Meet Our Team of Professional Researchers
Melanie Beal Marks, Founder and Principal Researcher of CT House Histories, LLC, has consulted on a wide range of genealogical and historic preservation projects throughout the United States. She is an ardent advocate for threatened and abandoned properties and worked tirelessly to save the Sturges Cottage, a circa 1840 Gothic Revival Gardeners Cottage, and the Gustave Whitehead house, both in Fairfield, Connecticut. Melanie brings fresh insight and a high level of research detail to her projects. Her areas of expertise include historical and genealogical research, National and State Register listing documentation, and research on historical homes and properties. Melanie is a consultant and lecturer for leading preservation organizations in Connecticut, including the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, Fairfield Museum and History Center and the Connecticut Gravestone Network, and for various groups in South Carolina. She has conducted workshops and lectures on gravestone preservation, restoration, and art interpretation throughout Connecticut and Ohio. Melanie is an advocate for the preservation and protection of many of Connecticut’s abandoned burying grounds. Her passion and interest in Connecticut’s historic burying grounds has led to many restoration and preservation initiatives in the Greenfield Hill Cemetery, the Old Burying Ground and the Wakeman Cemetery, all in Fairfield, Connecticut. She is a past member of the Easton Cemetery Committee where she helped in the restoration work of the Gilbertown and Center Street cemeteries. Melanie also served on the Advisory Board of the Historical Society of Easton and is a past board member of the Greenfield Hill Village Improvement Society and a past member of the Fairfield Historic District Commission. She is a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Association of Professional Genealogists, Connecticut Historical Society, Kent (Connecticut) Historical Society, Eunice Dennie Burr Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, (Fairfield, Connecticut), Connecticut Society of Genealogists, Connecticut Ancestry Society, and the Dutchess County Historical Society (New York), the Bluffton (South Carolina) Historic and Preservation Society, the South Carolina Historical Society, the Garvin-Garvey House Advisory Committee, as well as numerous other historical and genealogical societies throughout Connecticut, New York and South Carolina. She recently concluded research into the Garvin-Garvey House in Bluffton, S.C., that has been restored and open to public tours. Her effort in helping to save what is believed to be the earliest known home built by a former slave earned CT House Histories a 2017 South Carolina Historic Preservation Award. She also has lectured in South Carolina on the preservation of the Garvin-Garvey House.
Barbara Holdridge, Art Historian and Contributing Editor, is the preeminent authority of American folk artist Ammi Phillips (1788-1865), who was known as the “Border Limner” or “Kent Limner” until Barbara and her late husband, Lawrence B. Holdridge, uncovered the true identity of the prolific painter. A native New Yorker, she is a graduate of Hunter College of the City of New York, with a B.A. cum laude in humanities, and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. She also was inducted into the Hunter College Hall of Fame, the American Women’s Hall of Fame and the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame, each one for her work in discovering and establishing Ammi Phillips as a major American master, as well as for her other innovative work with Caedmon, the groundbreaking spoken-word recording company she cofounded with a fellow Hunter graduate in 1952. Later, she founded and was editor of Stemmer House Publishers. She also served as adjunct professor of writing, editing and proofreading at Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland. After purchasing one of Ammi Phillips’ very rare signed, dated and named portraits, “George C. Sunderland,” she and Larry decided to learn as much as they could about the unknown artist. They traveled New England, combed antique shops, were invited into private homes with ancestral Phillips portraits, co-authored articles on their discovery of Phillips, lectured and ultimately convinced even the most reluctant museum authorities that the artist was the mysterious Border Limner, Kent Limner and Artist Unknown on their walls – all representing different periods of his long life. Barbara responds to collectors’ requests throughout the country for a determination on whether their portraits are by Ammi Phillips. She co-authored with her husband Ammi Phillips Portrait Painter, 1788-1865, Introduction by Mary Black, Catalogue by Barbara and Lawrence B. Holdridge. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc./Publisher, Distributed by Crown Publishers, Inc. for the Museum of American Folk Art, 1968. They also co-wrote “Ammi Phillips,” Art in America, 1960, and “Ammi Phillips: Limner Extraordinary,” Antiques magazine, December 1961. She is the author of “Found: a Berkshire Old Master,” in the August 29, 1959, edition of the Berkshire Eagle.
Patricia A. Hines, Writer and Researcher, caught the genealogy bug several years ago when she started delving into her family history on a whim. Starting with her immediate family of five, her tree has grown to include more than 2,400 people (some as far back as the 18th century Italy) – and still growing. She spent nearly 30 years in the newspaper business, 25 of them as the editor of the Fairfield Citizen, a weekly newspaper in Fairfield, Connecticut. Her experience as a newspaperwoman, both as a reporter and editor, honed her research and writing skills, and provided the foundation for her journey into genealogy. The maternal side of her family is a member of the American Immigrant Wall of Honor of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. She is a member of the National Genealogical Society and the New England Historic Genealogical Society.
Lisa Burghardt, Restoration Consultant, specializes in the restoration of historic cemeteries and monuments and forensic genealogical research in the New England area. Lisa’s research and writing expertise has led to funding streams for restoring ancient burying grounds and historic buildings in Easton, developing blighted properties in Bridgeport and funding for various not-for-profit organizations. Lisa formerly served for many years as the President of the Historical Society of Easton and also the Vice Chair of the Easton Cemetery Committee. She is professionally affiliated with Artista Studios, a restoration company specializing in the conservation, sales and restoration of religious artwork, sculptures, monuments and mausoleums in the New England area.
Phillip Seven Esser, Architectural Historian, specializing in historic preservation has spent over a decade documenting and evaluating historic buildings, structures, neighborhoods, and sites for state and National Register of Historic Places individual and historic district designation. Qualified as a historian and architectural historian under the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Professional Qualification Standards (as defined in 36 CFR Part 61), he conducts intensive surveys and prepares documentation for State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) review. Phil is on the board of Preservation Action, a national preservation advocacy group and serves as California coordinator, pursuing national legislators to fund activities that promote the economic and cultural benefits of preservation. He remains on the board of the Ridgefield Historical Society in his hometown where he continues to engage in historic preservation advocacy.