Maryland Genealogical Society
Maryland Genealogical Society

In Memoriam - Genealogists of Note

The work of family historians today is built upon the foundations laid by noted genealogists who came before us. The Maryland Genealogical Society would like to recognize the achievements of the following genealogists who are no longer with us. Some have passed away recently, while others we continue to remember fondly even after the passage of many years.
Robert Barnes was one of Maryland’s most widely known genealogists for many years. ​He was a Past President of MGS and was named an MGS Fellow in 1973. Upon retiring from teaching after 36 years in the Baltimore City Schools, he devoted his time to genealogical research and publication projects. He authored many source books, compiled family histories, and guides, including: Maryland Marriages, 1634-1777Maryland Marriages, 1778-1800Maryland Marriages, 1801-1820Baltimore County Families, 1659-1759Guide to Research in Baltimore City and CountyBritish Roots of Maryland Families; and Baltimore County Marriage Evidences and Family Relationships, 1659-1800. He worked part time at the Maryland State Archives for a number of years. He taught courses in research and gave many lectures at genealogical conferences, seminars, and one-day programs in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and at the National Genealogical Society. (Obituary)
Agnes Kane Callum had a distinguished career as a genealogist and authority on the Maryland African-American experience. A descendant of slaves from St. Mary’s County, her research on her family led to publication of her first book, Kane- Butler Genealogy – History of a Black Family. Her paternal grandfather was born a slave on Sotterley Plantation, and in the 1990s she joined the Board of Trustees of the non-profit that preserves that historic site. She  was the founder and editor of the genealogical journal, Flower of the Forest, named after a tract of St. Mary’s County land that her ancestors owned for nearly 125 years. Topics of her other publications include tombstone inscriptions of Mount Calvary Cemetery; the 7th and 9th Regiments of Colored Troops in Maryland during the Civil War; and marriages of African-Americans in St. Mary's and Anne Arundel Counties. She was a founding member of the Baltimore Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, which was renamed the “Agnes Kane Callum” chapter in her honor in 2007. She was inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame in 2014. (Obituary)
Peter Wilson Coldham was a Fellow of the British Society of Genealogists and the American Society of Genealogists. Many family historians with Maryland roots have benefitted immensely from his work on Colonial migration to the Americas. He was the author of more than 26 books and numerous articles, including many standard works on Anglo-American genealogy. Notable titles include Settlers of Maryland, The King’s Passengers to Maryland and Virginia, The Complete Book of Emigrants, and The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage.
The following is a remembrance of him by noted Maryland genealogist Bob Barnes.
Peter Wilson Coldham has died, and the world of genealogical research has lost a remarkable man.
I remember him not only as a fellow researcher but as a friend. The first time we met, via transatlantic telephone, when I started to address him as Mr. Coldham, he interrupted me and said, “Please, call me Peter.” Later when he and his wife came to a genealogical conference at Westminster, Maryland, I had the pleasure of having breakfast with Peter and Paulette, his wife, and I learned how much of their time was taken up in a ‘community service’ project, very similar to the Maryland Food Project.  As I thought about writing this article, I remembered Laertes’ words in the closing scene of Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “Good night, sweet prince. Choirs of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
John T. Humphrey, CG, was known nationally and internationally for his work in German genealogy and Pennsylvania genealogy. His many publications include: the sixteen-volume set Pennsylvania Births, which lists more than 200,000 births in fifteen eastern Pennsylvania counties; Finding Your German Ancestors: A Practical Guide for Genealogists; Early Families of Northampton County, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Gravestones, Northampton County; and Understanding and Using Baptismal Records. In 2009, he shared his expertise on baptismal records at a Maryland Genealogical Society Basics+ Workshop on church records. During his career, he served as president of the Mid- Atlantic Germanic Society, a vice president of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, and director of the National Genealogical Society Learning Center. (Obituary)
Jerry M. Hynson was named a Fellow of the Maryland Genealogical Society in 2004, served as President of the Society from 2001-2003, and was a Board Member for a number of years. He also served as an officer of the Baltimore Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. He published numerous books, including the multi-volume Maryland Freedom Papers, which won the Maryland Historical Society’s 1999 Norris Harris Prize for the best compilation of genealogical source records of Maryland. Among his other publications were The African American Collection, Kent County, Maryland; Cecil County Maryland Indentures, 1777-1814; Anne Arundel County, Maryland Marriage Licenses, 1865-1888; Free African Americans of Maryland 1832; and Absconders, Runaways, and Other Fugitives in the Baltimore City and County (Maryland) Jail, 1831-1864. (Obituary)
Mary Keysor Meyer was a Fellow of the National Genealogical Society, the Maryland Genealogical Society, and the Anne Arundel Genealogical Society. She was employed for many years as the Genealogical Reference Librarian at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, Maryland, and also was Library Director of the Historical & Genealogical Research Center Library in Glen Burnie, Maryland. She lectured throughout the United States, as well as locally where she was well known as an instructor in the field.
Mary Meyer was among the founders of the Central New York Genealogical Society, the Maryland Genealogical Society, the Anne Arundel Genealogical Society, and the Ann Arundel County Historical Society, and was founder of the Maryland Genealogical Council. She held various offices in each organization. She also was a noted author/compiler of numerous genealogical books including Genealogical Research in Maryland: A Guide. She was probably best known as Editor of Who's Who in Genealogy & Heraldry and as co-editor with P. William Filby of Passenger & Immigration Lists Index. She also was well known as the compiler/editor through 11 editions of Meyer's Directory of Genealogical Societies in the USA & Canada
Margaret Isabelle Obert served as MGS President from 2003-2005 and 2007-2009. She was elected an MGS Fellow in 2014 in recognition of her outstanding genealogical scholarship and contributions to MGS and to the genealogical community (photo from 2014 Awards Luncheon at left).
Her book, The Board Family Chronicle: From Maryland to Bedford County, Virginia, received the Maryland Historical Society’s annual Parker Prize for the best genealogical work concerning a Maryland family. Isabelle also published The Allen Family of Albemarle and Fluvanna and The Boards of Bedford : Their Family History in Virginia and Kentucky. She also posted portions of her research on the Board, Allen, and related families at her web site. Isabelle was active in several lineage societies and served as an officer for: the National Society and Maryland State Society of the United States Daughters of 1812; Maryland Society, Daughters of Colonial Wars; Maryland Branch of the Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims; Maryland State Society, Daughters of the American Revolution; and the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Maryland.  (Obituary)
Donna Valley Russell, FASG, was an elected fellow of the American Society of Genealogists and was well known for her publications on Maryland, Michigan, and Connecticut genealogy. Western Maryland genealogy was a particular area of expertise, and she served as editor of the periodical, Western Maryland Genealogy, from 1985 through 2003. She also published genealogical research guides to Frederick, Allegany, Washington, and Garrett Counties. She also authored the multi-volume work First Families of Anne Arundel County and was co-editor of The Ark and The Dove Adventurers with her husband George Ely Russell, FASG. Several of her articles appeared in the Maryland Genealogical Society Bulletin (precursor to The Journal). (Death notice)
Dr. Gary B. Ruppert was named a Fellow of the Maryland Genealogical Society at the Society’s 50th Anniversary Gala in November 2009. He served as MGS Webmaster from 2000 to 2009 and created a revised MGS website with many new features.He was elected to the MGS Executive Board in 2001 and served as President from 2005 to 2007. He played a major role in the development of the Maryland Genealogical Society Journal, and served as its Co-Managing Editor from 2008 to 2010. He contributed many articles to the Maryland Genealogical Society Bulletin, and was the author of four books: • Trinity German Lutheran, 1853-1877, Baltimore City, Maryland; • Second German Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1835-1867: Index to Baptisms, Burials and Confirmations; • Obstetrical Casebooks of Dr. Ferdinand E. Chatard: An Alternative Genealogical Resource for Baltimore City, Maryland, 1829-1883); • The German Correspondent, Baltimore, Maryland: Translation and Transcription of Marriages, Deaths and Selected Articles of Genealogical Interest (2008). Gary developed three personal websites associated with genealogy: Baltimore City Nineteenth-Century Photos, the Ruppert Family History and Genealogy Web Site and Pentland Family History and Genealogy: The Journey of a Scots-Irish-American Family. He pursued much of his work in genealogy while serving as Chief Rheumatologist at Mercy Hospital of Baltimore.  (Obituary)
George Ely Russell, FASG, was prominent not only in the Maryland genealogical community, but also nationally. He was an elected fellow of the American Society of Genealogists and served as editor of the National Genealogical Quarterly from 1971 to 1986. He also served as a contributing editor to The American Genealogist, The Russell Register, and Western Maryland Genealogy, and was the author of more than 140 genealogical articles and books. He founded the Prince Georges County Genealogical Society in 1969 and was a member of the Maryland Genealogical Society for many years. In 2020, he was elected to the National Genealogy Hall of Fame by the National Genealogical Society. (Obituary)
Patricia O'Brien Shawker, CG, FMGS, had an extensive career in genealogy, and MGS was fortunate to have her as a Board Member for several years. Patty was the Director of the National Institute on Genealogical Research, past Treasurer of the National Genealogical Society, and a sought-after lecturer and author. Maryland research was one of her areas of particular interest, and she authored Research in Maryland for the National Genealogical Society's Research in the States series. In 2014, Patty was honored with designation as a Fellow of the Maryland Genealogical Society. Fellowships are given to members of the Society who have distinguished themselves by their outstanding genealogical scholarship and contributions to MGS and to the genealogical community. (Obituary