Saturday, April 18, 2015

James Brady (1878-1918) - The Path Starts at the Grave

I began searching for James Brady using a document that my mother had from her father George's papers: an order for a grave marker for his parents' plot, created before his mother Alice's death.

As you can see, it lists five people: William (1905-1905), Thomas (1854-1908), Rose (1916-1918), James (1878-1918) and Alice (1882-).

My mother said that she had been told that her grandfather James had died during the Influenza outbreak in 1918, which matched the information on James. We knew that his wife was Alice. But who were William, Thomas and Rose?

William and Rose both died while very young, and since they were buried in the same plot with James and Alice, I suspected that they were their children, but I would later search for records of their births and deaths to confirm that information.

Thomas was of the right age to be either James' father or uncle. I doubted that any further distant relation would be buried with the family.

The fact that James had a father named Thomas was soon confirmed by James' 1918 death certificate, which I obtained directly by purchasing a copy from the New York City Archives (I would later find the same information available online).

James' death certificate says that he died of pneumonia at Fordham Hospital on 13 Oct 1918, that he was a 40 year old married white male engineer who lived at 218th St. Harlem River. That information appears to be spot on.

It says that his father was Thomas Brady and mother was Catherine McHugh, and both were born in Ireland.  Only some of that information is correct - the information on his mother is a bit off.

It also says that he lived his entire life in New York.  That is completely untrue.

Death certificates are tricky sources of information, as they are often filled out by the hospital, are never reported by the person they are about (who is dead, after all), and rely for information received from distraught family members who may not understand all of the information that they are being asked.  They are reliable about things like cause, date and location of death and less so about things like age at death, parentage, etc.

Still, there were plenty of new clues to follow, and I will write more about that later.