Lawrence G. Robbins: Family Researcher to Author, Part IV

The story of Lawrence G. Robbins' journey from recording his father's family stories to writing The Nicholas Robbins Family genealogical history continues in Part IV of this engaging blog series.

Julie: Last week we left off discussing the compilation of articles from the Yarmouth Herald which traced the lineage from Nicholas Robbins to your great-great grandfather, Prince H. Robbins. I am intrigued to hear more about the genealogies.

Lawrence: "Yes, the book, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia Genealogies, was the starting point for my research on Nicholas Robbins and his descendants. The author, George S. Brown, did not actually publish his genealogies in book form. As noted previously in this blog, they were originally published as a series of newspaper articles in the Yarmouth Herald between 1896 and 1909. Those articles were preserved on microfilm at the NEHGS Library in Boston and at the Family History Library in Salt Lake and were later prepared for publication in book form by Martha and William Reamy. In 1993 that book was published by the Genealogical Publishing Company. The reader of this blog should keep in mind that neither the original newspaper articles nor the resulting book can be considered “primary” sources. General references to primary records are made throughout the book but very few specific references to the source of a date or event are provided.

"The genealogy of the Robbins family of Yarmouth appeared in the Yarmouth Herald on October 12, 1897 as Yarmouth Genealogy No. 35. It is an account of the ancestors and descendants of two of the Yarmouth Proprietors, James and Benjamin Robbins, originally of Plymouth County, Massachusetts, who immigrated to Yarmouth in 1762 and settled in the Chebogue area of Yarmouth County. I am descended from James Robbins. In the introductory paragraph of this genealogy, Brown writes this summary of Nicholas Robbins and his arrival and early years in Massachusetts: “Nicholas Robbins, probably from the Channel Islands, and a shoemaker by trade, was a landholder at Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1635 and in 1638 had removed to Duxbury…” Thus, on that September afternoon in 1996 in a small local library in Longview, Washington, I had discovered the “probable” place in England where my Robbins immigrant ancestor came from, where he settled in America, his trade, and my line of descent from him down to my great-great grandfather, Prince H. Robbins. Pretty exciting stuff I thought at the time. But my genealogical adventure was just beginning."

Julie: Very exciting! At that point I think I would have been jumping up to high five anyone nearby in the library.

"The next spring I made my first visit to a local LDS Family History Library, one of several branch-type libraries scattered around the U.S. which are satellites to the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City. At the time I was doing research on one of my mother’s ancestors from Pennsylvania who had served with General Pulaski in the American Revolution. I discovered in my research that you could order microfilm copies from the main library in Salt Lake City and have them mailed to you at the local library, which was equipped with microfilm readers. This system is ancient history now, because all of this is done via the internet on the Family Search website, but back then it was a great way to access a vast assortment of regional and local vital records and family history records from all over the U.S. So, along with my research on my mother’s ancestor, I decided to see if there were any microfilmed records on Nicholas Robbins. Bingo! In the library catalog I was able to find reference to a series of microfilmed collections of family history records pertaining to the descendants of Nicholas Robbins as well as microfilmed manuscripts written about Nicholas Robbins and his family and some of the other early Robbins families in New England. I think the rule in those days was that if you ordered a microfilm from Salt Lake City and then extended the rental period a couple times while you were using it, that copy became a part of the local library’s collection. I had dozens of microfilms in that category and the local librarian was always happy to see me.

"Up to this point in my research, I was only familiar with those branches of the family which were descended from Nicholas’s great-great grandsons, James and Benjamin Robbins, who left Massachusetts before the American Revolution and immigrated to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. These new records opened up most of the remaining branches, limbs and twigs out to the end of the 19th century. What’s more, I discovered that there were several other theories about where Nicholas and his family may have come from in England."

Julie: After locating the records at the LDS Family History Library, you had insight to a larger picture of the Robbins family: early immigrants to America, ties with Mayflower descendants, and the background of the Yarmouth Proprieters. Most people would have been happy with this information and have left it at that, so I'm interested to know what sparked you to embark on the hard work of writing The Nicholas Robbins Family.

Learn the answer in our next installment.

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