Donna in the News – “Route of Flight Changed”

Montran Monday
Montrans in the News
By Don Taylor

“Donna in the News” is my reporting of newly found newspaper articles and advertising regarding my grandmother, Madonna Montran (aka Donna Montran and aka Donna Darling). I am always excited when I find new information regarding my grandmother’s exciting show business career during the 1910s and 1920s. 

This week’s article is from the Boston Evening Transcript (Boston, Mass.) dated 22 July 1915.

Boston Evening Transcript (Boston, Mass.) dated 22 July 1915. (Via


City Officials Refuse to Allow Miss Montran to Drop Pennants on Boston Common

Because of inability to secure a permit to drop the “Birth of a Nation” pennants on the Boston Common, the route of the biplane carrying Miss Donna Montran had to be suddenly changed. Miss Montran, one of the “belles of 1861” in the moving picture at the Tremont Theatre, expected to make two round trips with Captain J. Chauncey Redding, in his aeroplane, from Saugus to Boston, dropping from the machine, while over the Common, one hundred pennants advertising the “Birth of a Nation, twenty-five of which had free ticket attached.

City officials would not allow this to be done, so that instead of coming to Boston Miss Montran flew over Lynn and Revere, where the pennants were dropped. She was attired similar to the lobby girls at the Tremont Theatre, with the exception of the hoop skirt. It is doubtful if the flight over Boston could have been made even if a permit had been granted, for the weather conditions today would not allow for the altitude necessary to insure safety.

This article provided additional detail regarding Donna’s biplane flight in 1915 over Lynn and Revere and how come she didn’t fly over Boston Common and drop the pennants there.

For more about Donna’s 1915 Biplane Flight see July 22-23, 1915 – Saugus, Mass. – Donna’s Biplane Flight (Boston Daily Globe).

Mary Parsons – The 1855 New York Census opened a Brick Wall

Census Sunday
By Don Taylor


Following families in the early census records is always tricky, and following widows can be particularly difficult. I had been unable to find her in several early census records after her husband died. So, I thought I’d try approaching finding her using a different approach.

What I think I know

Mary (Wolcott) Parsons migrated to Windham, Greene County, New York in the spring 0f 1802.[i] Her husband John Parsons, Jr., died on 7 April 1813.[ii] Mary died in 1857[iii]. I was not successful in finding Mary Parsons in the 1820 Census, so I thought I’d try finding her in the last census before her death.

Census Reviews

1855 New York Census

Samuel Parsons in the 1855 New York State Census, for Windham, Greene county

Luckily, New York had an 1855 State Census. The 88-year-old Mary is recorded living with her son Samuel[iv]. Samuel was reported as being 65 years old, born in Mass. He was a farmer who had lived in Windham for 50 years. He voted and owned land.

In the same house, but making a different household, is Mary’s youngest daughter, Prudence, and her husband, Benjamin Miller. The census shows “Brudence” as 44-years-old and a resident of Windham for 44 years. Her husband Benjamin was 54-years-old and a resident of Windham for the previous 20 years. Benjamin was a voter but did not own land.

1850 Census

Samuel and “Polly” Parsons in the 1850 Census.

Having been unsuccessful in finding Mary Parsons in the 1850 Census previously, I decided to look for her son Samuel Parsons. There he was, Samuel “Persons.”[v] Living with him was 83-year-old “Polly Persons.” Polly is an alternate/nickname for Mary[vi].

The 1850 Census doesn’t show relationships, but the household appears to include 66-year-old Samuel and 83-year-old Polly Persons.

1840 Census

1840 Census showing Albert and Mary Parsons households

The 1840 Census finds Mary Parsons enumerated as a female 60 thru 69. In her household is a male 50 to 59. Samuel does not appear to have been enumerated elsewhere, so I am confident the male in the household is Samuel. Interestingly, the next person enumerated on the page appears to me to be Benjamin Miller. That household seems to have Benjamin (age 30-39), a female (age 20 to 29), and a boy (age 10 to 14). If the 1855 Census were correct, Benjamin would be 39 in 1840, and Prudence would be 29, fitting this entry.

1830 Census

Mary does not appear to be listed in the 1830 Census with Samuel. Samuel is listed as being 40 to 49 (as expected). With him is a female 10 to 14. This is an unknown female in his household. However, there is an Albert Persons (age 20 to 30) living in Windham. His household includes a female 50 to 59, which fits the age for Mary. Could this be a here-to-fore unknown child of Mary?  More research is needed to determine who Albert is. Because they are next to each other in the 1840 Census, I’m confident Mary is the 50 to 59 year old female in his household.


The 1820 Census reports three Parson’s households in Windham, Greene County, New York.

    • Albert Parson’s profile is:     1 1 0 1 0 0 | 0 1 1 0 0
    • Samuel Parson’s profile is: 0 0 0 0 1 0 | 0 2 0 0 0
    • Orrin Parson’s profile is:      1 0 0 1 0 0 | 0 0 1 0 0

None of the families enumerated appear to have a woman over 29, let alone the 53-year-old Mary. That Albert’s household did not include an older woman in 1820 but did in 1830, shows that the older woman moved into his household sometime between 1820 and 1830.

Mary’s Age Shifts

    • In 1830, 63-year-old Mary appears to have been enumerated as 50-59, four years younger.
    • In 1840, 73-year-old Mary was enumerated as 60-69, four years younger.
    • In 1850, 83-year-old Mary was enumerated as 83.
    • In 1855, 88-year-old Mary was enumerated as 88.

I find the four-year shift in Mary’s age is relatively common for women during their middle years to report be a few years younger than they are. Likewise, older people often seem to add a few years and say they are slightly older.


Based on the 1830 Census, it appears that Mary may have had a son, Albert, that I didn’t know of before. If so, Albert would have been born between 1800 and 1810 and could have been born in either Massachusetts or New York. The Parsons moved to New York about 1802; I haven’t found a birth record for Albert. Further research is needed to confirm this potential relationship.

Finding Mary/Polly in the 1840, 1850, and 1855 censuses vastly improves my understanding of her life. Again, I feel I’ve located Mary in the 1830 Census with Albert, but that feeling is tentative at best.


Research Land records for the Parsons owning land in Greene County, New York, during the early 1800s, particularly Samuel Parsons.

Did Mary have a son, Albert, who was probably born between 1802 and 1810 in New York?


[i] History of Washtenaw County, Michigan (Chicago, Chas. C. Chapman & Co., 1881), Google, Pg 1405. Chas. C. Chapman & Co. (2012). History of Washtenaw County, Michigan: Together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history ; portraits of prominent persons, and biographies of representative citizens : history of Michigan : embracing accounts of the pre-historic races, aborigines, French, English and American conquests, and a general review of its civil, political and military history. Salem, MA: Higginson Book Company.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 23 April 2021), memorial page for Mary “Polly” Wolcott Parsons (20 May 1767–26 Mar 1857), Find a Grave Memorial ID 118318771, citing Pleasant Valley Cemetery, Ashland, Greene County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Mookie (contributor 47515129) .

[iv] New York, US., State Census, 1855, Ancestry, Greene County, Windham, Image 8 of 34, starting at Line 7 – Samuel Parsons.

[v] In early records, the surname “Parsons” and “Persons” seem to be interchangeable.

[vi] BuzzFeed has a nice little article about “12 Weird Short Forms of Popular Names That Make You Go ‘Huh?’” which mentions why Polly is short for Mary.

Ethel Wight Collection – Part 34

Cotton, Coughlin, Couillard, Courtney, & Coyne

Photo Friday
Ethel Wight Collection
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.This week for Photo Friday, I identify the people in five more envelopes from the Ethel Wight Studio Collection[i]. The envelopes contain the names who paid for the photos, not necessarily of the individual portrayed in the image. As such, it is vital to analyze the pictures and information to identify the individual therein.[ii] Ultimately, my goal is to reunite the photos with family members who may have never seen the image.

Bernice Coughlin, circa 1936

The envelope this negative was in says, “Miss Bernice Coughlin, 45 Kellogg St., Portland #553.”

Bernice Coughlin, circa 1936

Why I believe this to be the individual.

  • The 1938 Portland City Directory lists Bernice H Coughlin as a saleswoman at 544 Congress and residing at 45 Kellogg.
  • The 1940 US Census reports Catherine Coughlin as the head of a household including six children, including 27-year-old Bernice.
  • This photo was taken about 1936 when Bernice was about 23 years old.

Family Search did not have a profile for Bernice Coughlin, the daughter of Catherine (Connell) Coughlin. Eight trees at Ancestry.Com refer to Bernice Helen Coughlin (1912-1995).

Besides this photo, I have uploaded two additional photos of Bernice to my Flickr photostream.

Miss Courtney

The envelope this negative was in says, “Miss Courtney, 1942.”

Miss Courtney, 1942

Sadly, there isn’t enough information with this negative package to determine who this individual is a photo of. Because the photo appears to be a nurse, I searched several different ways to find a nurse named Courtney (forename and surname). Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in finding any likely candidates.

I have added her photo to Dead Fred.

Margaret Mary Coyne, circa 1936

This negative envelope says, “Miss Margaret Coyne, 269 Danforth St, Portland #325.”

Margaret Mary Coyne, circa 1936

Why I believe this to be the individual.

  • The 1935 Portland City Directory lists Margaret M Coyne as a clerk residing at 269 Danforth. There are also Margaret Coyne (a maid), a Mrs. Margaret Coyne, Margaret E Coyne, and a Margaret K. Coyne that could be confused with the Margaret living on Danforth.
  • The 1940 US Census finds 27-year-old Margaret Coyne living with her widowed mother Delia Boyne and two brothers.
  • The 1930 US Census finds 17-year-old Margaret M. Coyne living with her parents James B. and Delia A. Coyne.

This photo was taken about 1936 when Margaret was about 24 years old.

Alternative Individuals

Do not confuse her with Margaret E. Coyne, born in 1913 in Portland, Maine, to Michael and Mary Coyne.

Photo Disposition

Family Search identifies ID GCZH-K75, the daughter of James and Delia Coyne. I have uploaded two photos of her to Family Search Memories. I also have uploaded a third photo of Margaret Coyne to my Flickr photostream. Six trees at Ancestry.Com refer to Margaret Mary Coyne, daughter of James B and Bridget “Delia” (Kyne) Coyne.

Update: A first cousin, twice removed confirmed, he’d “be fairly confident [I’ve] identified her correctly.

Mr. A. B. Cotton, circa 193

Image from the negative envelope. If you read it as something other than Mr. A. B. Cotton, I would love to hear from you.

“Mr. A. B. Cotton, Marine Hospital, Portland #619.”

The United States Marine Hospital was at 331 Veranda.

An exhaustive search of city directories from 1934 to 1940 for an A. Cotton, or any Cotton surnamed individual associated with the Marine Hospital or 331 Veranda, failed to yield any results. Furthermore, a search of the 1940 Census did not find a man with the surname Cotton and a first initial of “A” living in Portland, Cumberland County, or the State of Maine. Likewise, a review of the 1930 Census failed to yield such a candidate. As such, I believe this man, in his mid 30’s or early 40’s was possibly a patient at the Marine Hospital and not staff there.

With no identification and no clues to further research, I have uploaded two photos of Mr. A. B. Cotton to Dead Fred.

Edna N. (Huston) Couillard, circa 1936

Edna N. (Huston) Couillard, circa 1936

The envelope this negative was in says, “Mrs. Edna Couillard, 13 Walton St, Portland #757.”

Why I believe this to be the individual.

    • The 1937 Portland City Directory listed Edna N Couillard, the wife of Arthur E Couillard, as residing at 13 Walton.
    • The 1930 US Census places Edna and her husband living with her parents Fred and Sarah Huston at 13 Walton St. Edna was 35 years old.

Family Search identifies id KZVG-BRM as the daughter of Frederick and Sarah (Erskine) Huston and married to Arthur E. Couillard. She was born on 16 March 1895.  I have uploaded two photos to her Memories on Family Search. Fifteen trees on refer to Edna N. Huston.


It was a lousy week for my photo identification with two failed photo sets that I could not identify. However, I did have three successful identifications, two I posted to Family Search and one I posted to this site and to my Flickr photo stream. I had:

Final Note

If any of these photos are of your family member, I would love to hear your reaction. Especially if this photo is of a loved one for whom you hadn’t seen this photograph before.


[i] The Wight Studio was in Portland, Maine. Many thanks to Ethel Wight’s family for access to and permission to use the collection of their great aunt.

[ii] These images were converted to positives using a tracing lightbox, a Nikon camera and computer software (Photoshop Elements).

My Genealogical Process – Part 1 of 2

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.Several weeks ago, I gave a talk at the Greater Portland Chapter of The Maine Genealogical Society regarding my process. I had mentioned that I don’t typically use a genealogical plan in the traditional sense that most genealogists do. Instead, by following a process that I follow every time for my ancestors, I have a robust and more complete vision of my ancestors. Using a consistency in approach definitely improves efficiency, reduces duplication, and reduces skipped steps. It is like a “plan,” but it is a plan to use with every ancestor you research

Use Genealogical Software

I recommend using genealogical software. I don’t think it matters a lot what program you use. I use Family Tree Maker. There are many other great products available. I’ve previously used several other programs, including RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, Heredis, and Reunion.

The ultimate purpose of using genealogical software is that it provides linkage. When you create a source, you can link the source to a fact and link the fact to individuals. Then you can look at an individual, see their facts and see the links to the source. It provides a 3-way picture of how things interrelate. The software also provides a means to manage those facts easily. Providing precise citations for your sources provides the information necessary so that other researchers can follow in your footsteps and duplicate what you found. Having good source citations provides credibility in the work that you’ve done.

Select a person

I use ahnentafel numbers for my ancestors. Starting at any number, I typically research that ancestor, then the following Ahnentafel number, then the next. It helps me build upon my previous work. Alternately, starting at any person, I follow a line by researching that person, then double the number to their father, double again to their grandfather. A second alternative is to focus upon a location and study the people in that location. Often a single place focuses upon a family line, but it can also help build an understanding of sources available for that location and improve FAN[i] research.

My Steps

    • Review
      • Review what I know.
      • Review what I think you know.
      • Review what others think they know.
    • Research
    • Resolve or Elucidate Conflicts.
    • Document

[In Part 2 of this article, I’ll write about Doing Your Research, Resolving Conflicts, and Documenting. But for now, I’ll focus on Reviewing.]

Review – What you Know

As you have build up facts regarding an ancestor you have also developed facts for other ancestors. For example, if you find your grandfather in the 1940 census, you should have learned about the other family members in 1940 – maybe his parents’ names and ages (approximate birth year). What you know is that the 1940 Census indicated the family as it existed. That source should be applied to all of the individuals mentioned.  The steps to “Review what you know:”

Review all your sources for that individual’s facts:

    • Is the source/citation proper and complete?
    • Is all of the information from that source incorporated into facts?
    • Are all the facts associated with all the people?
      (For example, looking at the 1840 Census, are all of the children expected to be in the family identified as “apparent” in your tree.)

In many respects, I think of this a part of a “Do-Over”[ii] in that you are looking at your sources and making sure what you have suggests facts.

Review – What you think you know

Somehow we all seem to have facts regarding our ancestors that we don’t have a source for that fact. All facts should have a source. You should endeavor to identify a source for all facts you have associated with an individual. Reviewing what you know and what you think you know should put your ancestor into a fresh, pristine, starting place for further research.

Review – What Others think they Know

Finding your ancestor on Family Search or other people’s Ancestry Trees is a great place to begin. However, don’t copy their conclusions, relationships, or facts into your tree. Instead, look only at their sources.

    • Do you have that same source already? It is nice to know others agree with you, isn’t it?
    • Does their source apply to your ancestor? Is there enough to prove to you that it is an accurate conclusion and that the source document contains facts you should enter into your tree? Often when someone gets the source to person wrong, it replicates to many other trees. So, just because many people think it is correct, that doesn’t make it right.
    • Again, DO NOT accept other people’s facts; create your own facts based upon the source you have found.

This step is sort of the beginning of your research, but you are using the expertise of others to get you started. I enter all information into my facts. For example, I’ll sometimes have several name entries, “John,” “Jack,” “John Henry,” or any other name that refers to the individual. Likewise, birthdates often seem to change in various documents. I enter them all. Later on, in the Resolve Conflicts step, I’ll address the different names or birthdates.

Next time, in Part 2, I’ll address Doing Your Own Research, answering the Basic and Secondary Questions, Toolkits, Conflicts, and Documentation.

Part 2 will publish on July 6th and will post HERE.


[i] Family, Associates, & Neighbors
[ii] Thomas MacEntee has an excellent book, The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook that can help show you ways to clean up your past genealogical errors and omissions.

Montrans in the News – “At the Summer Resorts”

Montran Monday
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.This week for Montran Monday[i], I found the following article in the Boston Evening Transcript dated 4 August 1899, Page 9, Column 5, 1st full paragraph.[ii]

“At the Summer Resorts”
Golf the Feature at Camden

 Madame Najia Maqhabghat and her brother, Joseph Montran, of New York, are guests of Mrs. Horace Barnes, at the Eager homestead. Madame Maqhabghab will give a Persian tea, early in August, in Camden [Maine]. 

 I learned:

It is not clear if this Joseph Montran is the same Joseph Montran I had identified before. So I added a new Joseph Montran, who lived in New York in 1899, and his sister Najia.

Other Actions

A search on and for Maqhabghat and Maqhabghab yielded no results other than this one article. So the spelling of Najia’s last name is still unclear and was probably misspelled in the newspaper – twice.


[i] Montran Monday – My grandmother’s father was John Montran. She used the surname, as a young child and again when she began in show business. The name is uncommon and most of the Montrans I see in the newspapers are my grandmother during her early vaudeville career. However, with the constant flow of newly digitized material, I often learn of new articles which contain the Montran name. I pay attention to the finding and try to determine a possible relationship of any Montrans to Donna’s father, John Montran.

[ii] Boston Evening Transcript (Boston, MA),, 1899-08-04 – At the Summer Resorts – Joseph Montran. Page 9.