Wednesday, December 3, 2008

April 13, 1933

Here's my transcription of William Mulvaney's death certificate:

A. 58521
State of New York
Department of Health of The City of New York
Bureau of Records
Standard Certificate of Death
1. Place of Death:
Borough of: Brooklyn
No.: 270 Van Brunt St.
Character of premises, whether tenement, private, hotel, hospital, etc: Tenement*
Registered No: 8548

2. Print Full Name: William Mulvaney
3. Sex: M
4. Color or Race: W
5. [Marital Status]: Single
5A. Husband or wife of: [blank]
6. Date of Birth: 1900
7. Age: 33 yrs
8. Occupation: None
9. Birthplace: US
9A. How long in US: [blank]
9B: How long resident in City of New York: Life
10: Name of Father: Patrick Mulvaney
11: Birthplace of Father: US
12: Maiden Name of Mother: Julia Toner
13: Birthplace of Mother: US
14: Special INFORMATION required in deaths in hospitals and institutions and in deaths of non-residents and recent residents: Usual Residence: [blank]
15: Date of Death: April 13, 1933
16: I hereby certify that the foregoing particulars (Nos. 1 to 14 inclusive) are correct as near as the same can be ascertained, and I further certify that I attended the deceased from Jan 1 1930 to April 13 1933, that I last saw him alive on the 12 day of April 1933, that death occurred on the date stated above at 12:10 AM and that the cause of death was as follows: Encephalitis Lethargica, duration: Life.
Contributory: [blank]
Operation?: [blank]
State kind: [blank]
Duration: [blank]
Witness my hand this 14th day of April 1933
Signature: William A. Burke, MD
Address: 377 Sterling [illegible]

17. Place of Burial: Holy Cross Cemetary
Date of Burial: April 15th, 1933
18. Undertaker: Joseph Redmond [illegible]
John J. Redmond 2190
Address: 476-73rd St.

I hereby certify that I have been employed, without any solicitation on my part or that of any other person, as undertaker by Julia Mulvaney - 270 Van Brunt St., the mother of the deceased. This statement is made to obtain a permit for the burial or cremation of the remains of deceased William Mulvaney.
Signature: Joseph Redmond [illegible]
John J Redmond 2190

*A tenement, officially, was defined by the city as a building with 3 or more apartments, and does not necessarily imply the negative connotations that come along with the word. Trump Towers, technically, is a tenement. I can't testify to the condition or nature of 270 Van Brunt, but keep that in mind. (I learned that in class this semester - Museum school teaches you loads of real world stuff!)

So we know that William died at home, and that his death wasn't sudden; if the doctor had been there the day before, they certainly knew something was wrong. I'm very interested in Willie's cause of death. I've looked up Encephalitis Lethargica, and it's not something you were born with. If Willie had had it his entire life, he must have simply acquired it young. (No one's sure what causes it, but there are theories that it's a complication of the flu, or a reaction to a severe strep infection.) It was epidemic, worldwide, in the early '20s, and wasn't identified or named until 1917. I haven't been able to find information on how prevalent it was before the epidemic, but it's been pretty rare, though existent, since them. I'm wondering how he was diagnosed with this illness early enough for it to have been considered lifelong, if it wasn't identified until he was in his late teens. Do we have any doctors in the family? I'd love to know more about the specifics. I also wonder whether it may have been the case that, when Encephalitis Lethargica was prevalent, it may have been "the next big thing" in medicine and was overdiagnosed to encompass other, unidentified and undiagnosed illnesses? The symptoms of Encephalitis Lethargica could include anything from sore throat and double vision to a come-like state, behavioral changes (especially in young children), and progressive Parkinson-like symptoms. Symptoms sometimes resolved and sometimes left people permanently disabled, physically and/or mentally. What we know about Willie, or think we know about Willie, is that at 10 years old, he couldn't speak, and at 20 he could speak, but not read or write. It does seem that what affected him could have been Encephalitic Lethargica, if he were nearly comatose as a child, or didn't have the muscle control to speak, and if these conditions kept him out of school as a child, he may not have ever learned to read or write, even if some of his conditions eventually resolved enough that he was able to learn to speak.

Because Encephalitis Lethargica is rarely seen these days, I can't find information online that offers detailed descriptions of what it actually entails, what life looks like for the victims, or how serious it would have been, or how it could have killed people who had lived with it for years.

What do you think? Does anyone know anything about Willie that might give us insight into his life or his condition?


Anonymous said...

I am the grandson of the undertaker John J. Redmond. His Father, Joseph (1867-1917) founded the original family funeral home at 103 King Street in Red Hook Brooklyn in the 1890's. (One of my grandfather's younger brothers also a "Joseph" maintained the business in Red Hook, while my grandfather branched out to Bay Ridge etc. in Brooklyn). I know this isn't any real help in your research, and no records survive (the business was shuttered in the 1970's - my grandfather died in 1956), but I thought after coming across this that I'd share this little sideline.


Charlie Redmond

Katie O. said...

Charlie - Thanks for stopping by! Your relatives buried any number of my ancestors, and your information actually is helpful; I'd thought of trying to look for records from the funeral home, but I won't waste my time if they don't survive.