Saturday, July 10, 2010

Finger Tip #10: The most startling Finger

A short biographical sketch of Bill Finger appears in Green Lantern #1 (1941). In it, Bill is referred to as an “only son.” This colored my thinking for a while, but then I realized that “only son” does not automatically mean “only child.”

Turns out Bill had a sister, younger than him, born in 1918.Bill was born in Colorado but his sister (if I had the timeline correct) would’ve been born in New York. Yet searching in 2006, I found no record of her in the New York City Birth Indexes of 1918-1920. A reference librarian told me that it was rare for someone not to appear in the index.

So I made a list.

reasons why Bill's sister may not be in NYC Birth Indexes:

  • she was not born in NYC, although that seems unlikely
  • her paperwork got lost in the influenza epidemic of 1918
  • her family didn’t file her birth (could she have been born at home?)
  • she was born under another name (i.e. to a family member or friend, and the Fingers immediately adopted her?)
  • the name I had for her was actually her middle name or nickname
  • she was not who I thought she was

Then I checked the Death Indexes from 1930 to 1982. (I didn’t note why I stopped with 1982.) She didn’t appear in any of those, either.

reasons why Bill's sister may not be in NYC Death Indexes:

  • she is, but under a married (or otherwise changed) name I don’t know
  • her death went unreported
  • she died after 1982
  • she died outside NYC
  • she isn’t dead

In other words, all I confirmed is that no one with the name of Bill’s sister died in NYC between 1930-1982.

But then, half a year later, through totally different circumstances, and to my own great surprise, I tracked her down.

And she was alive.

I noted at the time that there were “probably no other people I could find that I would be as excited about.” Yet that had less to do with what she told me than with how I found her.

I can’t yet say how I learned of her, how I found her, or what she told me. As we get closer to the July 2012 publication of the book, I will share the story.

In the meantime, what I can say is that she was, in one sense, my biggest find in that she was the still-living person who knew Bill the earliest.

7/9/12 addendum: Because of the way the earliest biographical sketch of Bill Finger was worded, I originally thought Bill was an only child. Then I learned he had a younger sister. Then via the 1940 census, which was made public in April 2012, I learned Bill had a second younger sister...Gilda, born about 1930.

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