The Mystery of Jerome Cady–Can you help?

The Mystery of Jerome Cady–Can you help?

I’m helping a friend work on her family tree. She has had an accident recently and is going through a long rehabilitation.  I would love to be able to present her information on her line to help cheer her up.

She is a descendant of the screenwriter, Jerome “Jerry” Cady (pronounced Kay-Tee).  While her mother’s line wielded a tremendous amount of information, her father’s side has revealed next to nothing.  I thought I’d throw his story out to the genealogy community to see if someone might be able to provide clues or ideas on how to research this line.

Let’s start with what is known about Jerome Cady.  His birth information is sketchy.  He is said to have been born in Aug 1903 in West Virginia.  His trail takes him to Chicago and New York where he starts writing.  There are biographical sketches about his career, yet there really isn’t any information on his early beginnings.  You can see from his Wikipedia entry that the pickings are slim.

He was record in the 1940 as Jerry Cady (see 1940 Census, Los Angeles, CA, ED 16, sheet 1A and 1B).  Jerome is listed as 37 years old, born in West Virginia, and having 8 years of schooling.  He lived in the same place (Los Angeles) in 1935.  His occupation is motion picture screen writer.

(there is a second page, but WordPress is giving me fits on uploading it)

In the same census is his first wife, Dorothy, who was 33 and born in Pennsylvania.  They had two children:  Patricia Ann (6 years old) and Dorothy (5 years old).  Both were born in California.

He married his second wife in 1941 in Maricopa Co., AZ (have not found proof of marriage yet).  Her name was Elna Eugenia “Jean” Peterson.  She was born 16 Apr 1905 in Albert Lea, Freeborn Co., MI to Christian “Chris” Peterson and Maria “Mary” Johnson.  This family is well documented including numerous newspaper articles about their ability to make butter (they won several competitions!)

It is Jerome’s side that I am having so much trouble with.  No documents so far reveal the names of his parents or if he had siblings.  His mother’s name might have been Lydia.  I don’t think his death records would reveal much since his second wife was the source and she didn’t seem to know much about his early history.  She was not upfront about it with her daughter.

Jerome Cady died aboard his yacht in November of 1948.  A newspaper articles about his death reveal a few details of his life.  Mostly they show that those closest to him knew little about him, too.  Friends said he was anywhere from 40 to 48 years old when he died.  One article states that he was left an orphan at the age of 13.  He started his career as a newspaper copy boy, then a reporter.  He went on to be a screenwriter for 20th Century Fox.

And, that seems to be all we know of Jerome Cady.  The information that he was an orphan makes me wonder if in the early census records he is living with relatives or another family.   There is a Jerome Cady in the 1930 census for Los Angeles who is a reporter.  However, that Jerome Cady lists his birth place as Kansas.  In 1930, Jerome was supposed to be in either Chicago or New York.  I’m not really sure how common the surname is.  There could have been hundreds of Jerome Cadys for all I know.  My friend does not feel this is the right person, but we’ve all seen people in places they should not have been.  I have done some searches in the 1910 and 1920 census, but it’s like finding a needle in a haystack with so few details.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to find out more information on Jerome?  How would you go about researching him? Are West Virginia birth records or Arizona marriage records online?

My friend never knew much about Jerome Cady and would really be pleased to finally know his parent’s names and where he was from.  If anyone has some suggestions, please let me know.

(I have purposely left off my friend’s name for privacy reasons.  She has given me permission to include these details about Jerome Cady.)

PLEASE NOTE: Melody is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

This post contains affiliate links. When you click on these links and make a purchase, I earn a percentage of the sale which allows me to keep providing you great content for free on this website.

Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website,

6 thoughts on “The Mystery of Jerome Cady–Can you help?

  1. West Virginia births are indeed online, I did a Cady search, see if you can find it with this URL, nothing looks very promising with the dates of born 1903. I have not done enough West Virginia research to know if there are large numbers of unrecorded births in that time frame. Maybe it just was not recorded at the state level???

    The IMDb page, here shows he was born in Cabell County, I did not find that. I don’t quite get how this page has him doing projects a couple of years after his death??

    I would search for John Cady as well, or as you point out Jerry. I think I would haunt FamilySearch for extended periods of time. Whew, gonna be a detailed hunt.

  2. Carol, thanks for doing a search and for the two links. I will look at the iMDB info. The thought has occured to me that Cady might have been an adoptive surname. If he was taken in by relatives or someone else, he might have taken their last name.

    Oh, why are some ancestors so danged frustrating?

  3. Do you have marriage records from the first marriage? A marriage application (from either marriage) might give parents’ names.

    Since you can’t confirm the 2nd marriage, you may want to search out the divorce records (if he divorced his first wife) or perhaps her probate records (if she was deceased). Even though you feel the death records may not provide any additional information, a “reasonably exhaustive” search would have to include this.

    If he was indeed orphaned and adopted, there may be court records for his guardianship and/or adoption or even records from an orphanage or some other home for children. From there, you may be able to find his parents or some other relative that may give you a new avenue to search.

    Something to consider: His birth name and adopted name may not have included Jerome or Cady. It may have been an assumed name that he used for his work. He could have started using this name at any time. There may be records at the Screen Writer’s Guild or the Writer’s Guild of America that could help. You may even find something at the Screen Actors Guild. Additionally, he may have legally changed his name, which would mean court records (of course, you’ll have to know WHERE he did that).

    Hopefully, this will help shake something loose. Good luck!

  4. Jenny, Let me answer your questions. I do not have the marriage record for the first marriage. I believe it took place in Maricopa Co, AZ, but I have no confirmation of that. Nor do I know the year, though I suspect it was sometime around 1935. It was a divorce, by the way.

    The reason I’m not exploring his death record is I’ve already seen the entry in the California Death Index. There is a surname for the father, but the mother’s maiden name is blank. The person I am working with is on a limited fixed income. I’m trying to limit what she would need to order by trying to locate the records that would best give her the information she needs.

    The divorce records are an option if I can narrow down where the divorce might have taken place. There is the second marriage as well. Again, I don’t know the place. So frustrating!

    I did considered that Jerome Cady might not be his real name. It could have taken that name up when he started writing. Cady could be an adoptive name or the name of whoever he lived with. There might have been a legal name change as you mentioned, so that’s an idea.

    Isn’t it crazy (in a bad way) how some people leave so many unanswered questions behind? Thanks for your suggestions!

  5. You may want to consider getting his Social Security Application paper. I know that it runs about 26 Dollars or so. His SSN is 563 16 9939 Issued in California. In the obit i found on Ancestry, the obit said he had moved to California 26 years ago. Making it about 1922 when he did move to California.
    Tom Burk

  6. Just happened across an article, that Jerry and Elna Peterson cady had a son. Looks to be a second child. Peter Patrick Cady born Sept 1945. I did a Google of Elna Peterson Cady. It’s under titlehead of Pg 5 Albert Lea Evening Tribune on 1st page of Google. had to use Magnifying glass

Leave a Reply