Genealogist and NEHGS staff member, David Dearborn, FASG, discusses the newly published three-volume set of Torrey's New England Marriages Prior to 1700
and why it's such an essential reference.
"The publication, in book form, of Clarence A. Torrey’s New England Marriages Prior to 1700
, complete with the all-important source citations, makes this work available to the general public in a handy and easy-to-use format.
The result of decades of labor and research, “Torrey” (as the work is known) is a listing of nearly every known New England couple who were married by 1700—approximately 37,000 such couples in all. Following the information on each couple, Torrey provides page citations to the books or articles where he found the information. His methodology was simple: examine every relevant book in the NEHGS library for mention of any couple who fit his criteria. As a result, for those of us with seventeenth-century New England ancestors, New England Marriages Prior to 1700
is the main key to finding the hidden treasures in the library.
"Although it may seem contrary to logic, it is actually easier to sort out seventeenth-century New England ancestors than it is trace those who lived more recently. Prior to 1700, the total population of New England was, relatively speaking, rather small, and large-scale migration and general mixing of the population had not yet begun. Also, there is a greater likelihood that genealogists have already studied, untangled, and sorted out the earlier inhabitants. In numerous cases, the same pioneers and their immediate offspring have been written up and published by different researchers in the course of tracing their ancestral lines, and sometimes reached different conclusions. Torrey examined all of those works that were available during his lifetime (he died in 1962), and often included his opinion as to whether a particular source is reliable, dubious, or just plain wrong. It made sense for Torrey to stop in the year 1700 as pushing the date forward would have increased the project’s size exponentially.
"Over the course of my thirty-five years as a genealogist on the NEHGS staff, I have consulted Torrey innumerable times, not only to help library visitors, but for my own research as well. The publication, at long last, of Torrey in book form, is a momentous event in NEHGS’s history, and makes it possible for every genealogist to add it to his or her personal library."
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David Curtis Dearborn, FASG is a Genealogist who joined the NEHGS staff in 1976. Interested in genealogy since the age of eighteen, David has written numerous articles in scholarly journals and assisted with many published books including, New England Marriages Prior to 1700, three-volume set (2011).