On my two hour round trip commute each day, I often take a few mental minutes to go over my research and think about things I might have missed or alternate ways of obtaining information. I also think about birds. and Fudge Town cookies.
Whatever happened to those? sigh. *Ahem.*
Well, on Monday it occurred to me that after receiving my great-grandmother Annie McDonald Tierney’s death certificate from the NYC Municipal archives, I had never looked into the possibility that there may be records left from the undertaker who took care of her.
That thought led me to yet another research coincidence – although it is more of a “Hmm, that’s odd” than “Wahoo! Found more useful info!”
Last year I had looked up the undertaker on my great-grandfather’s certificate and it looked like the company was still in business. Unfortunately they did not respond to my message via their web site, so I need to trek over there and talk with a live person. (Because at a funeral home, talking to the other people doesn’t help much.)
A few search variations on his name only turned up a couple of relevant results, which were other folks who posted transcriptions of other death certificates with his name on them. However, I did note that one of the other postings had a slightly different business address of 621 East 138th Street.
I then trundled over to perform a Google Books search to see if he might show up in any almanacs or other professional guides. Nothing too useful there so off to the Historical NY Times, where a search result brought me to page 19 of the Sunday, August 17, 1924 edition.
I scanned the page for some mention of Mr. Mulligan in the articles (sadly there were two children who were killed in an accident), but he did not make an appearance. Then I noticed the tire advertisement for Firestone Gum-Dipped Cords (sounds delicious.) Below the ad copy is an almost full page of dealers, and right smack in the middle is our new friend.
But that’s not all to this story – I took a second look at a more open-ended search for Mr. Mulligan and happened upon another mention of him – in a Dutch language paper on the subject of Typhoid Mary Mallon.
For those who do not recall, Typhoid Mary “was the first person in the United States identified as an asymptomatic carrier of the pathogen associated with typhoid fever.” (Wikipedia is your friend. sometimes.)
Translated, the paper says that after Mary Mallon’s death: “There was no post-mortem examination carried out and the remains were quickly transferred to the funeral entrepreneur Joseph M. Mulligan, 617 E 138th Street in the Bronx. A day later, after a short service at St. Luke’s Church, buried.”
Well, all of this completely unrelevant to my research, but interesting in a Trivial Pursuit kind of way.
But the fun doesn’t end there! In between my daydreams of undertakers and Fudge Town cookies, I fill my commute time with interesting podcasts.
The next morning I fired up the old Droid and started listening to Radiolab’s Patient Zero episode, whose focus was finding the person who is “the case at the heart of an outbreak.” And just whom, pray tell, do you think they started the Patient Zero episode talking about?
Why, Typhoid Mary of course. Well played, Synchronicity, well played.