A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]Frank Russell was poking around his attic last week, and came upon a historical treasure.
"It was stuffed down inside a wall cavity, as if someone had hidden it there," says Russell, a supermarket manager in Utica, N. Y. "When I pulled it out, I saw that it might be valuable."
The ledger Russell extracted was even more valuable than he had hoped. Inside were the business records of his own great-grandfather, who ran a boarding house in Utica during the Depression.
"His name was Samuel G. Handy," according to Russell. "It appears that he opened his home to young, unmarried women after his wife died in 1931. He must have done it as a public service, because I can't see that they ever paid him rent."
Handy's ledger does show some other payments — made by men from Utica and surrounding towns. This puzzles Russell.
"It doesn't say why they were giving him money. Whatever Sam was providing, it must have left those guys satisfied. The same names keep showing up week after week — some of the most prominent men in town are in there."
When news of the ledger's existence surfaced, members of the Utica Genealogical Society showed up at Russell's door, asking to view his discovery. Before they left, they offered to purchase the book for a large sum.
"They were very eager to get their hands on it," he brags. "Once they saw their own relatives' names in there, they knew they had to have it."
But Russell isn't ready to part with the ledger.
"This is a part of my family's history, so I want to keep hold of it. It'll be displayed in my dining room, right next to great-grandfather Handy's sex-toy collection."