Genealogy Discoveries: My Cousin William Mayall Invented a Corn Sheller!

Recently a kind genealogist reached out to me and sent me two old family photos of Charles Alfred Mayall (1863- ) and Frank Emerson Mayall (1861- ).

Today while researching my great-grandparents Robert Starbird (1782-1870) and Abigail Haskell (1803-1861), I decided to turn my attention to their son-in-law William Milliken Mayall (1820-?), who married their daughter Eunice A. Starbird (1829-1910) and was the uncle of Charles and Frank Mayall.

I began by searching GenealogyBank for William’s first and last names in Maine records specifically, because I know from my notes that William and Eunice were both born there and married in Gray, Cumberland County, Maine, on 10 April 1851.

A screenshot of GenealogyBank's search page showing a search for William Mayall
Source: GenealogyBank

Among the three search results, I found a very interesting Maine Farmer article about patents that gave me a great clue as to what William’s profession was.

An article about patents, Maine Farmer newspaper article 27 November 1869
Source: GenealogyBank, Maine Farmer (Augusta, Maine), 27 November 1869, page 2

So, William was an inventor.

A quick search of Google Patents helped me locate William’s corn sheller patent, which is described as follows:

“Threshing apparatus specially adapted for maize; Threshing apparatus specially adapted for particular crops other than cereals for maize, e.g. removing kernels from cobs.”

Source: Google Patents, US96938A, 1869-11-16, Status: Expired – Lifetime,

Also accompanying the description of William’s patent was a drawing of the design.

Illustration: a drawing of William Mayall's invention of a corn sheller
Source: Google Patents, Patent No. US96938A, 1869-11-16, Status: Expired – Lifetime,

Small world – there are clues everywhere. From the kindness of a stranger to uncovering interesting details of each of our family histories.

Day by day I am able to discover and piece together the stories of my family and connect and extend the family tree.

Genealogy Tip: Examine every article – even the smallest reference can reveal just how resourceful and inventive your relatives were.

2 thoughts on “Genealogy Discoveries: My Cousin William Mayall Invented a Corn Sheller!

  1. I was curious about William Milliken Mayall’s middle name as my family (Milligan) was also shown as Milliken in County Down, Northern Ireland. Can you shed any light on that please? (My family came to New Brunswick, Canada, in 1825.) Thank you.

  2. Good question Lavinia –
    I’ve looked into and never found the origin of why Milliken was chosen as his middle name.

    When I learn more – I’ll post it to this site.


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