Friday, September 21, 2018

Mary Athya’s 1940s autograph book

Mary Margaret Athya
The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “unusual source.”

One of the items we found in my mother-in-law Mary Athya Murphy’s belongings after she died was an autograph book. Now one wouldn’t necessarily think of an autograph book as a genealogy source, but I did in fact learn a few things about Mary in this unusual source.

The first thing I learned has to do with the spelling of Mary’s first name. From what I can tell, in early 1944 Mary’s family moved from Armstrong or Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania to Warren, Trumbull County, Ohio. Prior to the move, all school and church papers recorded the spelling of her first name as “Mary.” After the move to Warren, Mary was enrolled in Warren G. Harding High School and it appears they (or someone) added an “e” to her name which was then spelled “Marye.” Her name was spelled “Marye” all through high school, including in yearbooks, her graduation card, and diploma when she graduated in 1949. I thought maybe it was a typo that just kept going, but Mary herself spelled her name “Marye” when she wrote her name in the front of the autograph book on June 21, 1944. I found this interesting because in the 27 years I knew her, she always spelled her name “Mary” with no “e.” But for some reason in the 1940s, the “e” was added, and she carried that through her high school years. By the time she married my father-in-law Earl Murphy in January 1951, she was back to spelling her name “Mary.”

Mary's autograph book

Warren G. Harding High School graduation card
The second thing I learned was where her family lived in Warren. In addition to her name, Mary wrote her address in the front of the autograph book—1019 Prier Place NE, Warren, Ohio. I knew she lived in Warren but didn’t know where.

Mary wrote her name and address in the front of the
autograph book

And since Mary wrote the date in the front of her autograph book, the third thing I learned was when Mary and her family lived in the house on Prier Place—June 1944. She was born in 1929 so would have been 15 years old at the time.

That’s really all the genealogical information provided from this source. Nothing earth-shattering, but when you’re putting a timeline of someone’s life together, every piece of information helps. You never know when that piece might be a missing link!

The rest is just interesting and fun to read. Thanks to a stack of senior photos and her Harding yearbook, I’m able to put a face to some of the inscriptions. The first entry was by Helen Astrosky (with photo added from the yearbook) on December 7, 1944.

Dec. 7, 1944 / Dear Mary / When you get married and live upstairs /
Don't come down to borrow my chairs. / Your classmate, Helen Astrosky

Mary must have liked someone named Johnny in 1948 – two people referenced him.

May 3, 1945 / Dear Marye / The only little sayings are stale so I'll just
wish you the best of luck and joy forever. / A "pal" always, /
Kathy Totinos / P.S. remember me through Johnny.

May 1948 / Dear Mary, / Now I lay me down to sleep / With my ford parked out
in the street. / If it should start before I wake. / I pray the Lord put on the brake! /
The one and only (a hem) Mary / Look at Johnny and think of me Ha-Ha.

I wonder if this is the famous Johnny?

5/3/48 / Dear Marye: / Upon this page I write my name / And when you think
of me, don't have a pain. / You fried "always" Johnnie

Friend Anne Larson signed her name with “Your summer school friend.” Does that mean Mary
attended summer school in 1944?

June 21, 1944 / Dear Mary, When you get married and have twins, /
Don't come to my house to borrow safety pins. / Your summer school
friend, Anne Larson

Louise Kensy was a teacher who taught typing and shorthand.

May 2, 1948 / To Marye, / Edward Bok once wisely said, / "Make you the world
a bit more beautiful and better because you have been
in it." May your life bring you fulfillment of this goal. / Louise Kensy

Dear Mary, / As long as the vine grows around the stump, /
You will always be my darling sugar lump. / Alice
"Cupcake" (48)

May 3rd, 1948 / Dear Mary, / I wish you luck, / I wish you joy. / I wish your first
a baby boy. / And when his hair begins to curl, I wish you then a back girl. /
And when her hair is straight a pins, / I wish you then a set of twins. /
Always, Betty Antonelli

May 3, 1948 / Best wishes always from me to you. / Your clothing
classmate / Betty Del Oecchin

June 21, 1944 / Warren, Ohio / Dear Mary, / Hearts are such funny t hings, /
I guess you know that to, / But with heaven & earth inside of mine. /
I still have room for you. / Your pal, Delores Vanpel /
P.S. Don't make love in the corn patch because the corn has ears.

Warren / 6/12/44 / Dear Marye, / Can't write / Too dumb /
Inspiration won't come. / No pencil / Strange pen / Best of luck / Amen /
Doris McGrath

April 2, 1948 / Dear Mary, / They strolled side by side / Down the moonlite
country lane / Soon they reached the gate / He lifted up the latch / She did not
speak a word / For indeed she knew not how / For he was just a
farmer's boy / And she a jersey cow / Always, /
Authey (Ginger) Griffith
Dear Mary / What a Life / Without a Wife / And me with 10 kids. /
Your loving friend, / Mark Adams

Orange grow in Calif. / Apples grow there too / but it take a place like
Warren / to grow a peach like you. / from Roger Angonelli /
Dec. 13, 1944

5/3/48 / Dear Marye, / I wish I were a bunny, / All white and full of fluff. /
I'd jump upon your dresser / And be your powder puff. / Love as
Always / Janie Strommer / P.S. I bet all the fools in town will
turn this page upside down / Janie

And finally one with a secret message.

July 15, 1950 / Dear Mary / UR 2 sweet / 2 / 4 get / The best
of luck always / Mary Louise


  1. How fascinating! I believe I still have two autograph books...I wonder if someone down the line will consider them as valuable as you do this one :)

  2. I have some autograph books, too. I love how you matched the autographs with their photos!