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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. 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. 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.

We start with the census records of Joseph Dunn's family from 1900 to 1930. Joseph is born sometime in 1902 or 1903 according to the records. The exact date is March 19, 1902. I got this later from his birth certificate.

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: 124E 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 124 E 128th Street and the family consists of Joseph and Michael.

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.
Their 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.

Next I found Michael Dunn's WW1 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 Joe Dunn's brother. We have an exact date of birth along with an address confirming 124E 128th St (We also have his father listed as "James".

Below is a newspaper article from the Matawan Journal that confirms I have the correct family. It talks about Joseph being released from the hospital and lists his address as "124 E 128th St".

Using the information in the WW1 draft card, 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 was to try and find an obituary for Michael Dunn. This proved tougher then I first expected. Queens library will not do an obituary lookup without an exact date of death. My local library would not do an interloan of the microfilm to view the newspaper. ETC

I decided to try and get a birth certificate on one of the multiple Joseph Dunns in the birth index that was born in 1902. I lucked out on the very first try and came up with his certificate. It listed James and Mary as his parents which confirms it is him.

Using the exact date of birth I managed to find Joseph Dunn in the SSDI. He died in April 1982 at the age of 80 years old. I was shocked to see that he had lived so long and apparently never spoke of the attacks.

I went to queens library and attempted to do an obituary lookup for Joseph, but came up empty.

I went to NYC public library and found exact dates of death for both Joseph and Michael. I got VERY lucky with Joseph. The books only went to 1982 (the year of his death) and although he lived outside the 5 boros, by chance, he happened to pass away at Queens hospital. Had I not been able to find an exact date of death, this might have remained a mystery.

Using his exact date of death (April 1, 1982) I managed to obtain his death certificate.

He is buried in St Charles Cemetery located in Farmingdale Long Island. I visited the cemetery and it turned out he was in an unmarked grave. Perhaps the Dunn family were very private people and didn't want to speak publically about the shark attack of 1916. However I did learn that his wife's name was Eleanor, and that she had passed away 10 years prior to him. I am still unsure if they had any children.

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.