A lot of the people you look at, digging around in the records, are unremarkable. They do come more to life if you find a picture. Of course, if you knew them in person, there'd be things to love or hate, memorable and interesting individual characteristics. But those things often don't show up in public records and vital statistics.
But, every so often, you come across someone who jumps right off the page. Their lives may not have been easy, but from the distance of time across the decades and centuries, one is inspired to fill in parts of the story between the dots. Check below the squiggle for a couple of examples.
JOHN M. DORE (1840-1910)
John's father was one of seven brothers, not one of whom lived to the age of 50. The family lived and worked in the small mill towns along the Salmon River, which forms the boundary between Maine and New Hampshire. John was the youngest of 5 children, and his parents' only son. His father died when he was 11 in 1852.
Marriage: 17 Jan 1857
He was married shortly after he turned 16, to a girl from across the river in York County, Maine. Mary Murphy was the daughter of an Irish immigrant father, a blacksmith, and a woman whose family settled in colonial days. At age 14, in the 1850 Census, she was employed as a maid. She was 20 when she married the fatherless only son, John M. Dore, 4 years her junior.
Their first child was born 18 months after the wedding, in the summer of 1858. A second had arrived in time for the 1860 Census, when John was 19. They had a total of 7 children, 6 of which were still living in 1900. (I've only found record of 6 of them.)
He left her, with three small children and pregnant, when he was 21 in 1861, heading off to war for 3 years. The Army highest rank he got to was sergeant. He came back, and there were more children. Despite what might have been an inauspicious start, they stayed married for over 60 years, until he died of tuberculosis in 1910. She lived another four years.
LUCY E. CONNORS (1875-??)
On plus side for information, Maine keeps good records. Marriage licenses record the names (including mothers' maiden names') of both partners' parents. Had Lucy wed in another state, I might not have known anything about her antecedents.
Her father's family (I think, I'm not sure) were farmers and lumbermen in the town on the map, Littleton, Maine. They were amongst its earliest settlers. Her paternal grandparents were from the other side of the border in Canada. Best I can tell, but I'm not sure about it. And I haven't found anything about her mother beyond the name, and no siblings either. So, all in all, not much. But here's what I have found about her, and why she's stuck in my memory.
- Born 1875 - Bangor, Maine - New Brunswick, Canada - even Northern Ireland: who knows? (not me!)
- Married, 14 Jul 1894, to Ernest Porter (b. 1873.) It didn't last long. No children. It was the first of four marriages for each of them. He worked at various vocations over the years: laborer, sawmill, and last seen as a baker in 1930, New Haven, CT.
- Married, 2 Oct 1897, to Milton Conners (b. 1875.) This didn't last long. Again, no children. The only occupation I've found for Milton is laborer.
- Married, 1 Jul 1899, to George Pinkham Conners (b. 1846.) George was a farmer, and Milton's uncle. George's first wife, Harriet (Hattie), died in 1896 at the age of 46, after a 25-year marriage, with 8 children. Lucy stayed married to George for over a decade, and they had a son - Milton!! - her only child.
- Married, 5 Aug 1915, to George Tenan (b. 1868.) They were divorced by 1918. No children. He was another working class laborer, eventually buried in his hometown of Cherryfield, Maine (the "Blueberry Capitol of the World") at the age of 61
Lucy married and lived with her second and third husbands, the Conners nephew and uncle, in Cherryfield as well, where both husbands grew up. Cherryfield, Maine has never been a large town; the most recent Census lists a population of only 1,232, up from 771 in 1970, down from 1,859 in 1900. One can be forgiven for wondering if they still talk about Lucy Connors there. The last record I've found of her was when her son registered for the World War I draft in 1918. They lived in Bangor, Maine then, mother and son. For all I know, she married again.
I'd love to see a picture of her. Wouldn't you?