Eliza Starbuck Barney (1802–1889), Mother of Island Genealogy


Portrait of women from mid 1800's seated in a large dress. Eliza Starbuck Barney is known almost as much for her blue H-style Victorian home at 73 Main Street on Nantucket as for her genealogical work, which is now the foundation of the genealogical collection and database at the Nantucket Historical Association’s Research Library. Eliza was born on April 9, 1802, to Joseph and Sally Gardner Starbuck, the third of ten children (Stout 1998). Eliza was raised in the home of a Quaker family made wealthy by whale oil. Like other Nantucket girls who were afforded equal opportunities for schooling with those of their brothers, Eliza developed an enduring love and interest in the natural sciences, agriculture, and history. She became known on the island as a self-taught botanist and entomologist – and a good one. Her father was the Joseph Starbuck of “Three Bricks” fame, using his fortune to build three brick houses for his sons on Main Street. His daughters, he probably felt, would be provided for by their husbands.

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