When I found the 1886 NYC birth certificate for my great-grandfather, Harry Davis, it was the first time I learned the names of his parents, Isaac and Sarah Davis. They were hiding in plain sight in numerous other birth certificates, censuses, Trow’s NYC Directory listings, and, of course, death certificates. Their graves even turned out to be just a subway ride away! All of this new information had me quite surprised — and somewhat disappointed — to discover I had ancestors who had done the typical immigrate-to-the-Lower-East-Side thing. Previously I had thought all my family had gone straight to Pennsylvania.
All these distracting revelations prevented me from reading Isaac’s death certificate carefully the first few times through. But eventually I beheld this doozy of a cause of death:
Of course I had to know what happened! Estelle Guzik’s Genealogical Resources in New York led me to believe the police records wouldn’t have survived, and my calls to the hospital in which he died went unreturned. The mystery lingered for years after that.
In May I found myself in Brooklyn Surrogate’s Court for a different branch (full story on that here), and while there, I looked up Isaac on a whim. There he was! His estate record held this tantalizing clue:
Suddenly the trail was hot again — a cause of action does not mean that there was a lawsuit, but it sure suggests there might have been!
I went back to the NYC Municipal Archives where I had pulled the death certificate so many years before and inquired about what court records might survive. The archivist pointed me to a finding aid for the facility. But before I even got made it to “court records,” alphabetical order hit me first with “coroner’s records.” Tantalizing!
Indeed, on 12/19/16, Isaac Davis was listed in the coroner’s log as having died at 4:44 PM in Bellevue Hospital of a fractured skull. A jury heard the facts of his and seven other men’s deaths on 2/13/16. The findings of the inquest were published on 3/1/17:
So: the plot thickens. Was the fall really an accident? What did Esther S. Kaufman have to do with it? What was he doing so far from his home in Brownsville, Brooklyn? And what was an elderly peddler doing on the roof of a building, anyway?
I ran out of time perusing the coroner’s records, and I haven’t yet renewed my attempts to find the court records, if they even exist. Hopefully I’ll find enough to write Part Two of this mystery!