When I was in sixth grade, Mrs. Luce gave the class an assignment: write a story about our ancestors. When I got home that day, I told Mom about my homework project. I hoped to write about my grandparents and great grandparents. She retrieved a small brown notebook from a closet draw entitled 1913. Means Family. Compliments of John H. Means Boston to William G Means. William Means was my great grandfather. I knew the book existed for no one could grow up in my home and not hear stories about my mother’s ancestors but I had never read it, nor glanced at the pages.
I opened the little book and read the first page:
Our great-great-great Grandfather and family.
Robert Means born 1689 married Jeane Armstrong, daughter of James or John Armstrong. Robert Means died Saco Dec 29, 1769 aged 80 years. Jeane died aged 102 years.
They had six children.
“In the autumn of 1718, vessels came from Ireland via Boston to Portland (then Falmouth) Maine (from Drakes History of Boston). They were descendants of a colony [from] Argyllshire in Scotland and settled in the North of Ireland about the middle of the 17th century. They were rigid Presbyterians and fled from Scotland to North of Ireland (Ulster) to avoid persecution of Charles I. Among them was James Armstrong with his sons John, Simon and Thomas and Robert Means who married his daughter. This colony with Rev Wm Mc Gregor at its head left Ireland in 5 vessels containing 120 families and arrived in Boston August 4, 1718 part settled in Maine and part in New Hampshire. “This company of immigrants among other important services rendered to the land of their adoption, introduced the Potatoe plant which had not before been cultivated in the country: Also the Linen spinning wheel, and the manufacture of Linen.
The spinning wheel had not appeared [on] our shores until the advent of these strange people, and it produced quite a sensation in Boston.
Societies were formed and Schools established to teach the art of spinning flax and the manufacture of its thread. At the first Anniversary of its introduction ladies with their wheels paraded on the Boston Common for a trial of skill in spinning and prizes were awarded. During four years this novelty held its attraction and then gave way to some new excitement.”
Robert and Jeane Armstrong Means.
John born 1722 our ancestor
The little notebook went on and on. I was hooked. I had two weeks to complete the assignment. I began to transcribe the whole notebook for my own copy – or at least most of it – and wrote an essay about my ancestors. I remember counting how many people descended from Robert and Jeane Armstrong in the ensuing two hundred years. Hundreds. I was one of them.