Tuesday, October 16, 2012

1918 Flu Pandemic: The "Spanish Flu"

I have mention in previous posts that my maternal grandmother, Marilyn Irene Fay-Gardner, passed away before I was born. Thus, most of what I have learned about my Fay line I have found on my own and through the kindness of researching cousins. It was through a distant researching cousin, Mary Anne, that I learned that my great grandfather, James Fay, had two elder siblings who are believed to have been a dance team that preformed on the vaudeville circuit. This great-great uncle, Leo Joseph Fay, and great-great aunt, Anna Fay, are rumored to have contracted the Spanish Flu while touring.

Now I have found nothing to this point to confirm their vaudeville connection but the did both die during the flu pandemic of 1918. Most victims were healthy young adult as opposed to typical influenza outbreak which predominantly affect juvenile, elderly, or sickly individuals. The pandemic lasted from January 1918 to December 1920; and it is estimated to have killed between 20 and 50 million people making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.

For those of you Twilight fans, the fictional character Edwin Cullen was dying from the Spanish flu when he was turned into a  vampire; or so I'm told.

Leo Fay passed first on January 27, 1918 at the age of 29; the day before his 30th birthday. His cause of death is listed as "inherited T.B. diathesis, probably." His occupation is listed as laborer. He died at home. 

Anna Fay passed 6 days later on February 5, 1918 at the age of 28; just two days after her birthday. Her cause of death is listed as Pulmonary Tuberculosis. Her occupation is listed as embroiderer. She died at metropolitan Hospital in Manhattan, NY. 

The two are buried side by side in a family plot in Calvary Cemetery in NY.

I tend to believe that these two were obviously close siblings in life and death, regardless of their occupations. And even though their cause of death is not listed as influenza, I would tend to believe that that is what they both actually fell victims to, the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, based on the dates on which they died which were early in the epidemic's siege and that lingering word in Leo's cause of death; "probably."


  1. I haven't been able to confirm any of the 1918-1919 deaths in my family tree as Spanish Flu, but flu is definitely a suspect, as each and every one of them was young and should've otherwise been in the prime of their lives. That's so sad about Leo and Anna Fay - they probably would've been a couple of characters with some great stories had they lived to an older age!

  2. Aww, my loyal follower, :). I have been feeling a touch guilting for not keeping up with my promise to myself to post daily through Family History Month; but then I though ah, whose reading these. And then ya go and comment like that. :) I adore you Cousin Mary, I adore you!

    I really wish I could find some proof of their show biz careers. Knowing a few of my mom's relatives, either way, I'm sure they were talented characters.

    Thanks for keeping up with me.