Preble Genealogy


Origin of John Preble

Our ancestor, John Preble, who was born at Machias, Maine, about 1771 and died at New Gloucester, Maine, in 1841, was a mystery man. And so far as his immediate antecedents are concerned he will probably always remain a mystery.

We know that he was a skilled carpenter and farmer and lived most of his life in the town of New Gloucester, a score of miles north of Portland; that he was twice married; that he had two children by his first wife, Sarah Collins, and nine by his second wife, Esther Collins, sister of his deceased first wife. We know all of the children's names, when they were born and died; also about his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren and still further down the line.

But who were his parents is the problem that we would like to solve. Having that information, it would be a simple matter to trace our lineage back to the immigrant ancestors of all the Prebles of America,--back to Abraham Preble and his wife, Judith Tilden.

Assuming the correctness of the family tradition and supplying the most plausible and probable link that is missing, the line of descent would be: from Abraham, through his son Benjamin, through the latter's son Jedidiah, and through his son John the senior, to John the junior, of Machias, our known ancestor who, we are led to conclude, was the son of John senior. Only the most intangible evidence, however, supports this conclusion. No documentary evidence, no official records, no church records, no family-Bible records exist to prove our claim. At best, it rests only upon a family tradition and the logic of events.

The mere absence of records, however, is of no particular significance and proves nothing to the contrary. From a genealogical standpoint it is a misfortune. But there are plenty of instances where tradition is even more reliable than recorded history, and a great deal of so-called history, especially Bible history and ancient history generally, is nothing more than recorded tradition.

In the early days on the Maine frontier, the science of vital statistics had not been developed. Our ancestors were more interested in the struggle for existence than they were in the study of genealogy. They were engaged in cutting down the forests, clearing the land and building stone walls, houses and barns, or perhaps in building ships and sailing the Seven Seas, and incidentally rearing large families of children, rather than in writing genealogical treatises. There were no legal requirements then for keeping public records of births, marriages and deaths. Church records were only occasionally kept. If some enterprising town clerk or some diligent clergyman did keep a few such records on his own initiative, his successor stored them in his attic or his barn and when the house or barn was burned the records shared the same fate. Possibly some family Bible may have recorded the information which we so much desire, but the likelihood of finding it after the lapse of 160 eventful years is extremely small.


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