Mr John Joseph Shea was born in East Cowes, Isle of Wight, Hampshire, England over the summer months of 1872 and his birth was registered in the third 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 were residing at the Castle Inn, High Street, Whippingham, Hampshire where his father was the publican, also being described as an army pensioner. Still in Whippingham by the time of the 1891 census and then at 26 Clarence Road, an 18-year-old John was listed as a domestic coachman and his father a lamplighter.
John was married in Woolston, Hampshire on 5 November 1900 to Jessie Sowden (b. 30 November 1876), a native of Sholing who was the daughter of former Naval seaman and general labourer John Sowden and Sarah Anne, née Richards.
On the 1901 census John was absent but his wife is living with her mother Sarah and her siblings at Mariner Cottage, Obelisk Road, Woolston, Hampshire.
John and his wife would have two sons, John George (b. 13 August 1904) and Leslie Thomas (b. 22 June 1906), both born in Woolston. On the 1911 census John was again absent, but his wife and sons were listed as living at 9 Hazeleigh Avenue, Woolston.
When he signed-on to the Titanic on 4 April 1912 Shea gave his address as 77 Portsmouth Road, Southampton. His previous ship had been the Olympic and as a first class steward he received monthly wages of £3, 15s.
John Shea died in the sinking and 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.
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 on 27 April 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 and provided an income for herself by working as a corsetière. She was still living in Southampton by 1939 but eventually died near Winchester in 1966 aged 89.
His son John later worked as an engineer, married and served during WWII in the Merchant Navy. He died in Gloucester on 6 September 1980.
His son Leslie, who later served with the RAF, was married in Southampton in 1936 to Ivy Winifred Perry (b. 5 January 1910) and they had three children. He died in Southampton on 5 December 1974.