Three Generations

Week 3: #52 Ancestors – Namesake

By Eilene Lyon

This is the story of a granddaughter named in memory of the grandmother she never met. And of the woman between them who outlived them both.

We’ll begin with Mary Frances Stephens, the young woman in the feature image above. She was the eighth of nine children born to Granville Allen Stephens and Sarah Frances Poor in Fleming County, Kentucky, in September 1881.1 Mary Frances’s father died when she was eight and her mother when she was 14.

Because she was still a minor, it’s probable that she went to live with her oldest brother’s family in Ford County, Illinois. That is where she met and married Arthur Lewis Gee. The marriage took place in Wall Township on December 21, 1898.2 Arthur was a farm laborer.

Cleo M. Gee as a toddler. (Family collection)

For some reason, after the 1900 census, Arthur and Mary Frances relocated to Stuttgart County, Arkansas. That is where Mary Frances gave birth to her daughter, Cleo Mae Frances Gee, on August 20, 1902.3 Mary Frances was soon pregnant again, but this one did not go well.

On September 10, 1905, Mary Frances (Stephens) Gee and her twin babies died in Arkansas. They were taken to Ford County, Illinois, for burial.4 Cleo eventually had a step-mother and half-brother.

Cleo M. Gee and Carl F. Struss. (Family collection)

The family moved to Missouri for a time, then back to Illinois. Cleo married Carl Struss in Peoria about 1921 (no record). There she gave birth to her only child in 1922, a daughter she named Frances Mary Struss (Fran), almost certainly after her mother who died much too young.5

Frances Mary Struss as a toddler. (Family collection)

I’ve introduced Fran and Cliff Lyon before. Though Fran was primarily a housewife, she did help Cliff with his business. After they sold that and retired, they moved to Mesa, Arizona. Fran developed a severe form of scleroderma, and passed away in 1986 at age 63.6 She was survived by her mother, Cleo M. (Gee) Struss Frisby.

Frances Mary Struss, high school senior portrait. (Family collection)

Cleo and her second husband, Jesse H. Frisby, moved from Illinois to Missouri, and that is where Cleo died in 1988, outliving both her mother and daughter.7 All three women have strong facial features that clearly passed down through the generations.

Feature image: Mary Frances Stephens Gee (1881-1905) (Family collection)


  1. Mary F. Gee. Year: 1900; Census Place: Wall, Ford, Illinois; Page: 4; Enumeration District: 0073; FHL microfilm: 1240301 – via Ancestry.com. 
  2. Mary F. Stephens and Arthur L. Gee. Ancestry.com. Illinois, U.S., County Marriage Records, 1800-1940 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016. 
  3. Cleo Mae Frances Gee. Arkansas Department of Vital Records; Little Rock, Arkansas; Birth Certificates – via Ancestry.com. 
  4. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/71768124/mary-f.-gee 
  5. Frances Lyon. Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2014. 
  6. Albuquerque Journal; Publication Date: 28 Jan 1986; Publication Place: Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States of America; URL: https://www.newspapers.com/image/148650868/?article=95614988-979c-43e3-b6e5-11feaf8a4aaa&focus=0.48376602,0.9218536,0.64459,0.976901&xid=3355 
  7. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/52601150/fri 

43 thoughts on “Three Generations

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  1. Within a family repetitive first names make for confusion for genealogist now– and I have to wonder if they did for the people back then. I was just thinking on that today. I see fewer babies named after relatives now. Do you see the same thing?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It must have been awful for Cleo to lose her daughter, the namesake of her mother. Nothing is worse than a parent outliving a child, not matter how old that child is. Did anyone down the line continue the Frances Mary/Mary Frances name?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love these stories of yours! Such pretty pictures. Oh but it breaks my heart to hear of death in childbirth. I joke with my twins that there’s a reason in certain cultures twins were said to be evil–it’s because it was such a high risk pregnancy and birth. Thank goodness for modern medicine. But it’s wonderful you’ve found these stories of your family’s past. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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