Torrey’s New England Marriages

Clarence Almon Torrey

Four books rest next to me whenever I am researching in seventeenth-century New England. These are the first items I check for any previous treatment of a family:

All of these sources are only as useful as their publication date, and the challenge is to always keep up with genealogical scholarship published after these useful bibliographies. Several of these works are defined by their own limitations. Hollick’s work refers to material (journal articles and multi-ancestral works especially), published within the stated thirty-year period 1980-2010, and only for New Englanders leaving descendants. Anderson’s compendium is specific to New England settlers he has found specific documentation for by 1640, and Colket’s work (used as a reference for the hereditary society, The Order of the Founders and Patriots of America) is specific to settlement in all thirteen colonies for the fifty years following the 1607 Jamestowne settlement (so largely useful for the earliest permanent European settlements, except Pennsylvania and Georgia).[2] Much of the sources cited in these works will in turn lead to other sources given therein.

Like all the works above, Torrey’s Marriage Index is not a source itself but a guide to sources…

The last reference above, Third Supplement to Torrey, is a continuation of a much larger work I’ll now discuss. This larger work by Clarence Almon Torrey, New England Marriages Prior to 1700, is now available in several formats. Like all the works above, Torrey’s Marriage Index is not a source itself but a guide to sources, containing references to any couple married by 1700 and living in New England (not necessarily married there). An introduction of this work, written by David Dearborn for the 2001 publication of Torrey’s manuscript as a CD-ROM, notes that it is unknown when Torrey began to create this index, and “it is also unclear if he ever intended the work to be shared with the world, or compiled it simply for his own amusement.” Torrey continued adding references up until his death in 1962.

Torrey’s original work remains in our manuscript collection. The bound twelve volume copy of his manuscript rests behind our seventh-floor reference desk, and as previously mentioned, a transcribed CD-ROM of this work came out in 2001. A multi-volume printing of the CD-ROM transcription was also bound, and this version was later published in book form. Scans of the original and transcription are both available on (The original images are only searchable by volume and page, not by name.) While the database of the printed transcription is certainly easier to use, I was recently reminded that having the original images online is also invaluable.

The example here involves a search for the marriage of Richard Waters and Martha Reed:

A bibliography within this database explains what each reference stands for, although Torrey’s abbreviations for the most common sources are easy to understand. However, the last reference, “TAG 2:210,” appeared out of place. TAG stands for the The American Genealogist, a long-standing journal began in the 1920s by Donald Lines Jacobus (1887-1970); however, the first eight volumes of this work were published as New Haven Genealogical Magazine (and these volumes were later published as Families of Ancient New Haven), and Torrey usually cited the first eight volumes as “New Haven Gen. Mag.” Searching this work on American Ancestors, there is no page 210 in the second volume, and this page as given in the first volume makes no reference to the above Waters couple.

Thankfully, with Torrey’s original handwritten manuscript on our website, I quickly realized this was a transcription error, instead referring to volume 22:

Also, most of our journal databases allow you to search by page without knowing the volume (or vice-versa). If the above example of volume 22 was more difficult to decipher, I could search our database of The American Genealogist for where Richard Waters appeared on page 210 in any volume:

With so many of the journals cited by Torrey on, and so many of the genealogies and other works elsewhere online, this has become a source I can use almost as efficiently from home as I can from the library.


[1] An invaluable copy of the earlier 1985 edition on the seventh floor at NEHGS also has handwritten annotations by longtime NEHGS reference librarian David Curtis Dearborn.

[2] There can be some disagreement between the earliest year of settlement for a colonist given in Colket versus Anderson, with Colket sometimes listing an earlier year if given in a genealogy without a contemporary source.

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

5 thoughts on “Torrey’s New England Marriages

  1. What a fascinating post! But I remain mystified by the significance of Sanborn’s Third. It seems I’m missing what’s unique and specific about this particular reference. Thank you!

    1. The third supplement (which incorporates items in the first two supplements) contains references to New England couples married by 1700 that appeared in genealogical publications from 1962-2003, and earlier items missed by Torrey.

  2. I am suspicious but have no proof that my immigrant ancestor – “John Hillman, m Hannah [ Cottle ] (?1661); b 1682; Marthas Vineyard, and Josiah Hillman, m. Hannah______ b 1676; Boston/Hingham” are the same couple. ( P 373 in the typed manuscript, P 271 of Torreys original H manuscript. )
    Some tree builders have Josiah as Johns father, Dr Charles Banks has immigrant John landing in the Salisbury area, traveling to Nantucket where he marries Hannah Cottle, and finally settling on Martha’s Vineyard.

    Thank you,


    1. Hello Dean, we are distant cousins as I also descend from John and Hannah (Cottle) Hillman [and have a second Cottle descent as John and Hannah’s son John married Ruth Cottle whose father James was Hannah’s brother]. Also since John Hillman is not documented until after 1657, he would not be included in Colket’s Founders of Early American Families, nor in Anderson’s Great Migration Directory.

      To your suspicion on John and Josiah, it’s an interesting idea. The only reference by Torrey on Josiah is from the history of Hingham, 2:332 – – which is a birth of a single child Charles on June 12, 1679. The birth here in the Vital Records does appear to say Josiah –

      But Torrey also notes “b. 1676” and (Boston/Hingham) which refers to a birth of another son Josiah on September 28, 1676 in Boston –

      Since neither a Josiah nor a Charles appear with the John Hillman family in Martha’s Vineyard, I tend to think they are two different families, but it is indeed a mystery what happened to the Josiah HIllman family of Boston and Hingham.

      These Hillmans were also discussed in a post in the Boston Evening transcript on August 15, 1910, note 1320 –

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