A few months ago, in a rather singular moment of craziness, DH and I thought about buying a historic house listed at $$$ . . . I went into historian mode and dug around in the archives for information about the house and its occupants, and found out that what the seller had proudly presented as part of the unique history of the house was wrong. There it was, printed in a very glossy full color brochure, and it was just wrong. And I was reminded again how easy it was to rewrite history.
When I research a house, I try to establish a chain of ownership. Most of the time, all that remains is a listing in the City Directory: a name, perhaps an occupation, perhaps the number of people in the household. Sometimes, if I get really lucky, someone will get a mention in the newspaper: “Miss Lucy Smith celebrated her birthday with a garden party attended by . . . ”
In the case of this historic house, the seller stated that the house was built and owned by a member of a prominent farming family. A member of the prominent family did indeed live there … after he married the daughter of the house. Her parents had built the house a few years after their arrival in the town, and after their deaths, the daughter inherited the house. She retained ownership of the house, and passed the house on to her daughter.
None of this stuff is particularly important, unless you believe that facts are important. Even in this era of postmodern history, perpetuating a falsehood is perpetuating a falsehood. DH and I came to our senses and did not buy the house, and I did not find any more information on the daughter or her daughter . . . but then, women tended not to exist in their own names.
Which brings me to Miss Mary. Her little travel diary had been my pet project a couple of years ago, and I was always sorry that I did not know what she looked like. She was daughter of, wife of, mother of . . . Then a descendant posted her picture on Findagrave.com (love that website!):
Finally, Miss Mary!