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Finding Joseph Dunn




Joseph Dunn was the 5th and final victim of the 1916 shark attacks. He was also the only one that survived. So far no one has been able to find Joseph Dunn or any of his relatives. It is a shame that he was never interviewed in later years regarding the attacks. It is my belief that Joseph lived for quite a long time after the attacks took place. Dr Fernicola said the day of the attack that Joseph was visiting his Aunt and Uncle in Cliffwood, New Jersey. His uncle's name was apparently Mr. John Murphy. According to Dr Ferncola, Joseph lived on 128th street in NYC. The day of the attack he was with his brother Michael, a friend from Matawan Jerry Hourihan and 2 other unknown boys from the area.


With this information I was able to find material that could one day lead me to solve the mystery of what ever happened to Joseph Dunn. Below I have presented what I have found, and what more I need to find.

We start with the census records from what I believe to be Joseph Dunn's family from 1900 to 1930. Joseph is born sometime in 1902 or 1903. I believe his exact date of birth to March 19,1902, but I cannot confirm that.


1900 Census



Family's address: East 118st Manhattan NYC

James Dunn (Father) Born July 1870 (Joe's Father)
Mary Dunn (Mother) Born Sept 1871 (Joe's mother)
Michael Dunn (Son) Born Feb 8, 1898 (Joe's brother)
James Dunn Jr (Son) Born Aug 1899 (Joe's brother)

It is my belief that James Dunn Jr Died sometime between 1900 and 1910, because he does not appear in anymore census. Note Joe had not been born yet in 1900.




1910 Census



Family's address: East 122st Manhattan NYC

James E Dunn (Father) Born 1865?
Michael J Dunn (Son) Born 1898
Joseph Dunn (Son) Born 1902/1903
Margaret Dunn (Daughter) Born 1906
Raymond Dunn (Son) Born 1909

Note the absence of Mary Dunn, Joe's mother. I believe this was just a glitch in the Census records.




1920 Census



Family's Address: 128st Manhattan NYC

James E Dunn (Father) Born 1871
Mary Dunn (Mother) Born 1876
Michael Dunn (Son) Born 1898
Joseph Dunn (Son) Born 1903
Margaret Dunn (Son) Born 1906
Raymond Dunn (Son) Born 1910

Note in 1920 the Dunn's live on 128th Street and the family consists of Joseph and Michael. It's these two pieces of evidence taken from Dr Fernicola that leads me to believe I have the right family. Is it possible that another family on 128th also had sons named Joseph and Michael? Sure, but odds are it isn't the case. However one thing that is strange is the ages are a little off from what has been reported. Joe Dunn would be 13/14 at the time of the attack, and Michael Dunn 18. This is contridictory to reports that Joe was 12 years old and Michael was only 14 years old. Still, I am banking on the fact that I have found the right people!!!!




1930 Census



Family's Address: 3069 31st Queens, NYC

James E Dunn (Father) Born 1871
Mary Dunn (Mother) Born 1875
Joseph Dunn (Son) Born 1902/1903
Raymond Dunn (Son) Born 1910


Michael Dunn (Joe's brother) married Alice Dunn in 1921.
There kids are:
James Dunn Born 1923
Mary Dunn Born 1924
Eileen Dunn Born 1926
Thomas Dunn Born 1927
Alice Dunn Born 1929

Note the Dunn's have moved out of Manhattan and now reside in Queens, NY. Joseph is still alive in 1930. He's about 27 years old and still single. Michael is married with kids. there is a mistake in the census putting Michael under his parents and not indicating he's married. However, it is corrected.




Now it seems as though I have quite a bit of info to go on using the census. But I can't find a single one of Michael Dunn's kids, nor can I find anymore info on Joe or the rest of his family after 1930. Census records after 1930 would help, but they will not be out until 2012, to protect privacy. There are indeed some people I have found who "match their description" but there is nothing to verify it. There are too many Dunn's in the NYC area and without exact information it is tought to locate them.


But fortunitely I did find one person. And perhaps he holds the key to this entire mystery. That person is Michael Dunn. He is Joe's older brother who was in the creek with him the day of the attack.

Michael Dunn's draft registration.



I got lucky when I found Michael Dunn's draft registration from 1918. This is defintely the same person who appears in the census and is most likely Joe Dunn's brother. We have an exact date of birth along with an address confirming 124E 128th St (a little off from the address Dr Fernicola said, however too coincendental not be true). We also have his father listed as "James".



Using this information I was able to find Michael Dunn's (SSDI)



Note that Michael Dunn died in July 1976 in Flushing, Queens. This leads credence to the fact that the Dunn's stayed in the NYC area for many years. My next step is to try and find an obituary for Michael Dunn. This has proved tougher then I first expected. Queens library will not do an obituary lookup without an exact date of death. My local library will not an interloan of the microfilm to view the newspaper. I cannot obtain Michael Dunn's death certificate because I am no relation to him. Even if I did find his obituary he might not list cememtery details.

I only have two options at this point. One is make a trip to Queens, New York. The other is to call every cemetery in the Queens area, which I am in the process of doing, to no avail.






What about John Murphy? (Joseph's Uncle)

John Murphy Appears in the census until 1930. His wife's name is Margaret Murphy. They are an older couple with no kids. I found John Murphy's draft registration form for WW1. It indicates his DOB, his wife's name and the street he lives on. However it gives no house number. I might attempt to find a house number in the deeds records which are held in Freehold, New Jersey.


I found no record of Margaret Murphy in the SSDI. However I found a John Murphy who died in July 1971 in Wicktunk, NJ. It's a town just south of Matawan. The DOB is a little off, but it seems like this could be the same John Murphy. But then again, maybe not. Whoever he is, this man sure did live a long time. I searched the obituaries of the Asbury Park Press for July 1971, however I came up empty. Perhaps he never had an obit written. Maybe because he lived so long with no kids there was no family to write an obit for him. Either way it seems like it will be hard im not impossible to track down what became of the Murphys.






What about Jerry Hourihan? (Joseph's Matawan friend who witnessed the attack)

Jerry Hourihan lived in Cliffwood his entire life. He married Elizabeth Hourihan. Jerry Hourihan died in April 1974 at the age of 76. His wife survived him by quite a few years and died in Cliffwood in August 1993 at the age of 95.



Dr Fernicola interview the son of Jerry Houirhan (Jerry Hourihan JR) who still lives in Cliffwood New Jersey to this day. Apparently he was unable to help Dr Fericola locate Joseph Dunn or his Aunt and Uncle John Murphy.
Below is the obituary for both Jerry Hourihan and his wife Elizabeth Hourihan that were taken from the Asbury Park Press. Jerry Hourihan's WW1 draft records are also listed. It says in 1918 that he lived on "Mash Street" in Keyport. However, no such street is in exsistance today.