About five years ago, I was contacted out of the blue, as we say, by an antique dealer from the greater
Are you related to John Allen Gould of
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. Newton
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,
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 Federal Census. He
was married to Helen and had a daughter United States ...“Aunt
Helen” and “Cousin Florence” – those names fit. Florence
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
; he appeared in the 1880 census. He
was a peddler, married to Aubine; had two daughters, Lottie and... Montville
...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
asking for (generally) descendants of Charlotte Mayhew, Frank and Aubine Mayhew
and (specifically) Mabel Mayhew...and then I waited. Waldo
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,
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...