We set out to find Acton’s Francis Skinner, merchant of Boston. We had a surprising amount of difficulty at first. We did find a Francis Skinner who was fabulously wealthy for the time. His son and grandson were mentioned in Boston newspapers as members of a “prominent” family in the top tier of Boston society. Acton’s Francis Skinner grew up relatively secure, but not rich, the son of a doctor and descendant of a respected family in a small country town. He was only thirteen when his father died and would have started out with almost nothing. We were convinced that the Francis we found in Boston could not possibly be “our” Francis. But we were wrong.
Acton’s records and histories did not help us to connect the Boston merchant Francis Skinner to Acton, but fortunately, Boston’s newspapers provided a great deal of information. Commerce, wealth, connections, gossip, and a touch of “scandal” gave reporters plenty to work with, and we were able to put together a story of three generations of Francis Skinners who were unknown to us.