Because one purpose of the Harned Family research effort launched in 1992 was to avoid going over ground already plowed by others, we were faced with testing the reliability of research done by others. Tom and I had been aware of Arthur Keith's two articles on the Harned family for many years, and as we tested his work against primary records we came to greatly respect his ability as a researcher. The core of Keith's work was based on John Schyrock Harned's Family Tree, but he spent at least 35 years doing research. For the most part we found every claim in Keith's articles was born out by the public record, where records were available.
For these reasons, we chose to use Keith's research as the basis for ours. We found a few areas where more recently available records contradicted the specifics in his articles, but because he pointed out most areas where he did not have concrete proof, we were able to use his material with a high degree of confidence. One shortcoming of his work however, was the limited referencing of his sources. This was probably because of the limited space available for publishing the articles.
In addition to copies of the articles which actually made it into print, we located a number of earlier manuscripts. These manuscripts showed that his knowledge of the family was dramatically enhanced over the 20 years he researched the family prior to his first article, and gave some tantalizing glimpses of his research process (most of which was accomplished during summer breaks from teaching). Both of the articles attracted the attention of other family members who provided additional information during the 1930's, and were encouraged to do research on their own family lines.
As we kept asking how he reached certain conclusions, a frequent refrain between Tom and myself was "If only we could find Arthur Keith's notes and correspondence". Attempts to locate them at many likely sites were met with failure. When we corresponded or talked with Family members, we often asked if they had any idea what might have happened to Keith's papers. Some suggested that they thought his papers were at the Newberry Library in Chicago.
In 1997, while on a trip to Chicago, I made a trip to the Newberry Library only to be shocked at how little of Keith's work on the Harned Family they had in their collections. The Harned vertical file contained a typescript of his 1930 article, some material sent by family members subsequent to the two articles, and a few pictures. The library staff denied knowledge of any other materials in storage, but I did find a small folder of correspondence among the Keith records which told the story of what happened to Keith's Notes and correspondence.
When it comes to genealogical research, one of the first things one learns is that it's a little like being a private investigator...when blocked from one direction, go around the obstacle and try another approach. In this case, we found some pieces of Keith's correspondence through the preserved records of other researchers. The Letters provide a glimpse into his research process, and how he was pointed toward Jonathan Harnett of Huntington, LI as a possible father for the three Harned brothers at Woodbridge, NJ.
It is apparent that Keith relied very heavily on John Schyrock's Family Tree for identifying early descendants of Jonathan Harned of Woodbridge, NJ. It is also likely that he confirmed some of what he found on Long Island through correspondence with William A. Eardeley, who had identified the descendancy from Edward, Jr. at Salem, MA. through Jonathan at Huntington, LI to the three Harned brothers at Woodbridge. Unfortunately, Keith never proved some of the familial connections in the first four generations of the family. He was undoubtedly as frustrated as we are that more primary records haven't been found to prove these relationships.