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Salisbury family papers

Call Number: MS 429

Scope and Contents

The Salisbury Family Papers consist primarily of the papers of Edward Elbridge Salisbury and of the papers of various of his family members collected as part of his genealogical researches.

Edward Elbridge Salisbury, orientalist, philologist, teacher, and later, genealogical researcher, was born in Boston, Massachusetts on April 6, 1814, son of Josiah and Abigail (Abby) Breese Salisbury. He attended the Boston Latin School and Yale University. After graduating from Yale in 1832, he spent several years in advanced studies in New Haven paying special attention to Hebrew and the cognate languages. In 1836 he married his cousin, Abigail Salisbury Phillips, daughter of Edward Phillips of Boston, and proceeded with her to Europe, where for nearly four years he studied Oriental languages, especially Arabic with DeSacy and Garcin de Tassy in Paris, and Sanskrit with Bopp in Berlin. On his return to America in 1841 he was appointed professor of Arabic and Sanskrit at Yale, but before assuming the duties of the office he spent another year (1842-1843) in Europe studying chiefly Sanskrit in Bonn and Paris.

When he began his work at Yale in 1843 he was the only scholar of his kind in America and he led the way in opening up the field of Oriental studies and languages in this country. He was one of the early and principal supporters of the American Oriental Society (founded in 1842), contributing much time and money to its work and various publications, as well as publishing in its Journal many papers of his own on Arabic, Sanskrit, Persian cuneiform, Assyrian, and Phoenician.

In 1854 he relinquished the professorship of Sanskrit to his former pupil, William Dwight Whitney. He also donated a considerable sum of money to Yale to endow a chair and ensure its continued existence, since it had until that time been a non-remunerative position. He retained, however, the chair of Arabic until 1856.

Upon retirement, he devoted much of his time to genealogical research and writing, as well as other historical and artistic studies. With the assistance of his second wife, Evelyn McCurdy Salisbury, daughter of Judge Charles McCurdy of Lyme, Connecticut, he published in 1885 the two-volume Family Memorials on the Salisbury, Aldworth-Elbridge, Sewall, Pyldren-Dummer, Walley, Quincy, Gookin, Wendell, Breese, Chevalier-Anderson, and Phillips families; followed by Family Histories and Genealogies (5 vols., 1892) dealing with his wife's family. In addition, he also published a number of other genealogical essays and pamphlets.

Professor Salisbury was elected a member of the Société Asiatique in 1838, a corresponding member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences and Belles Lettres, Constantinople in 1855, and a corresponding member of the Deutsche Morgenlandische Gesellschaft in 1839.

Edward Elbridge Salisbury died on February 5, 1901.

Other family members whose papers figure prominently in this collection are Josiah Salisbury (1781-1826), father of Edward Elbridge Salisbury, who was a graduate of Harvard College (Class of 1798) and a merchant in the Firm of Salisbury and Cleveland in Boston; Abigail Breese Salisbury (1780-1866), mother of Edward Elbridge Salisbury and daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth Anderson Breese of Shrewsbury, New Jersey; and Samuel (1739-1818) and Stephen (1746-1829) Salisbury, merchants of Boston and father and uncle respectively of Josiah Salisbury. For other family members represented in this collection and their relationships, the user is referred to the above-mentioned Family Memorials(Privately Printed, 1885).

The Salisbury Family Papers are divided into three series: EDWARD ELBRIDGE SALISBURY PAPERS; GENEALOGIES; and FAMILY PAPERS.

The first series, EDWARD ELBRIDGE SALISBURY PAPERS, contains correspondence to and from Edward Elbridge Salisbury, 1836-1904, filed alphabetically by correspondent and chronologically within the separate files; a scrapbook of correspondence and other papers regarding the Salisbury Collection in the Yale University Library; a number of essays, sermons, and notes filed under "Writings" which is arranged chronologically with undated items filed at the end. This section also includes travel journals and notebooks from the period in which Salisbury was studying under Professor Bopp in Berlin. Also included in this series is a "Special File" consisting of legal and financial papers, clippings, and miscellaneous papers and fragments.

Of particular interest in the first series are the rather extensive journals kept by Salisbury from 1836-1839 when he was travelling and studying in Europe, and the notes, mentioned above, made under Professor Bopp during this same period. These last items are especially interesting since they represent some of the earliest thinking and approaches to what was then a new academic discipline, i.e., the study of Oriental languages and literature. The correspondence includes a large group of letters between Salisbury and William Dwight Whitney, Salisbury's successor at Yale and a nationally known scholar of the period (though it must parenthetically be noted that here, as elsewhere in the collection, there are very few of Salisbury's own letters preserved; the majority of the letters are incoming). Other correspondents of note represented in this series are: James Rowland Angell, Leonard Bacon, Simeon Baldwin, Samuel Giles Buckingham, Frances Bicknell Carpenter, James Dwight Dana, Timothy Dwight, Daniel Cady Eaton, Charles W. Eliot, Daniel Coit Gilman, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Mason Hoppin, Donald Grant Mitchell, Samuel Finley Breese Morse, Charles Eliot Norton, Wendell Phillips, Noah Porter, Stephen Salisbury, Thomas Day Seymour, Benjamin Silliman, Thomas Anthony Thacher, James Hammond Trumbull, Booker T. Washington, Justin Winsor, and Theodore Dwight Woolsey. For a complete and detailed list of correspondents, see the container list for this collection.

Series II, GENEALOGIES, consists almost entirely of scrapbooks kept by Edward Elbridge Salisbury. These scrapbooks contain correspondence, clippings, documents and copies of documents, photos, and other papers all relating to his genealogical research and publications. Many of the letters in these books are simply acknowledgements from friends and relatives regarding copies of various of his publications received; others are letters answering research inquiries. For a detailed breakdown of the contents and arrangement of this section, see the Index to the Arrangement and the container list.

Series III, FAMILY PAPERS, consists of personal and business correspondence, diaries, commonplace books, notes, drawings, and other papers of various family members, collateral relatives, and ancestors of Edward Elbridge Salisbury. The series is arranged alphabetically by family member; and, in the case of larger groups of material, is further arranged alphabetically by correspondent under the general heading of the family member's name. Within the individual folder items are arranged chronologically. An exception to this arrangement is the business papers of Samuel and Stephen Salisbury, which are simply arranged in chronological order with no particular attention given to the correspondent.

Of particular interest in this series are a large group of letters between Josiah Salisbury and Stephen Salisbury, Edward's father and great-uncle respectively, many of them written while Josiah was a student at Harvard in the late 18th Century. There is also a travel journal kept by Josiah when he was touring Europe between 1800 and 1802. There is also an extensive group of business letters received by the firm of Samuel and Stephen Salisbury in Boston, 1771-1806, which throw some light on business and economic conditions in this country during and after the Revolutionary War. For a detailed listing of the contents of this series, see the Index to the Arrangement and the container list.

The Salisbury Family Papers were, in part, donated by Nora Livingston Heermance in January, 1954. They were previously in the possession of Laura Woolsey Heermance.

* * * * *



A. Correspondence: 1836-1904 (Bulk: 1870-1898)

  1. General, A-Z
  2. Scrapbook of correspondence and other papers re: Salisbury Collection in Yale University Library.

B. Writings: includes essays, sermons, notes and a separate file of journals and notebooks. Arranged chronologically.

C. Special Files: includes legal and financial papers, clippings, and miscellaneous other papers.


A. Scrapbooks of correspondence, acknowledgements, extracts and copies of documents re: various of the genealogies that Edward E. Salisbury prepared and distributed (this includes correspondence from a number of people for which correpsondence files exist in Series I.).

  1. Correspondence and documents re: the Diodati genealogy and ancestry, which includes many letters from Joseph Lemuel Chester, ca. 1874-1878. Arranged chronologically.
  2. Correspondence and acknowledgements re: "The Griswold Family of Connecticut," ca. 1883 1885. Arranged chronologically.
  3. Correspondence and acknowledgements re: Salisbury's "Family Memorials," mainly 1885. Arranged chronologically.
  4. Correspondence and acknowledgements re: "Family Histories and Genealogies," (McCurdy) ca. 1892-1893. Arranged alphabetically.
  5. Correspondence and acknowledgements re: the death of Judge McCurdy ("Memorial Volume") ca. 1891-1893.
  6. Extracts copied from genealogies, clippings, etc.
  7. Correspondence and documents re: Salisbury Family genealogy (Added 1972 Feb)

B. Two large bound scrapbooks marked "Genealogical Collections Edward E. Salisbury, Volume 1 & 2" contain documents, copies of documents correspondence, clippings, photos, and other papers relative to the Salisbury, Sewall, Quincy, Elbridge, Breese, Anderson, Phillips, and Bromfield families. The arrangement is imprecise, though it appears to be roughly divided by families. (Includes correspondence for which files exist in Series I.).

C. Bound scrapbook marked "Genealogical Collections, Chester Correspondence." Contains correspondence between Edward E. Salisbury and Joseph Lemuel Chester (1776-1881) on genealogical matters. Also included are documents and copies of documents obtained by Chester, who appears to have been one of Salisbury's chief researchers, ca. 1877-1882.

D. Manuscript volume "Somerby Collection of Salisbury Pedigrees"

E. Series of loose leaves containing correspondence, documents, and other papers relating to the Dummer and Quincy families (probably intended for inclusion in the above scrapbooks).


A. This series is arranged alphabetically by correspondent under the name of each of the following family members:

  1. Elizabeth Breese
  2. Peter Chevalier
  3. Thomas Gerry
  4. Edmund Quincy
  5. Abigail Breese Salisbury°
  6. Josiah Salisbury (1734-1761)
  7. Josiah Salisbury (1781-1826)°
  8. Martha Salisbury
  9. Samuel Salisbury
  10. business firm of Samuel & Stephen Salisbury°
  11. Joseph Sewall
  12. John Tappan
  13. Sarah Waldo

(° indicates bulk of material)

B. Six scrapbooks kept by Rebecca Salisbury on a variety of topics, but mainly on coin collecting and numismatics.


  • 1753-1904


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Existence and Location of Copies

Journals of travels in Europe by Edward Elbridge Salisbury, 1836-1839 are available on microfilm (1 reel, 35mm.) from Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, at cost. Order no. HM 234.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

In part, gift of Nora Livingston Heermance, 1954; previously in the possession of Laura Woolsey Heermance.


Arranged in three series: I. Edward Elbridge Salisbury Papers. II. Genealogies. III. Family Papers.


10 Linear Feet (14 boxes, 7 folios, 4 scrapbooks)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers consist of correspondence, writings, genealogical notes, and other papers, principally of Edward Elbridge Salisbury, philologist, orientalist, and genealogist. Included are materials on various branches of Salisbury's family gathered in his genealogical research. Also included are papers and correspondence of Josiah Salisbury (1781-1826), Abigail Breese Salisbury (1780-1866), and business papers of Samuel Salisbury (1739-1818) and Stephen Salisbury (1746-1829). In addition there are also letters and papers of other family members.

Guide to the Salisbury Family Papers
Under Revision
Compiled by Steven Hensen
July 1971
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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