Preserving history|Genealogist Landin wins praise from DAR

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 10, 2010

Environmental biologist Dr. Mary Landin has a thing for history.

After a career committed to the preservation of areas that host some of the richest varieties of plant and animal life — coastal and inland wetlands — Landin in her retirement helps people fill in the blanks on their family trees and is working to preserve the records of more than 12,000 Mississippi cemeteries.

Landin is also a Daughter of the American Revolution, and devotes much of her considerable passion for historic preservation, organizational skill and dogged research to helping others become members of the prestigious society.

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“Biology and history go hand in hand,” says Landin. “People who are born to one are born to the other.”

For her efforts, Landin has been awarded the Mississippi state DAR Society’s 2009 Outstanding Volunteer Genealogist award, and her name has been entered into the Southeast Division competition, which includes entrants from six other states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

If she passes that hurdle, she will compete for the national honor to be awarded in Washington, D.C., in July.

For Landin, 68, who begins a three-year term as regent of Vicksburg’s Ashmead DAR chapter later this spring, it doesn’t matter if the format is low tech, old tech and high tech. She’ll type other women’s applications for membership in the DAR, she has published books and she’s logged the results of her research on a Web-based genealogy site.

“I don’t ever remember not being interested in genealogy,” Landin said. She grew up on a Utica farm with aunts, grandparents and elderly relatives telling stories. “I’d always sit and listen to them talk about family things. I actually took notes on the stuff way back then, and wrote down every branch of the family.”

Landin joined the DAR in 1971. She estimates that she spends, on average, two hours a day on research, much of it helping other women with the documentation they need to support their applications, both locally and throughout the state.

Ashmead has grown from 64 to 95 members in the last three years, said outgoing regent Linda Davis.

“There’s been a tremendous spurt of growth in our chapter and that’s mainly due to Dr. Mary Collins Landin helping them determine if they even have a Revolutionary War ancestor,” Davis said.

Landin said it’s not so much “if” they have that ancestor, but proving it to the satisfaction of the national organization.

“The DAR is picky,” she said. While it’s likely that any given member of her generation has as many as 16 to 32 Revolutionary War ancestors, it’s tough to prove. “You sometimes have a hard time finding the actual documentation. You can know you’ve got one or more ancestors, but never find the piece of paper for DAR to let you in.”

Landin knew early on that she wanted to help others join the DAR.

“It’s a prestigious, historical, patriotic, civic organization that’s actually all over the world even though it’s headquartered in Washington, D.C.,” she said. When she was in her 20s, an aunt and cousin helped her with her own membership documentation, “determined” that she was going to join. “Since then, I’ve tried to help others join.”

The DAR boasts more than 165,000 members across the United States and in 11 other countries, and is the largest women’s patriotic organization in the world. Mississippi started with one chapter of 12 members in Natchez in 1896, and has grown to 81 chapters with more than 4,100 members.

DAR members are dedicated to historic preservation, education and promoting patriotism.

The Ashmead chapter organizes the Vicksburg Constitution Day, each Sept. 17 at 4 p.m. on the steps of the Old Court House Museum. The event features ringing the courthouse bell, presentation of colors, Pledge of Allegiance, the national anthem, a reading of the preamble to the Constitution and music.

Landin’s state DAR award is the latest in a string of recognitions and accomplishments that include the 2003 award of Meritorious Leadership in Mississippi History, Genealogy and Historic Preservation from the Order of the First Families of Mississippi, a state historic-preservation group for descendants of people who lived in what is now Mississippi from 1699 until it became a state in 1817. She was also awarded the National Society DAR Historic Preservation Award for 2005-2006.

Besides her scientific articles, Landin’s work has appeared in the Mississippi River Routes Quarterly Journal. She has completed papers for the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Colonial Dames and First Families of Mississippi; applications for Children of the American Revolution, Sons of the American Revolution and Magna Carta Dames and Barons; and many other scholarly pieces.

Landin has taught genealogy workshops, is a regular speaker at historical and genealogy societies and heads the Vicksburg Genealogical Society.

Landin is the seventh generation of her family to farm in Hinds County, and the county’s second oldest cemetery lies behind her home on the timber and cattle farm her father worked before her. The land her grandfather farmed is just up the road.

She retired from Waterways Experiment Station in 1997.

Contact Pamela Hitchins at