Solving a Genealogy Mystery.

In my last post about my great grandfather’s autograph book, I pondered a mystery. My great grandfather’s sister Francis Adele Means died October 29th, 1871. Her date of death was recorded on the back of the 1924 Grace Means photo collection and in the 1913 Means family book.

But, there in the autograph book, is a lovely saying and signature.

“I’ve looked these pages through and through. To see what others have written to you. And now I write to thee. These simple words. Remember me.” Francis A. Means. February 28, 1878.

I wrote in the post:

“Could Grace have made a mistake in her mother’s date of death? Anything is possible. It’s unlikely there is another Francis A. Means in the family at the time.So it is possible that Francis Means lived at least seven years longer than I previously thought. I will need to do a search of death certificates.”

I even doubted Grace Means memory of her mother’s death. Ok. Ok. I was wrong. There WAS another Francis A Means at the time and the evidence was at my fingertips. I had seen the name before but it never clicked. My great grandfather William Means’ eldest brother was Andrew Fuller Means who married Francis A Sawyer in 1864. It never clicked that Francis A Sawyer became Francis A Means when they married.

So Andrew Means and his wife signed the autograph book on a visit to Maine from Boston.

What a blunder. But, a mystery is solved, at least one of many.

Many thanks to Deana Burchfield who pointed out Andrew’s wife had the same name in a comment on the post. She also noted that Andrew Fuller Means and his wife Francis A lived in Boston, with their son Harry and his wife, one boarder in the household, recorded in the 1900 census.

I add one more note, contemplating the autograph book.

“Grace A Means. South Boston. Celebrated Case. February 16, 1877,” she writes.

Grace Means stated in the photo collection that she was raised by her grandparents, Otis and Elsie Means in Machias. Her mother Francis was born in 1844 and died in 1871 when Grace was small. According to the Means family book, Francis married JJ Drew in Machiasport (no date recorded). Yet, Grace retained the Means name and she doesn’t mention her father’s existence anywhere. Perhaps Otis and Elsie adopted Grace or she simply reverted to her mother’s family name.

A Maine vital records search reveals nothing. I do not know Grace’s date of birth or death, the ultimate family historian seems to have nearly disappeared in family history herself.

In February 1877 when Grace signed the autograph book, she lived in Boston. I estimate her date of birth between 1864 and 1870. The photo of Grace dated 1894 looks as though she is about 20 to 25 years of age, possibly 30. So she was young in 1877, a teenager, at most, 13 years of age. I know there is family in Boston at this time. Perhaps she was attending school there? This question begs more research.

Grace Means 1894.

grace

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My Great Grandfather’s Autograph Book. 1877 to 1891.

I hold the small book in my hand. I’ve sat down with it more than once, staring at the pages, reading the autographs accompanied by a few words, hoping the leather gold-embossed book will tell me its secrets.

The first page has a photo of a man that I do not recognize but must be a younger version of my great grandfather, William Means, age twenty two.

The first entry is a greeting from his father, Otis Means. The page is faded and hard to read. I take out a magnifying glass.

“May Heaven bless you is the wish of your Father.” ~ Otis W. Means. Machiasport, February 10, 1878. 

The next page, his mother Elsie writes: “There is a [no] friend that sticketh more than a mother.” Elsie F Means. Machiasport. February 9. The year is not noted.

I surmise the book was a gift from father to son. But, wait. Half way through the book, I find the earliest signature is that of William’s niece Grace, dated February 16, 1877.

“Grace A Means. South Boston. Celebrated Case,” she writes. Perhaps the book was her gift to her beloved uncle for she was raised as his little sister. Grace had a habit of giving gifts to document family history. And by now, I know she had a sense of humor.

A few blank pages before this entry, I find a mystery, a conundrum. It is the signature of Grace’s mother, Francis Adele Means. The Grace Means collection of ancestors’ photos and written documentation of family history clearly states that her mother Francis died in 1871 when Grace was small. Grace produced that collection and distributed it to family in 1924. She was likely in her 50s or 60s. Could Grace have made a mistake in her mother’s date of death? Anything is possible. It’s unlikely there is another Francis A. Means in the family at the time.

So it is possible that Francis Means lived at least seven years longer than I previously thought. I will need to do a search of death certificates.

Francis writes in her brother William’s autograph book:

“I’ve looked these pages through and through. To see what others have written to you. And now I write to thee. These simple words. Remember me.” Francis A. Means. February 28, 1878.

Her words sound prophetic to me, for I know Francis died young, leaving her daughter Grace to be raised by her parents, Otis and Elsie Means.

William’s eldest brother Andrew signed : “What’s in a name? Your Aff Bro.  AF Means. His sister Harriet Means Putnam wrote: “Honor Thy Father and Mother.” Your Aff Sister, HE Putnam. South Boston. February 24th, 1878.

By 1877, many of the entries in the book are to William and Nellie, my great grandparents who married on July 1st, 1880. Nellie’s brother Deola C Getchell writes:

“Nellie and Will. I hope the change that you are to make will be for the best.” Your brother, DC Getchell. Marshfield, 1887.

That entry sounds as though William and Nellie have announced plans to marry and her brother is not all that convinced about the impeding marriage. Or, I am unfamiliar with language from 130 years ago.

A few pages before these words, I find the writing of Nellie’s mother and father, my great great grandparents, Marshfield and Martha Getchell:

“In my Father’s house are many mansions.” Marshfield S Getchell. Marshfield, Maine. March 1887.

“When rocks and hills divide us. And you no more I see. Remember it is – Mother. Who wrote these lines for you.” Martha J Getchell. Marshfield, Maine. March 16, 1887. 

On other pages, I see the signatures of Nellie’s sisters: Thirza Getchell Flynn, and Dora Getchell Flynn. Sisters married brothers, not uncommon. I know that Thirza had a millinery shop in downtown Machias and made women’s hats. By the early 1900s, Dora lived in Brewer. She was watching over my grandmother Harriet, just before Harriet eloped in 1908 without telling her family. Other members of the Flynn family and numerous friends also wrote greetings. They were from Machiasport, Cherryfield, Columbia Falls, and Pembroke, Maine, and as far away as Boston and Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts.

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A list of friends’ signatures from near and far:

“Ain’t she horrid.” Katie L Farrell. Columbia Falls, Maine

“Little Man.” Amy H Johnson. Machiasport, Maine. Feb 8,1878

“May you always be as happy as you are now is the wish of your true friend.” Fannie F. Crocker. Machias, Maine. Aug 22, 1881

Edward L. Lincoln. Jamaica Plains Mass [in] Machiasport. Sept. 22nd ’77

“Remember the clock winder.” Lizzie E. Tobey  1877-10-21

May there be just clouds enough in your life to make a golden sunset.” Your friend, Emma G. Nash. Cherryfield, Maine. February 24th 1880.

“Great thoughts, noble deeds, a life true and holy. Charity open-handed, constant and brave. Good to your fellows, kindness to the lowly. Is the mission of man this side of the grave.” Lydia Bradbury. Machias, Maine. December 22nd ’77

Your friend, Stella A Tarbell. Feb 6th ’91

“Remember me as your friend.” Mrs. OS Lowe. Machias 2-6-91

W. O. Merrick. Boston, Mass [in] Machiasport. Aug 3/79

Edward Merrick. Boston, Mass [in] Machiasport. August 3, ’79

W.E. Tarbell. Meddybemps, Maine.

Emma B. Stewart. Machiasport. Oct 27, 1877

Sarah E. Tobey. Machiasport. Sept 27th, 1877

Your cousin” Georgia J. Robinson. Machiasport, Maine. Feb 9 1878

“Sincerely your friend” Ida F. Warde. Machiasport, Maine Sept. 20, 1877

“That you many aspire to that which is pure and noble. Is the wish of your sincere friend.” Abbie A Grant. Machiasport, Maine. Sept. 17, 1877

Peanuts are nice.” Annie M. Thompson. Machiasport, Maine. Feb. 5, 1878