John Joseph Shea was born in East Cowes, Isle of Wight, Hampshire, England in 1872 and his birth was registered in the September quarter of that year. He was the son of John Shea (1835-1906) and Sarah Jane Wills (1852-1905). His father was born in Ireland and his mother in Glastonbury, Somerset and they were married in 1874 in Wells, Somerset after having spent time in India where his father was in the army and where their first child Mary was born.
John had nine known siblings: Mary (b. 1867), Florence Elizabeth (b. 1875), Ernest Henry (b. 1878), Alice Emily (b. 1880), Walter (b. 1884), Rosina (b. 1886), Ellen Maud (b. 1888), Percy Douglas (b. 1893) and Freda (b. 1895).
John first appears on the 1881 census when he and his family are residing at the Castle Inn, High Street, Whippingham, Hampshire. His father is listed as an army pensioner and publican. Still in Whippingham on the 1891 census and now at 26 Clarence Road, an 18-year-old John is listed as a domestic coachman and his father now a lamplighter.
John was married in Woolston, Hampshire on 5 November 1900 to Jessie Sowden (b. 1877 in Sholing, Hampshire).
On the 1901 census John is absent but his wife is living with her mother Sarah Sowden and siblings at Mariner Cottage, Obelisk Road, Woolston, Hampshire.
John and his wife would have two sons, John George (b. 1904) and Leslie Thomas (b. 22 June 1906), both born in Woolston.
On the 1911 census John is again absent, but his wife and sons are listed as living at 9 Hazeleigh Avenue, Woolston.
When he signed-on to the Titanic, on 4th April 1912 he gave his address as 77 Portsmouth Road, (Southampton). His last ship had been the Olympic. As a first class steward he received monthly wages of £3 15s.
Shea died in the sinking, his body was later recovered by the steamship Mackay-Bennett (#11) and was buried at Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Halifax, Nova Scotia on 7 May, 1912.
(Courtesy: Bob Knuckle, Canada).
NO. 11. - MALE. - ESTIMATED AGE, 45. - LIGHT MOUSTACHE. - HAIR, DARK.
CLOTHING - Black coat; blue trousers; black boots.
NAME ON CLOTHING AND PAPERS - "Shea".
EFFECTS - Watch; keys (2nd Steward); gloves; pipe.
NAME - SHEA.
The following death notice appeared in the Hampshire Advertiser (27/04/1912):
Shea--on the 15th inst., on board s.s. Titanic, John Shea, 77 Portsmouth road, Woolston, Southampton aged 39.
John's widow Jessie was never remarried following the loss of her husband. She died in Winchester, Hampshire in 1966 aged 89. His son John George later served during WWII in the Merchant Navy but his whereabouts subsequent to that are uncertain. His son Leslie Thomas was married in Southampton in 1936 to Ivy Winifred Perry. He died in Southampton in 1974.
Particulars of Engagement, Public Record Office (BT100/259)
Record of Bodies and Effects: Passengers and Crew, S.S. Titanic (#11)