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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Mason

Finding Elnora, the Long-Lost Mason Daughter

Updated: Jan 3

Happy New Year!

I'm so pleased to be blogging again. This year, I'm participating in Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. Each week, Amy sends a prompt to trigger a story about someone in your family tree. This week's prompt is "family lore." So let's get started!

Much of my father's family tree was a mystery to me until a few years ago. But one story I'd always been told was that on his paternal line, I was the first daughter born in eight generations. I was also told that all the fathers in these generations were named Alfred. Neither of these assertions are true.

An antique map of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

There is a roughly century-long space between daughters, however. My great grandaunt, Elnora Fenwick Mason, was born on September 1, 1863 in Swansea, Massachusetts, near the Rhode Island border. Hers was a maritime family, and her twin brother Rollin grew up to become a sea captain just like their father Alfred.

Elnora died of cholera when she was two years old. But I like to imagine what her life might have been like had she lived. Would relatives tell her stories of the Civil War? Would she have worked in a maritime industry? Married a sea captain? Left the area for an entirely different life? So many possibilities, and it saddens me that she was overlooked in the "no daughters in eight generations story."

When I look at the math, I see that Elnora and I are the only biological daughters in 161 years of this Mason branch. There's a spookiness to that.

Sepia photo taken in 1929. A woman and man are standing together smiling.  The woman is wearing a 1920s style hat and coat.  She is holding a baby. The man is wearing a three-piece suit and cap.
Gladys, Robert, and Alfred Mason in 1929.

As for all the Alfreds, there are actually only three. My grandparents, Alfred and Gladys Mason, decided not to carry on the Alfred tradition and named my father Robert.

But years later, when my Mom was pregnant with my older brother, my grandmother pushed the Alfred name. And pushed and pushed, apparently, as the story goes.

"Alfred! Alfred!" my mother eventually balked. "If the name Alfred is so important to you, why didn't you call your own son Alfred?"

"I didn't like the name!" my grandmother replied.

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