Saturday, August 24, 2013


About five years ago, I was contacted out of the blue, as we say, by an antique dealer from the greater Boston area.
            Are you related to John Allen Gould of Newton Upper Falls, Mass? he (or she) wrote in his email. If you are, I have a wonderful old Victorian calling card of his – small, letterpress script, flat-corners, very clean, – and would be willing to sell to you for $150.
            A calling card? I thought, for $150?
            You’d be “willing to sell” my great-grandfather’s calling card to me for one hundred fifty dollars?
I was infuriated by the emotional blackmail – didn’t buy it, of course – and vowed I’d never do that to anybody.

Ever since then, I’ve found great pleasure in finding things in flea markets – things with dates, names, towns, other identifying notations; things like letters, old books, postcards, photographs, pocket diaries, etc. – and, with the help of Ancestry, USGenWeb and other sources of information, locating descendants and returning these items to families of origin.
            For nothing; it’s my way of getting even!

This autograph book is one of my Lost & Found items. I bought it for $5.00, spent time the same evening looking through it, organizing the clues:
On the inside front cover: Mabel, Dec. 25, 1889.
Names and towns: Aunt Helen, Grandma Mayhew, and Cousin Florence H. Mayhew and, most importantly – because it was a full name, with initial – John R. Mayhew, Montville.
Ancestry has old census and voting lists, so I plunked his name into the search engine and held my breath...
John R. Mayhew, Montville, Maine popped up in the 1900 United States Federal Census. He was married to Helen and had a daughter Florence...“Aunt Helen” and “Cousin Florence” – those names fit.
But there was no Mabel listed as a member of his household.

There was, though, Charlotte Mayhew, 83 years old... “Grandma Mayhew” in the autograph book.
Working backwards through Grandma, I found that John had a brother, Frank (1847), also living in Montville; he appeared in the 1880 census. He was a peddler, married to Aubine; had two daughters, Lottie and...
...Mabel, who was 3 in 1880; 12 in 1889 when she received the autograph book for Christmas.

The rest took some time, and involved posting a query on the Waldo County USGenWeb site, asking for (generally) descendants of Charlotte Mayhew, Frank and Aubine Mayhew and (specifically) Mabel Mayhew...and then I waited.

A few months later, I received an email from a man who had seen the query; he was descended from Mabel’s sister (who had not appeared in the 1880 census because she hadn’t been born yet). We exchanged a few letters, and, once I was certain he was truly a descendent of Mabel’s family, I wrapped up the autograph book and sent it off to him.

A few weeks later, I received a letter, postmarked in Golden, Colorado:
Your generosity in sharing this amazing artifact from our family’s past is so very much appreciated...I wanted to let you know today just how much it means to me to hold it in my hands...a tangible, concrete piece of our family’s past...

Lost...and found.


  1. You are so sweet, Deb.

    I did a blog post once that featured a prayer book, among other things. My Mom had given it to me; she had bought it at a library book sale. The woman who had it before Mom had her name and address inside.

    A family member had Googled his Aunt's name and led him to my blog. He left me a comment, and I sent him the book. He and his sister were so happy about that.

    It is nice to share, and appalling that you were emailed to be charged $150!

    Thanks for stopping by to see me last week. Sorry that I am tardy in returning your visit.

    Kathy M.

    1. Oh, I'm glad to hear from you, Kathy! I figured you'd been swamped by little kids in that fabulous classroom of yours; I'm keeping abreast (God, what a silly word THAT is!) of your comings and goings on your blog.
      Isn't it wonderful to share things we have found? Nice to know I'm not the only one out there who thinks found objects should return "home."

  2. This is so cool, imagine today if we walked about with our own calling cards, and not the kinds that promoted sales, but friendship. What a lovely, and inspiring post.

    1. I've got a collection of calling cards, Karen; most given to my great-great grandmother in the Ashburnham, Mass. They're beautiful -- some are hand-colored; some have drawings. I'll do a post on them sometime! Thanks for your kind words...

  3. Fabulous idea Deb! It must be wonderful to be able to give such treasures back to people...good sleuthing! And a nice "so there" to the manipulative dealer.

    1. It is great fun, Pauleen, and very rewarding! I do at least one item per month; have returned things to California (how does a cabinet photo get from an estate in California to a flea market in Maine?), Minnesota (he was so pleased he sent me a bag of wild rice!); and, of course, lots of people in New England. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Fabulous idea Deb! It must be wonderful to be able to give such treasures back to people...good sleuthing! And a nice "so there" to the manipulative dealer.

  5. Admirable gesture.
    Me thinks you should send the link of this post to that antique dealer,
    just to shame him/her...
    Otherwise, he/she has no idea who he/she is contending with here...