Prompt (from 2018, week 25): Same Name
One of the Walter Bernard’s in my family was the fourth child of William and Mary (Lamburth) Dempsey, their third son, and an older brother of my grandfather. Walter is enumerated with his family at 485 Potrero Avenue, San Francisco, in the 1910 Federal census (shown below).
A few short years after the census, he was dead. The family story was that he attended a New Year’s Day parade, some of the confetti/ticker tape got up in his nose, and he died a few days later. His death certificate states he died of meningitis on 5 January 1918, his illness having lasted 4 days. Possibly the family story, then, is true. He seems to have gotten sick around New Year’s Day.
Here is the only photo we have of him, reportedly taken around 1915. He definitely resembles my grandfather.
Walter’s death certificate gives his age at death as 15 years 2 months and 11 days. By my calculations, that makes his date of birth 25 October 1902, which doesn’t match the birth date provided on the death certificate as 24 October. The informant on Walter’s death certificate is the “San Francisco Hospital”, although surely they would have to have gotten information from either Walter’s doctor or Walter’s parents.
Further complicating the birth date issue is the delayed birth certificate application for his younger sister Mary Loretta, applied for in March 1949, on which Mary Loretta’s mother Mary (Lamburth) Dempsey attests that Mary Loretta’s birthdate was 24 December 1902.
If Walter was born in October 1902, Mary could not have been born 2 months later. Either Walter’s birth date and age at death is incorrect (meaning he possibly was born October 1901, and thus was 16 when he died), or Mary’s delayed birth certificate application was incorrect, meaning she was born in December 1903 rather than December 1902. The next child along was my grandfather, born in December 1904, which leaves plenty of time for a full-term pregnancy to occur after a possible 1903 birth for Mary Loretta.
Given that both Walter, Mary Loretta and my grandfather Cassius were all born late in the year, the 1910 census information (with Walter being 8 years, Mary being 7 years, and Cassius being 5) seems to indicate that Walter was born in 1901, Mary in 1902, and my grandfather (correctly) in 1904.
In sum, one of the records (Walter’s death certificate or Mary’s delayed birth certificate) is incorrect. It’s a tossup as to which is correct, and in some ways it doesn’t really matter so many years later.
Cite/link to this post: Cathy M. Dempsey, “Walter Bernard Dempsey,” Genes and Roots, posted 27 Feb 2019 (https://genesandroots.com : accessed (date)).
 1910 U.S. census, San Francisco County, California, population schedule, Enumeration District 29, San Francisco Assembly District 31, page 9A, family 161, William J Dempsey household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7884 : accessed 20 September 2016); citing National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) microfilm publication T624, roll 96.
 California Department of Health Services, death certificate state file no. 18-002555, Walter Dempsey (1918); Center for Health Statistics and Informatics, Sacramento.
 San Francisco County, California, Application for Delayed Birth Certificate with accompanying affidavits, 12 March 1949, for Mary Loretta Dempsey (24 Dec 1902), sworn by Mary E Dempsey, mother; photocopy in possession of grand-niece Cathy [blog author].