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Article posted: April 16, 2001

Switzerland > Pennsylvania > Canada.

By: Ryan Taylor, Biography and Archived Articles

The Martins are a large family in Waterloo county, Ontario. When I came across a genealogy of some early Martins that seemed to be connected to them, I was interested. When I discovered it was just part of a large project to research this Pennsylvania German family in the US and Canada, I was impressed.

The family originated with Christian Martin who immigrated to Pennsylvania early in the eighteenth century. He lived at Weaverland in Lancaster County. His great-grandson, Peter Martin, came to Waterloo township in 1819.

A researcher from Lancaster, PA has written a book about the earliest Martins. Darvin Martin first became interested in his family when he was eleven or so, and he realized there were large genealogies of his mother's families but nothing on the Martins. He determined that he would write it. Now thirty, he is getting close to making his dream a reality.

Martin: A Mennonite Family Tree, the First Five Generations, tells about Christian and Ells Martin and their descendants. Darvin Martin and his co-author, Raymond S. Martin of McLean VA, have worked since 1997 to write this 'draft genealogy' and to create a huge database of Martin relatives.

Christian and Ells originated in Switzerland, but the Martins do not know exactly where as yet. The name was originally Marti. Most of the Swiss Martis are in Canton Berne, where Martin found plenty of Reformed Church records for them in the 1600s. However, finding a birth record for a Mennonite is difficult. There are some Christian Martins, but none that can be proven to be the right one.

The family moved to Baden in Germany, where they lived for a time at Bockschaft. From there they went down the Rhine River to Holland, where they embarked for America. The family emigrated in ones and twos over several years.

Darvin Martin is a chemist, so perhaps his scientific mind helps in his research. "I enjoy solving puzzles," he says. He also finds the past fascinating. He describes visiting a farm cemetery in Lancaster County, PA where there is a feeling of the past, a localized history with the sense of real people and their lives. "There's no place in the world like that."

Having discovered that he is descended in ten different lines from Christian and Ells Martin, five on each side of his family, he has plenty of incentive to write about them.

As well as the book, there is a website on the Martins, It includes a database of Christian Martin descendants which now numbers 27,600. Other family members are invited to contribute if their names are not there.

There are original documents to study and a listserve for Martin genealogists to correspond and exchange information. In fact, it seems a model of how the Internet can be used to further a family's genealogical interests.

Martin has included a great deal of supplementary information on the website and Raymond Martin has started a Martin newsletter. The first edition can be found at the website and you can contact Raymond through the site for more copies.

Copies of Martin: A Mennonite Family Tree can be purchased on the website using a credit card, or by sending a cheque or money order to Darvin Martin at 115 Turnbridge Drive, Lancaster PA 17603 USA. The price is US$20.00 plus $5 postage. Write to him for more information at

Somewhere down the road, the two Martins plan another publication including the next three generations of Martins (generations 6-8 from Christian and Ells). It will be large and Darvin expects it to be hardbound, probably in more than one volume. Then he will have achieved his dream of a fat, impressive Martin genealogy.

Ryan's Heritage Notebook...

Ancestors from Pomerania?
A new website offers the chance to meet other genealogists researching in Pomerania, which is in eastern Germany and Poland, and submit your own data for others to see. You can find it at It is in English. A substantial German-language handbook on Pomeranian research is at

Thornbury Marriages - England
One of the publications which I found when I was in England for the FFHS conference last April was Thornbury Marriages missing from Phillimore’s Gloucestershire, vol. XV.

In the periods 1664-1670 and 1718-1728, Phillimore says there are no marriages for Thornbury. It appears that record books are missing or that something prevented the registry of marriages at these times.

However, E. A. Roe investigated the bishops transcripts and found that they were present for both periods and that there were a number of marriages, which he transcribed and made available in this little publication.

This might be of interest only to those with Thornbury ancestry, but might well serve to remind the rest of us that even so authoritative a source as Phillimore can be wrong. Since he relied solely on the parish registers and did not investigate the BTs , his published volumes may be incomplete.

We should remember that if a record is missing from the parish register, especially a published on, there may be alternatives to finding the information. Never say never.

Books By Ryan Taylor

Across The Waters, Ontario Immigrants Experiences 1820 - 1850 - by Frances Hoffman & Ryan Taylor, 1999. Riveting first-hand accounts of the immigration and settlement experience, taken from the diaries and letters of 150 immigrants.

Routes To Roots, The Best of Ryan Taylor's columns from the Kitchener Waterloo Record, by Ryan Taylor 1997

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