himself on TV before just by the expression on his face.

At this point the doorbell rang so I was gone about ten minutes while Grandpa was left alone with my computer. Later, I discovered ten minutes of hysterical video as he tried to figure out how the technology worked.

That afternoon I brought my computer and webcam with me when we went to visit my Nana in the hospital.  To my surprise I filmed two minutes of a humorous video clip of my Nana, Grandpa, and myself. Before I left Boston I decided to do a walking video tour of the home they had lived in since before I was born.  I took all three clips, made a CD, and sent copies to my immediate family. I hoped they would cherish it as much as I do.

Although it was off topic, I decided to share the short clip of my grandparent’s interaction. The class roared with laughter as it played. When it was over I showed them how to link the file into RootsMagic 6. Since I shared it with the class, I thought I’d share it will all of you.


My grandfather would pass May 2007, the day after his great-granddaughter was born [my niece]. I was so lucky that I had made that video. Every May when I miss my Grandpa, I watch the CD and it always makes me laugh.

This year, I decided it was my goal to interview my parents on video. My mother was very reluctant at first but she agreed.  After asking just one question about her childhood, she spoke for 45 minutes about her life all the way up until she met my father.  I’m still working on getting my father to sit down with me but I still have to the end of the year.

I know you are probably wondering what the point might be. Now that video is so readily available there is no excuse not to use it via digital cameras, cell phones, etc.  It can be used not just for your ancestors that are still alive, but for yourself as well for future generations.  Sit down and tell your story and put it away.  Your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will appreciate it someday – I’m sure of it.

Someday when my niece is older I will share the video of her great-grandparents with her. And someday far far far into the future when my parents are gone, I will show her the DVD I’m making of them.

If one day you were lucky enough to find video of your great-grandparents and grandparents wouldn’t you cherish it? So stop procrastinating, and do it.  I promise it will be worth it in the end!!