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Perley Derby Genealogical Records

Perley Derby Genealogical Records

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PERLEY DERBY (1823-1897) GENEALOGICAL RECORDS, 1848-1915, undated


Processing of this collection was funded by a grant from the NHPRC (National Historical Publications and Records Commission).

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Derby, Perley, 1823-1897
Title:Perley Derby Genealogical Records
Dates:1848/1915, undated
Quantity:11.5 linear feet (21 boxes)
Abstract:The Perley Derby Genealogical Records include manuscripts, notebooks, diaries, journals, account books, and personal papers created by Perley Derby during his work as a genealogist in Salem, Massachusetts. This collection has been arranged into two series.
Identification:MSS 455

Series List

SERIES I. Genealogical Work
A. Manuscripts
B. Notebooks and Notes
SERIES II. Personal Papers

Scope and Content Note

The Perley Derby Genealogical Records include manuscripts, notebooks, diaries, journals, account books, and personal papers created by Perley Derby during his work as a genealogist in Salem, Massachusetts. This collection has been arranged into two series.

Series I. Genealogical Work includes the manuscripts and notes created by Perley Derby during his work as a genealogist. This series has been arranged into two subseries. Subseries A. Manuscripts include handwritten copies of family genealogies later published by Derby. There are three manuscripts in this subseries: "Descendants of William Hatch of Scituate, Mass"; "The Descendants of Nicholas Pickett of Marblehead"; and "Descendants of Jasper Blake, Hampton, New Hampshire". There are also photostats of the Jasper Blake manuscript in addition to Derby's handwritten manuscript. Subseries B. Notebooks and Notes include two sets of numbered genealogical notebooks, along with loose notes arranged by subject. The first group of notebooks, numbered from 1-14, was created by Derby early in his genealogical career. The notebooks include a vast range of genealogical resources including Essex County probate records, various church records, and inscriptions from tombstones and other cemetery records. The second group of numbered notebooks runs from 3-137. Although a majority of the notebooks are undated, it is estimated that these notebooks were created later in Derby's genealogical career. Many of these notebooks have a panel of names affixed to the front of the notebook or an index to help readers locate the family name of interest. These notebooks contain more genealogical research conducted in the New Haven, Connecticut region. These later numbered notebooks are attributed to Perley Derby, but it is unclear, given the handwriting and estimated date of creation, whether this is true. In many of these later notebooks, Louise Tracey of New Haven, Connecticut, a genealogist who also worked with the Gorham family, claims ownership of the notebook. It is unclear whether or not Tracey and Derby worked together during Derby's lifetime or whether Tracey was transcribing older notebooks of Derby's genealogical work. Both sets of notebooks have been arranged numerically. Other sets of notes created by Derby while working on family genealogies are arranged chronologically.

Series II. Personal Papers include diaries, journals, account books, and notes created by Perley Derby throughout his life. Two account books detail Derby's expenses, sometimes in relation to his work as a genealogist. The diaries frequently intersperse Derby's daily activities or reflections on the weather with genealogical notes and future projects. Two sets of notes in this series include two projects of Derby's relating to the town of Salem. The first project is a list of representatives from Salem and government officials, arranged by occupation between 1936 to 1972. The second project is a study Derby conducted in regards to tenement housing in Salem; the series includes a draft of the article Derby eventually published in the Statistics of Labor report.

Biographical Sketch

Perley Derby (1823-1897) was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee on October 26, 1823 to Charles Derby (1798-1868) and Nancy Ann Pulling (1804-1878). His family moved to South Danvers, Massachusetts, ow Peabody, when he was still a young boy. He apprenticed as a tailor before working with a portrait painter in Boston. Over the years he also worked as an engraver, jeweler, and dentist in Salem. He married Harriet Knight (b. 1828) on December 1, 1850 and the couple had two children, Caroline Putnam (b.1853) and Roger Perley (b.1857). During the Civil War, he enlisted on July 28, 1862 as a private with Company F of the Massachusetts 23rd Infantry Regiment. He was mustered out of service on August 7, 1863 in New Berne, North Carolina. He reenlisted on July 25, 1864 with Company A, United States Veteran Reserve Corps, 13th Infantry Regiment and was mustered out of service on November 17, 1865.

Derby is most well-known for his genealogical work. He published multiple family biographies including The Hutchinson family: or, The descendants of Barnard Hutchinson, of Cowlam, England and The descendants of Thomas White, of Marblehead and Mark Haskell of Beverly, Mass: with a brief notice of the Coombs family. He was also employed by the city of Salem for many years, taking the census. Perley Derby died in 1897.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Blake family
Burwell family
Coombs family
Cushing family
Derby family
Derby, Perley, 1823-1897
Haskell family
Hatch family
Honeywood family
Norton family
Pickett family
Rogers family
Tracey, Louise, 1863-1928
Very family
Wallingford family
White family
Charter Street Cemetery (Salem, Mass.)
East Church (Salem, Mass.)
First Church (New Haven, Conn.)
First Church (Salem, Mass.)
Genealogy--Connecticut--New Haven
Genealogy--New Hampshire--Hampton
Tenement houses--Massachusetts--Salem
Account books


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Request for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Perley Derby Genealogical Records, MSS 455, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


Notebook 14 was a gift of Alice Woodbury on November 6, 1935. The tenement houses and government officials notes were donated by the American Antiquarian Society in 1954. The manuscript "Descendants of William Hatch of Scituate, Mass" was a gift of the Lynn Historical Society (acc. 87036). "Baptisms, Deaths, and Communicants of East Church…" was acquired in 1990 (acc. 90035). The Nicholas Pickett manuscript was donated by the American Antiquarian Society in 1995 (acc. 1995.040). Some of this material was originally arranged as Fam. Mss. 244, MSS 0.300, or Mss. Gen. #34-64.

Processing Information

Collection processed and cataloged by Halley Grogan, October 2012.

Related Material

"Death of Perley Derby." Salem Evening News. [Salem, MA] March 29, 1897: 5.

Derby, Perley. "Genealogy of the Derby Family." Essex Institute Historical Collections. Vol. 3. 154-67, 201-7, 283-89. Salem, Mass: Essex Institute, 1879.

For additional Perley Derby material, including his published family genealogies, please visits Philcat, our online catalog.

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