Mary Boland Pequignot – I found her photo almost five years ago, and two weeks ago, I mailed it to a member of her family. For over four years, I have looked for her, researched her, wondered about her, marveled at her, and stared at her face. Not constantly … I would go long stretches of time without ever thinking of her. And then there she was again and off I would go, spending a couple of hours looking at census forms or Google search results or newspaper articles. It took me four years to figure out when she died, and I was convinced there would be an obituary, naming her family members and the children of her sisters, so I could find them. Nope – never found it.
If you want to know why I found this woman so interesting, you can read her story – the part I was able to uncover – here:
After that blog post, I continued to search, and found additional census records that showed Mary living in New York or Boston, sometimes with her sister, Kate, sometimes alone. A year or so ago, I was able to determine when Mary died (1942) and where she was buried (Winthrop, Massachusetts). Kate died a couple of years later. Great information to have, but it brought me no other answers about Mary’s life or her surviving family. So I put the photo back in the drawer. When I had time, I would go the tree on Ancestry where I was storing the records and information I found, but I never really found anything new.
Four weeks ago, it was a quiet Sunday afternoon, and I began searching again. I broadened my search a bit, and found a tree on Ancestry.com where she was listed, and I realized that the owner of the tree was probably a relative of Mary’s, likely descended from one of her sisters. So I sent a message to the owner of the tree and thought, “Well, Mary [I talk to her when I’m researching her … it seems to help] – here goes another fruitless attempt. You need to make him answer me.”
And he did.
That same afternoon.
The Lyons family of Massachusetts remembers Mary and her sisters, and has been gracious enough to fill in some of the details of their lives. It’s likely that Mary’s parents arrived in the United States from Ireland during the time of the Irish famine, so there is really no mystery as to why they came. They raised their family in Massachusetts and it seems, based on census records, that the sisters remained close and were a group of strong ladies. Mary’s sister Kate was a nurse (you may recall that Mary studied and taught nursing, and wrote a book about the care and feeding of invalids) and her sister Ellen lived in Lancaster and in Winthrop, raising her family there. Kate lived in Boston, and Mary lived in Worcester, although there are records showing that Mary traveled to Europe and she is shown in the 1940 census as living in New York City. (Interestingly, that census identifies Mary as a writer of fiction – I wonder if Mary gave them that information, and was working on something, or whether it was a misunderstanding of information given to them by the head of the household where Mary was a lodger?) As Mary aged, her family became concerned for her health and safety, and arranged to have her move back to Massachusetts, where the family saw to her care until she passed away. Nieces and nephews knew Aunt Mary was a teacher and that she was very smart, and that she had written a cookbook. Mary is buried in Winthrop, and Kate, Ellen, and Ellen’s family are all buried in Worcester County, Massachusetts.
I am so happy to be sending this photograph to Mary’s family. She has been quite an inspiration over these past years. To women born in the last 30 years, her career as a teacher and writer may not seem that spectacular. But for a woman of her generation to have achieved these accomplishments and this level of education in the years between 1876 and 1920 was nothing short of spectacular, in my opinion. She did not come from a family of wealth, which could have opened doors and made a way for her. She opened those doors and made her own way, thank you very much.
Indeed … thank you very much, Mary.