Tracking down family stories…

My mother-in-law, JEAN MARY FETTES, told me the story of her cousins, JAMES PATON ISAAC and MARGARET AGNES ISAAC.  She told me that James was a professor and his sister was his travel and research partner…that they traveled the world together, exploring, researching, and writing.  Neither of them ever married.  I thought I would try to try track them down.

James (1895-1964) and Margaret Isaac  (1902-1995) were the only two children of Jean’s maternal uncle and aunt, ROBERT HENDERSON ISAAC (1867-1928) and MARY SPIERS PATON (1867-1941).  James was 7 years older than he sister.  He graduated from University of Toronto in 1917 with his Bachelor’s degree and in 1918 with his Master’s degree.  He went on to Harvard University and got his Ph.D. in Ancient History there.  Pretty impressive intellect, cousin!

After Harvard, James taught at the University of Colorado for a time and then at Oklahoma State University till he retired.  He went back to Toronto and lived there for his last 20 years.

According to James’ U.S. Naturalization paperwork, he was 5’11” tall, weighed 160 lbs., had dark brown hair and blue eyes, and wore glasses.

Margaret was listed in the Voter Directories of 1935 and later as a Stenographer.  This would be a plus when she and her brother did their travel/research.

Margaret published her brother’s best-known work, “Factors in the Ruin of Antiquity”in 1972.  I haven’t found any evidence of her collaboration with her brother but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.  Neither of them ever married.  It would make sense that she and her brother could have spent this time together, traveling and working together.

James Paton Isaac’s archives are kept at University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.   He was described as such:

James Paton Isaac (1895-1964), educator and author, was born in and educated in Toronto and at Harvard University where he received the PhD. He later taught Ancient History at the University of Colorado and at Oklahoma State University. Isaac was the author of ‘Factors in the ruin of antiquity; a criticism of ancient civilization,’ (1971).

So, the family story wasn’t proved but I found some interesting material about this sibling pair.  And I can imagine their collaboration, and I hope it was true.  I’d like to believe that Margaret had an interesting intellectual life, as her brother did.  James died at age 68 and Margaret died at the grand old age of 93!

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