Using Newspapers to Learn More about Francis Van Wyck Mason

I recently wrote about several of my cousins whom I was able to learn more about due to the kindness of a fellow genealogist. This kind individual was able to connect me to this family via Francis Van Wyck Mason (1901-1978), a best-selling author who married my cousin Dorothy Louise Macready (1897-1958) – her mother was a Kemp, on my County Cavan, Ireland, Kemp line.

I already knew about Francis (he is my cousin on my Mom’s side of the family). His wife, Dorothy Macready, is my cousin on my Dad’s side of the family tree. I wanted to know more about his life so I typed Francis’ name in GenealogyBank, hoping to find a few more interesting details to add to our family tree.

A screenshot of GenealogyBank's search page showing a search for Francis Van Wyck Mason
Source: GenealogyBank

The first thing I found was an obituary for him.

An obituary for Francis Van Wyck Mason, Plain Dealer newspaper article 30 August 1978
Source: GenealogyBank, Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 30 August 1978, page 75

His obituary reports:

“Francis Van Wyck Mason, 77, American author of 57 historical novels and spy thrillers, drowned while swimming in the Atlantic Ocean near his home, police said yesterday. Neighbors saw Mason’s body floating in the sea Monday night and brought it to shore. He had lived and worked for 22 years at Hampton Head on this resort island. Survivors include his second wife, the former Jeanne-Louise Hand, and two sons. His first wife died in 1958. Mason, a Boston native, was a Harvard graduate and a veteran of both world wars.”

I then found this article about his engagement, which gave me a bit more info about Francis’ early life and his first wife, Dorothy Macready.

An engagement notice for Dorothy Louise Macready and Francis Van Wyck Mason, Boston Herald newspaper article 2 April 1927
Source: GenealogyBank, Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 2 April 1927, page 11

According to this article:

“Mrs. Robert Ashton Macready… announces the engagement of her daughter, Miss Dorothy Louise Macready, to Francis van Wyck Mason, son of Mrs. Francis Payne Mason… Mr. Mason is a graduate of Harvard University, class of 1924, and while in college belonged to the Cercle Francais, Hasty Pudding Club, Institute of 1770, D. K. E, and was art editor of the Lampoon He is a member of the Harvard Clubs of New York and Boston. During the world war he served overseas with the 79th division.”

Shortly after their marriage, Francis and Dorothy built a home in Baltimore, Maryland, and Francis published his first novel, Seeds of Murder, according to his Wikipedia page.

An obituary in the Evening Star continues the story of his life.

An obituary for Francis Van Wyck Mason, Evening Star newspaper article 30 August 1978
Source: GenealogyBank, Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 30 August 1978, page 42

In addition to giving me his pen names “Frank W. Mason” and “Ward Weaver,” this article also gave me the names of his two sons whom I did not have in my records: Francis Van Wyck Mason II and Robert A. Mason.

An obituary for Francis Van Wyck Mason, Evening Star newspaper article 30 August 1978
Source: GenealogyBank, Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 30 August 1978, page 42

I think I’ll pick up one of his novels the next time I’m looking for something to read.

Genealogy Tip: Use GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives to find new details about the people in your family tree. Start today.

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