Torrey's New England Marriages Prior to 1700

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Clarence Almon Torrey's "New England Marriages Prior to 1700" is a twelve volume, 6,000 page index to over 37,000 marriages in 17th century New England. The index is estimated to contain as many as 99% of marriages performed in New England. [1] Torrey consulted over 2,500, mostly published sources, although some manuscript sources were examined. [2] Torrey's work is so often spoken of, it is often called, simply, "Torrey" or "Torrey's Marriage Index."

Contents[edit | edit source]

The index specifies husband's name, wife's maiden name, and birth and death years. It indicates marriage date and place. It may list other principal residences. It lists source references. Torrey indexes sources available up until 1960. All of the sources are available at the New England Historic and Genealogical Society (NEHGS). Source references are predominately family genealogies. "They also list vital records, town histories, diaries, biographies, court records, periodicals, and genealogical dictionaries." Some are manuscripts that you might otherwise not know about. [3]

The index includes not just New England marriages, but marriages of New Englanders prior to arrival in the new world. [2] This is true even if one spouse died and the surviving spouse immigrated to New England. It includes marriages that can be inferred from sources such as a child's birth or baptism, court and probate records, and deeds. Marriages are included for New Englanders who moved to areas adjacent to what is considered New England today. This includes Long Island counties of Suffolk, Nassau, and Queens and parts of Westchester County, New York adjacent to Greenwich, Connecticut. It includes Newark, Elizabeth, Piscataway, and Woodbridge, New Jersey. [4]

Supplements[edit | edit source]

Torrey died in 1962, so his index does not include marriages discovered since that time. Nor does it include sources unavailable to him. Several decades later, Melinde Lutz Sanborn took on the project to publish a supplement containing corrections, additions, and deletions. She published her first supplement in 1991, a second in 1995, and a third in 2003. The third includes all the information published in the prior two. Information is drawn mainly from periodicals published from 1960 to the spring of 2003. "In all, approximately 6,000 entries, referring to as many as 20,000 people, are included." [5]

  • Sanborn, Melinde Lutz. Supplement to Torrey's New England Marriages Prior to 1700. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1991. FHL 974 V2t supp.
  • Sanborn, Melinde Lutz. Second Supplement to Torrey's New England Marriages Prior to 1700. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1995. FHL 974 V2t supp. 2.
  • Sanborn, Melinde Lutz. Third Supplement to Torrey's New England Marriages Prior to 1700. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2003. Not available at the FHL.

Using Torrey's Marriage Index[edit | edit source]

Torrey's marriage index should not be considered a source, but an index to sources. It is best to search Torrey for referenced sources and subsequently access those sources.

Torrey can also be used "as a kind of first-stage quality check" to evaluate unsourced genealogies. If a genealogy contains a pre-1700 New England marriage that is not documented in Torrey, the pedigree may be suspect. [6] "Because Torrey listed not only the place of marriage (when known), but also subsequent known places of residence, it is possible to follow migration paths." [4] Because it lists death dates and residences going beyond 1700, and because referenced sources contain information extending beyond 1700, it is a useful reference for 18th century research as well.

When searching for English origins, Torrey is one of the first works to consult after Topographical Dictionary of...English Emigrants to New England..., Genealogical Gleanings in England, and English Origins of New England Families... [7]

Three versions of Torrey include source references.

  • New England Marriages Prior to 1700. 3 vols. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2011. Includes many corrections to previous editions. Not available at the FHL.
  • New England Marriages Prior to 1700. CD-ROM. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001. This is no longer available for purchase. As of this writing, it can be used at the FHL.

If these versions are inaccessible, users can access versions that do not include the source references and then consult Torrey's original manuscript to see the references.

  • New England Marriages Prior to 1700. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985. Does not include source references. FHL 974 V2t

Images from and database derived from print edition, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985, which does not include source references. Includes index and images from Melinde Lutz Sanborn's Supplement (1991), Second Supplement (1995), and Third Supplement (2003), all of which include source references. ($)

Original Manuscript[edit | edit source]

There is normally no reason to access images of Torrey's original manuscript. As a source of second-hand information, you should normally bypass it in favor of the sources Torrey references. There are still several reasons why you may wish to search the original manuscript.

  • If you cannot get access to all the referenced sources. You may find information in the manuscript that is not included in publications OF Torrey's marriage index.
  • If you accessed a publication of Torrey that didn't specify the source references.
  • If you have no access to published versions.

The original manuscript can be browsed by image in an database, "New England (Image only): Marriage Manuscript of Clarence A. Torrey, 1583- 1700." ($) It can be browsed by image on FamilySearch microfilm or digitized images listed at "New England marriages prior to 1700".

The original manuscript is arranged as shown in the diagram below.

Torrey Key.png

1. The manuscript is arranged alphabetically by husband's surname, then first name. Variant spellings are gathered under the most common spelling. Entries with unknown given names are placed after entries with given names.

2. Beneath the husband's name is his birth and death years, shown in parenthesis, and separated by a dash. A year followed by a + sign indicate the birth or death occurred in a later year.

3. To the right of the husband's name is the wife's name. If the surname is presented without brackets or punctuation, the entry is usually from an actual marriage record. If the surname is shown within brackets, it is usually inferred with confidence from a source such as a deed or will. If a question mark precedes or follows the surname, the identification is less certain or the source may be questionable. A line is shown in place of an unknown maiden name. If a line replaces both given and surnames, then there is evidence that the man had a wife, but is name is unknown. Small, square brackets indicate a maiden name not derived from marriage records.

4. A surname after a parenthesized maiden name is the wife's previous married name.

5. If this is not her first marriage, the first name of the former husband is shown under the wife's name. A w indicates widow.

6. Later marriages of the wife are shown beneath her name and former husband, if any.

7. If husband was married more than once, the number of the wife is indicated.

8. To the right of the wife's name is the date of marriage. Multiple dates indicate conflicting sources. Inferred dates are indicated in some fashion. For example, b. 1690 means "by 1690." This might be the case if the first child was born by 1690 or if a record indicates they are married but doesn't indicate a date. A full date usually indicates an actual marriage record exists, usually in the first place subsequently listed.

9. To the right of the marriage date is the residence place. Multiple places are listed when known.

10. Underneath the place is a list of references in highly abbreviated form. Numbers follow abbreviated source names, indicating volume and page. A PDF file listing the source abbreviations and their meanings is available on Usually, Torrey listed references without comment, but in a few instances he marked some as wrong or doubtful. [8]

Some of the common abbreviations are:

  • Am Gen - The American Genealogist.
  • MD - The Mayflower Descendant.
  • NYGB Rec. New York Genealogical and Biographical Record.
  • Reg. - New England Historical and Genealogical Register.
  • SV - Savage, James. A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers in New England.[3]

History and Editions[edit | edit source]

Torrey compiled his marriage index from 1927 until his death. "The basic scope and character of the project had taken form by 1936." [3] He began by copy information onto slips of paper. Using pen and pencil, he eventually copied the slips onto alphabetically arranged punched pages. These he assembled into twelve bound volumes, each containing over 500 pages. [4] In 1953 NEHGS microfilmed the twelve volume manuscript on negative film. Torrey continued to make additions and corrections until 1961. The original manuscript was available for reference room use. Over the years, some writing became smudged. In 1972 NEHGS retired the original manuscript and replaced it with copies produced from the microfilm negatives. While this made smudged writing legible, it would not contain any additions, corrections, or annotations made after 1953. [3] However, it does contain annotations made since that time. [9] In 1979 NEHGS published a seven reel positive microfilm edition. In 1985 Genealogical Publishing Company published an abstract containing all the genealogical information. To save space, it omitted the source references. In 2001 NEHGS published a complete abstract on CD-ROM, including source references. In 2011 NEHGS published their own abstract of Torrey. The three volume set includes source references and corrects many errors in previous editions. [2]

Clarence Almon Torrey[edit | edit source]

Clarence Almon Torrey was born in Manchester, Iowa on 28 August 1869. He graduated from Cornell College, Mount Vernon, Iowa. He was a librarian at the University of Chicago from 1893 to 1920. He then moved to Boston, returning to his family's New England roots, and spent the rest of his life in genealogical pursuits. In 1932 Donald Lines Jacobus invited him to serve as a contributing editor to The American Genealogist. He published over 50 articles in that journal. He was an early fellow in the American Society of Genealogists. [4] He compiled his marriage index from 1927 until his death in 1962 at age 92. He experienced health problems in 1953 that he believed might cost him his life. He then named NEHGS as the beneficiary of his marriage index. He died in 1962 at the age of 92. [3] He died in Newton, Massachusetts 5 February 1962 at the age of 92.[7]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Clarence Almon Torrey, Torrey's New England Marriages Prior to 1700, microfilm, 7 rolls (Andover, Massachusetts : Northeast Document Conservation Center, 1979), roll 1, frames 1-5.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Lynn Betlock, "Torrey for the 21st Century: Notes on Using New England Marriage Prior to 1700 on CD-ROM," New England Ancestors, 3:1 (Winter 2002): 26-27.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Torrey, microfilm, roll 1, frames 1-5.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 David Curtis Dearborn, Introduction to New England Marriages Prior to 1700, PDF file, American Ancestors (, accessed 11 October 2018).
  5. Melinde Lutz Sanborn, Third Supplement to Torrey's New England Marriages Prior to 1700 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2003), vii.
  6. Harold Henderson, "Comments on Torrey," New England Ancestors, 3:1 (Winter 2002): 29.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Gary Boyd Roberts, "Introduction," Elizabeth P. Bentley, ed., Clarence Almon Torrey, New England Marriages Prior to 1700 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985), v-x.
  8. Torrey, microfilm, roll 1, frames 1-5. Also, Dearborn, Introduction to New England Marriages Prior to 1700.
  9. Sanborn, Third Supplement, vii.