Notes from the Archives: Hiram Kelley Morrell’s Family Genealogical Records

By Tessa Surette, MHS library volunteer

In 1892, Hiram Kelley Morrell (1827-1911), of Gardiner, undertook the daunting task of tracing the descendants of both John Morrell of Kittery and Abraham Morrill of Salisbury, Massachusetts. This project spanned nearly 20 years and resulted in a remarkably detailed manuscript.

Coll. 2731 manuscript sample page (front)

While the manuscript is impressive for both its detail and organization, the process was laborious, and, at times, frustrating. Morrell’s primary means of collecting information was to mail blank genealogy questionnaires (approximately 1500 in all) to complete strangers. He hoped they would fill them out and mail them back to him.

Questionnaire_MHS

Unfortunately, most people did not take the time to respond. This lack of enthusiasm was not well received by Morrell, who saw great value in a detailed family genealogy. On the last group of questionnaires he sent out he included the following excerpt:

 

“I am feeling that it is a hopeless, never ending thankless labor. Everyone who has had a pedigree blank which they have not filled and returned, (and there are about 9 out of 10) ought to be ashamed of themselves, and the time will come, when they or their posterity will be saddened that they have allowed themselves to die unknown, unhonored and unsung…”

 

For those who did participate, their genealogical information resides in Collection 2731 in the MHS Brown Library, along with Morrell’s correspondence relating to the project, completed genealogy questionnaires, photographs, newspaper clippings, and various notes and documents.

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