Adventures in Research: Tracking down the 19th century Maine Guy who wanted a wife.

Funny story: I used to be a researcher.  Library grad school, until they threw me out of it because of wine, women, and song*; then a decade in general real estate research tracking down the details of recent commercial/multi-tenant residential sales.  And, of course, there were those amusing days demonstrating to anonymous Internet trolls that there’s no such thing as anonymity on the Internet.  Good times, good times.

Anyway, I see this Tweet:

…and enough people are going Dude’s got game and Hope it worked out for him that I got curious, myself.  So I went looking.  I mean, why not?

First off, when you’re doing stuff like this: never assume that you’re the first person to investigate the case.  So I Googled “Chance for a spinster.”  Which got me here. Some of the folks on that site decided to check to see whether the text was a modern fake; it was not. It really showed up in Harper’s Weekly.  And then someone on that site named DavePhD tracked down a paper that not only referenced the Harper’s Weekly article, but the man’s name “John Morris.”

Well, once I had a name, a county (Aroostock) and a date of birth — around 1847, given that he was 18 in 1865 — it’s just a matter of finding the 1870 Maine Census. Which is online; and had no “John Morris” in it of the right age and county.  But wait!  Newspapers in the 1800s got names wrong all the time, and the genealogy sites know this. There was a John Morrison of the right age and county:

…and in 1870 he was married to a Clara Morrison.  They had three children, the oldest of which was 3 and the youngest a babe in arms.  Also living with the family was what appears to be John’s mother and grandfather.  In other words, it would appear that, when it came to finding someone of the female persuasion to buy bread-and-butter, hoop skirts, and waterfalls for (all contemporary women’s clothing terms), Mr. Morrison eventually figured out how to do it.  Mind you, I’m speculating that they’re the same people; but, shoot, it’s all very plausible, and plausible is enough.

So that’s what I’ve been doing this morning.  For fun. Because I’m weird like that.

Moe Lane

*With nothing to show for my experience save a bunch of student debt and a roboticist wife who can speak multiple languages and play multiple musical instruments, so, hey, net win.


  • Belcatar says:

    That’s excellent detective work, and of special interest to me because I live in Aroostook County. Where did old John Morrison hang his hat?

  • Belcatar says:

    This is awesome. I live about 15 minutes from Linneus.

  • Belcatar says:

    I don’t mean to hog the forum here, but I just found the likely original owner of my house in the Haynesville census. He had another house across the street that burnt down, and built what is now my house in 1878. I know the house was once owned by Alfred Chambers, but his grandfather built it, and I suspect that is William Chambers, whose name I found in the census.

    I fully support your tendency for research, sir.

  • acat says:

    Heh. Yeah, it’s a fun hobby .. I especially like the troll-bashing potential, but I’m admittedly funny that way.
    Nicely done, Mr. Lane.

  • Randomized says:

    Cool, my parents live in Penobscot county right next door.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Site by Neil Stevens | Theme by TheBuckmaker.com