Burny was born in September of 1888 to a 38 year old James Smith and a 36 year old Mary Ellen Caton Flanagan in the Harpers Ferry district. Burny was likely born near Bakerton where her family lived. She was given the middle name of Reynolds, probably after her medical attendant at birth, Dr. A. S. Reynolds. This may signify that Mary had trouble during this birth, although Reynolds may have helped to deliver many of her children. Burny's birth records indicate that she was born in September, while her headstone states that she was born August 28. The exact date of Burny's birth is currently speculation until more evidence (if in existence) can be found.
Burny's life was cut short at only about 11 months old due to an alleged cold. A poem is published in the Shepherdstown Register on August 23, 1889 alluding to the family's deep despair during this time. Curiously enough, the family lists the death date of August 28, 1889, which is after the publish date. It is highly probable that the date the family listed was actually Burny's birth date, and Burny died on the July date listed on her headstone.
The family laid their baby girl to rest in the Flanagan plot at Elmwood Cemetery in Shepherdstown.