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John Hill Martin family history

Identifier: MSS 0097-Item 0148

Scope and Contents

This volume contains an extensive history of the Martin family of Chester County and Delaware County, Pennsylvania, created by John Hill Martin. Martin created the history during the 1870s-1890s, but included materials from both the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

John Hill Martin originally created this family history in 1872, but as he noted in the volume, he had the “book rebound, St. Martin’s Day, November 11, 1894.” The original title page is transcribed: “Family Papers consisting of copies of Wills, and other important papers, or memoranda thereof; extracts from Family Bibles. Short sketches of personal history, and other interesting matters, relative to the families of Martin of Chester, and Philadelphia, and of the Crosbys of Ridley, in Delaware County in Pennsylvania, and their relatives and connections there and elsewhere. Written and collected and copied by J. Hill Martin. Of the Philadelphia Bar. Member of the Moravian and Pennsylvania Historical Societies. Apl. 10th-1872.”

The book chronicles Martin’s family, who lived primarily in Chester, Philadelphia, and Ridley, Pennsylvania. Other relatives resided in Wilmington, Delaware, and Baltimore, Maryland. Most of the volume—a combination of memoir, record book, and scrapbook—was handwritten by Martin, and includes many of his pen-and-ink drawings of family crests and homes. “Written, collected, and copied” items include letters, obituaries, family Bible records, wills, leases, deeds, diplomas, surveys, listings of births, marriages and deaths, family crests, inventories of family holdings, poems, personal documents, and the lyrics to ‘Martin, the Man at Arms’ by Bellamy. Also in their original form are advertisements, announcements, a business card, financial receipts, newspaper clippings, two portraits, and printed illustrations. The book is a compilation of miscellaneous family information, and has no overarching chronological arrangement. Eighteenth-century documents are interspersed among nineteenth-century ones, though the bulk of the volume consists of earlier documents copied or anecdotes written by Martin in the late nineteenth century.

The collection demonstrates Martin’s dedication to recording his family’s lineage. The book is filled with numerous genealogical records and historical notes. Several renowned local and national historical figures from the Mid-Atlantic region are chronicled: Jacob Broom (1752-1810), who was born in Wilmington, Delaware, and became a representative at the Constitutional Convention as well as the first Postmaster of Wilmington; and John Morton (c. 1724-1777), who was born in Ridley, and became a delegate for the First and Second Continental Congresses, as well as a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

John Hill Martin created a compact and complex history of his family. He provided a list of 167 names that are interwoven into his ancestry. Although he did not complete genealogies for all of the families cited, he copied Bible records and other documents to substantiate relatives’ births, marriages, and deaths in Delaware and Pennsylvania. Personal notes are scattered throughout the text, often accompanied by drawings. He devoted considerable space to certain branches of the Martin family tree, including the Crosbys, Smiths, Bartrams, Bonds, Mortons, Welshes, Brooms, and Pierces. Other familial names can be found on pages 367-370. Martin was sure that his family was Quaker, but he was “never able to prove where the family came from.” His father told him that they were Irish Quakers from Dublin, but he found no evidence of his heritage (p. 321).

Within various sections of the volume Martin summarized his life (pp. 50-77, 165-168, and 247-249). He wrote about his childhood, and detailed the passage from early school days to a career as a lawyer. In this book he also wrote the history of Ridley School, which he extracted from the school’s meeting minutes (pp. 195-218).

Martin also wrote sketches of some of his immediate family, as well as ‘family servants.’ He wrote lovingly of both parents, describing their characters as well as their relationships to other relatives (pp. 309-310). Martin copied several other documents commemorating his brother, Dr. Ernest Dudley Martin, who was appointed by President Andrew Johnson to the position of Assistant Surgeon of the Navy (pp. 328-363). Dr. Martin served as Acting Assistant Surgeon in 1865, and from 1866-1868 he had a full commission. He died of yellow fever on the US flagship Powhatan. Martin’s brother was “aged 25 years and 16 days.”

From 1894-1896 Martin listed “some old family servants,” his “grandfather’s old servants,” his “father’s servants at Lenni Mills,” and their “servants in Philadelphia” (pp. 376-383). Two pages are filled with names and positions that included nurses, day workers, cooks, chambermaids, and waiting maids. Many of the workers were Irish. When Martin lived with his Hill grandparents in Ridley circa 1833, they hired Irishmen to work in their three quarries. Other workers were blacksmiths, quarry supervisors, night watchmen, and tailors.

The volume is bound with green cloth over boards. The text “MARTIN/LETTER AND RECORD BOOK” is stamped on the spine in gold lettering. The edges of the pages are marbled. The volume contains 480 pages, of which 84 are blank.


  • Creation: 1726-1899
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1870-1899


Language of Materials

Materials in English and Latin.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical / Historical

Author, editor, genealogist, illustrator, lawyer, and publisher John Hill Martin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on January 13, 1823. Martin became well known in Pennsylvania for his writings on genealogy, history, and marine insurance. His parents were William Martin and Sarah Ann Smith. Martin attended the Ridley School in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania. At fifteen, Martin was appointed a midshipman to the United States Military Academy at West Point. He wrote that he was “too young and entirely unprepared for the course of education persued [sic] at the Military Academy,” and in 1841 he was asked to leave. He returned to Philadelphia where he studied law under George L. Ashmead. Martin was admitted to the Philadelphia bar in 1844, and practiced law until 1881.

John Hill Martin incorporated his love of history and literature into his everyday life. For almost fifty years he was the legal editor for the Insurance Intelligencer (Philadelphia Intelligencer), and became an author and publisher in the 1870s. Many of his summers were spent in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. His fondness for the town inspired him to chronicle its history in a two-volume edition called Historical Sketch of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, with Some Account of the Moravian Church (1872-1873). At the same time he wrote ‘Sketches of the Lehigh Valley,’ for the Bethlehem Daily Times. Martin edited and published Historical Notes on Music in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania by Rufus A. Grider. He also published Martin’s Bench and Bar of Philadelphia (1873) and Chester (and its Vicinity) Delaware County, in Pennsylvania (1877). A member of the Moravian Historical Society and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, he bequeathed many of his papers to the latter. By 1897 Martin lived in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He died on April 7, 1906.

Dictionary of American Biography. Vol. VI. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958.Information derived from the collection.


1 volume : 480 pages ; 22 cm


This volume contains an extensive history of the Martin family of Chester County and Delaware County, Pennsylvania, created by John Hill Martin. Martin created the history during the 1870s-1890s, but included materials from both the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase, 1957

Related Materials

This item forms part of MSS 0097 Diaries, Journals, and Ships' Logs collection.

Shelving Summary

Item 0148: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0097

Processing Information

Processed by Sally W. Donatello and Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger. Encoded by Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, July 2017.

Finding aid for John Hill Martin family history
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2017 July 10
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

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