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United States Gotoarrow.png Massachusetts Gotoarrow.png Bristol County

This is a historical and genealogical guide to the county of Bristol. You will find help with town histories, vital records, deeds and land records, city directories, cemetery records and cemeteries, churches, town records, newspapers, maps, and libraries.

Contents

Bristol County Massachusetts History

Brief History

Bristol County was settled by the Pilgrims who came from older towns in what is now Plymouth County. The area was at the center of the King Philip's War in 1675/6 and many settlers temporary moved back to the east. Though records are on a county system for land and probate records, the is divided into several districts for each.

Historical Data

The basic data are from the historical county boundary series[1] with additions from various sources.

Dates Events
2 June 1685 Bristol was one of the three original counties of New Plymouth Colony. [Ply. Laws, Ch. 6, p. 19]
7 Oct. 1691 Bristol became a county in the rechartered Massachusetts Bay Colony with no change to its borders. [Mass. Col. Acts, Vol. 1, Ch. 27 [1692/3], Sec. 1, p. 63]
18 Mar. 1711/2 The "Old Colony Line" between the former Massachusetts Bay Colony and New Plymouth Colony declared the northern border with Suffolk County - no change. [Mass. Col. Acts, Vol. 21, Ch. 152 [1711], p. 799]
17 Feb. 1746/7 Lost about 130 square miles of its western border to Rhode Island by implementation of a Royal settlement moving the towns of Barrington, Bristol, Little Compton, Tiverton, and a large portion of what would become Cumberland into that province.
18 Feb. 1830 Border between Attleborough and Wrentham, Norfolk Co., clarified - no change. [Mass. Acts, 1830, Ch. 48, p. 319]
9 Apr. 1836 Border redefined between Fairhaven and Rochester, Plymouth Co. [Mass. Acts, 1836, Ch. 193, Sec. 1, p. 876]
1 Mar. 1862 Gained from Tiverton, Newport Co., R.I., and Warren, Bristol Co., R.I., and lost to Providence Co., R.I., to what became East Providence and the eastern part of Pawtucket. [R.I. Acts, 1861, Ch. 379, p. 4-6]
1 June 1867 Border between Taunton and Lakeville, Plymouth Co., clarified - no change. [Mass. Acts, 1867, Ch. 352, Sec. 1, p. 745]
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Towns and Cities

Ma-bristol.png
The following list of present-day Bristol County towns and cities links them to their individual pages. There you will find a list of other names used for the town or city and of villages and sections of the town or city.
Acushnet (1860) | Attleboro (1694) | Berkley (1735)
Dartmouth (1664) | Dighton (1712) | Easton (1725)
Fairhaven (1812) | Fall River (1803) | Freetown (1683)
Mansfield (1775) | New Bedford (1787) | North Attleborough (1887)
Norton (1711) | Raynham (1731) | Rehoboth (1645)
Seekonk (1812) | Somerset (1790) | Swansea (1667)
Taunton (1639) | Westport (1787)

Annexed to Rhode Island in 1747:
Barrington (1717) | Bristol (1680) | Little Compton (1674) | Tiverton (1694)

Annexed to Rhode Island in 1862:
Pawtucket (1829-1862)

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County Histories

MassachusettsBristol CountyNewport CountyPlympton CountyNorfolk CountyDukes CountyNewport CountyWashington CountyKent CountyProvidence CountyBistol CountyWestportDartmouthNew BedfordFairhavenAcushnetFall RiverFreetownBerkleyTauntonRaynhamEastonMansfieldNortonNorth AttleboroughAttleboroSeekonkRehobothDightonSwanseaSomersetPlainvilleWrenthamFranklinMedwayNorfolkWalpoleSharonFoxboroughStoughtonAvonGosnoldBroctonAbingtonRocklandHanoverNorwellPembrokeHansonWhitmanEast BridgewaterWest BridgewaterBridgewaterHalifaxPlymouthCarverMiddleboroughLakevilleRochesterMarionMattapoisettRhode IslandNarragansettNorth KingstonWarwickCranstonProvidenceNorth ProvidenceLincolnCumberlandCentral FallsPawtucketEast ProvidenceBarringtonWarrenBristolPortsmouthMiddletownNewportJamestownTivertonLittle Compton
Modern towns and cities in Bristol County, Massachusetts.

Works written on the county include:

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Bristol County Massachusetts Genealogy Resources

Vital Records

In Massachusetts, the original vital records (of births, marriages, and deaths) have been created and maintained by the town or city in which the event occurred. In very early colonial times, copies of these records were submitted to the county, but that practice died out long before 1700. There were marriage intentions commonly recorded in the bride's home town and additional recordings maybe found in the groom's home town and their current residence.

Massachusetts was the first state to bring a unified state-level recording of these events (but not marriage intentions) in 1841 (Boston excluded until 1850). The associated records of divorce and adoption are handled by the courts. The state has maintained a state-wide index to divorces since 1952, but adoption records will require more researching to discover.

It is easiest to start with the state vital records for events since 1841, though realize the original record is with the town or city. More details can be found on the Massachusetts Genealogy Guide page.

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Land Records

Land transfers, commonly called deeds, are recorded on the county level in Massachusetts. Not all deeds were recorded as is common practice today. The earliest transactions were charters or grants from the English Crown. Once local government was established, the colony would grant land to settlers directly or to towns to dole out. Some towns first start out as proprietorship and records were recorded there. Once towns were established, deeds were recorded on the county level.

Bristol County is divided into three land districts:

Northern Bristol County Registry of Deeds
11 Court Street
Taunton MA 02780
Phone 508-822-0502
Email registry@tauntondeeds.com
This district covers Attleboro, Berkley, Dighton, Easton, Mansfield, North Attleborough, Norton, Raynham, Rehoboth, Seekonk, and Taunton.

There is a satellite office at:
Attleboro Satellite Office
75 Park Street
Attleboro MA 02703
Phone 508-455-6100
No registered land (land court) can be filed here.

Original records

Records are available at the Registry. Their records ONLINE are:

  • Recorded Land [i.e. deeds], 1970-present.
  • Recorded Plans, 1827-present.
  • Registered Land [i.e. land court], 1992-present.
  • Registered Land Plans, 2008-present.
Original records on microfilm

Original records online

  • The above microfilms are digitized and available at FamilySearch.org.
    Caveat: These records are yet to be indexed AND all three districts are mixed together without distinction.

Fall River Registry of Deeds
441 Main Street
Fall River MA 02720
Phone 508-673-2910
Email frdeeds@verizon.net
This district covers Fall River, Somerset, Swansea, and Freetown.

Original records

Records are available at the Registry. Their original records started in 1884 and ONLINE are: [Note: start dates are not given]:

  • Recorded Land [i.e. deeds], 1971-present.
    Books 1-1024 (1884-1971) images are available online, but the book and page must be known.
  • Recorded Plans, n/a.
  • Registered Land [i.e. land court], n/a.
  • Registered Land Plans, n/a.
Original records on microfilm

  • Fall River District Deeds, 1-153 (1686-1891), and 1-70 (1891-1900); Index, grantee to 1911, grantor to 1901, at FHL film 572430 (1st of 123).
    Note: The earliest deeds are copies from the Taunton District.
  • Record of deeds in the land records of the town of Tiverton: pertaining to real estate formerly in the town of Tiverton but now in the State of Mass., 1746-1817, at FHL films 573251-573255.
Original records online

  • The above microfilms are digitized and available at FamilySearch.org.
    Caveat: These records are yet to be indexed AND all three districts are mixed together without distinction.

Southern Bristol County Registry of Deeds
25 North 6th Street
New Bedford MA 02740
Phone 508-993-2605
This district covers Acushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, New Bedford, and Westport.

Original records

Records are available at the Registry. Their records ONLINE are [Note: start dates are not given]:

  • Recorded Land [i.e. deeds], n/a; Index, 1978-present.
  • Recorded Plans, n/a.
  • Registered Land [i.e. land court], n/a; Index, 1990-present.
  • Registered Land Plans, n/a.
Original records on microfilm

  • New Bedford District Deeds, 1-228 1687-1903; Index, 1686-1837, 1837-1902, at FHL film 577202 (1st of 146).
    Note: Earliest deeds are copies from the Taunton District. This district started in 1837.
Original records online

  • The above microfilms are digitized and available at FamilySearch.org.
    Caveat: These records are yet to be indexed AND all three districts are mixed together without distinction.
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Probate Records

Probate and Family Court is organized on a county level in Massachusetts since the creation of the counties. The main records genealogists seek are testate (wills), intestate (administrations), guardianships, and divorces (since 1922), though there are many more that are valuable to any researcher, too. See a further discussion of the topic in general on the Massachusetts Genealogy Guide.

Bristol County Probate & Family Court Registry
40 Broadway Suite 240
Taunton MA 02780
Phone 508-977-6040
Email info@bristolcountyprobate.com

The original records are either at the courthouse or at the Judicial Archives in Boston. Their located has not been researched.

There are two satellite offices:

Fall River Probate & Family Court
289 Rock Street
Fall River MA 02720
Phone 508-672-1751

New Bedford Probate & Family Court
505 Pleasant Street
New Bedford MA 02740
Phone 508-999-5249

Original records on microfilm

Original records published

  • H. L. Peter Rounds, Abstracts of Bristol County, Massachusetts Probate Records (Baltimore, 1987-1988), 2.v [covers 1687-1762].
    WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL book 974.485 P28r v. #.
    Note: The first few volumes of probate were abstracted in The Genealogical Advertiser, WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL book 974 B2gad v. #, but superseded by the above volumes.
    Published online at Hathi Trust (search only).
    Digital version at Ancestry ($) (v. 1 and v. 2).
  • H. L. Peter Rounds, "Abstracts of Bristol County, Massachusetts Probate Records," v. 3 (1762-1768), in manuscript, published in the Mayflower Descendant:
    • original volume 18 (1762-1765): 45 [1995]: 13-24, 159-164; 46 [1996]: 39-44, 171-174; 47 [1997]: 13-18.
    • original volume 19 (1765-1768): 47 [1997]: 13-18, 133-138; 48 [1998]: 59-64, 129-134; 49 [2000]: 22-33.
    • original volume 20 (1767-1768): 49 [2000]: 125-143.
      Note: The manuscript ends at page 253, but the original volume goes to page 559.
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Other Court Records

The court system can appear to be complex. The system was reorganized in 1686/1692, 1859, and 1978. Described below are the most commonly used records for history and genealogy, but realize that this list is incomplete. For more detailed information regarding court structure, see Understanding the Massachusetts Court System.

Older records are held by:
Supreme Judicial Court Archives
(administration - records stored in several off-site facilities and the Mass. Archives)
16th Floor, Highrise Court House
3 Pemberton Square
Boston MA 02109
Phone 617-557-1082
Email Elizabeth.Bouvier@sjc.state.ma.us

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Quarterly Court of General Sessions of the Peace

This court was active from 1692 to 1827. The court heard criminal cases and had authority over county affairs that included levying taxes, reviewing town bylaws, highways, licensed liquor, regulated jails, supervised the administration of the poor laws, and appointed some county officials.

The records microfilmed:
The records microfilmed/published:

  • Records, 1702-1738, at FHL film 899093 Items 5-6.
  • Mixed court records, 1780-1868, at FHL film 905544.
  • Helen Schatvet Ullmann, "Bristol County Court of General Sessions Extracts" in the Mayflower Descendant:
    • 1697-1701, 59 [2010]: 183-191.
    • 1702-1714, 60 [2011]: 96-108, 181-191; 61 [2012]: 90-97, 186-191.
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Inferior Court of Common Pleas

This court was active from 1692 to 1859. The court heard all civil cases over 40s unless a case involved freehold or was appealed from a justice of the peace.

The records microfilmed:

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Superior Court

The Quarterly Court of General Sessions was merged into the Inferior Court of Common Pleas in 1827, and that court was reorganized in 1859 to created the Superior Court as the new lower (i.e. trial) court. It covers both criminal and civil matters.

  • Divorce docket books, 1909-1918, at the [Massachusetts_Genealogy_Guide#Archives|Massachusetts Archives].
  • Mixed court records, 1780-1868, at FHL film 905544.
  • Oscar Frank Stetson, Bristol County, Massachusetts Court Records, 1749-1903 (which court(s) not identified, but includes Bristol County divorces online ($)), 1078 leaves, at Mss 601, R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, New England Historic Genealogical Society.
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Supreme Judicial Court

The Supreme Judicial Court was established by the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 that combined the former Governor and Council with the Superior Court of Judicature creating the highest state court. This court hears appeals, writ of error, capital offenses, and crimes against the public good. That included divorces until that action was moved to the lower court in 1887.

  • Record books, v. 1-20, 1797-1889; dockets, 1799-1806, at the [Massachusetts_Genealogy_Guide#Archives|Massachusetts Archives].
  • Transcripts of the trial of Lizzie Borden at the [Massachusetts_Genealogy_Guide#Archives|Massachusetts Archives].
  • Court records, 1-9 (1797-1861), index, 1848-1858, at [https://familysearch.org/search/catalog/303627 FHL film 903377 (1st of 4).
  • Oscar Frank Stetson, Bristol County, Massachusetts Court Records, 1749-1903 (which court(s) not identified, but includes Bristol County divorces online ($)), 1078 leaves, at Mss 601, R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, New England Historic Genealogical Society.
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Naturalization Records

Naturalization records were created on a variety of governmental levels from the Federal down to the city at the same time. The county records for all levels are outlines below. For more information, see the Massachusetts state page for more on naturalization.

Federal Naturalization Records for Bristol County


Record Dates Location Index Microfilm/Online

Bristol Co.

1st Dist.

Taunton
Supreme Judicial Ct. 1814-1885 National Archives - Waltham Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) FHL Digital Capture 7510302 (1st of 4) (part of above); Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906
Ct. of Common Pleas 1805-1867 National Archives - Waltham Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) FHL Digital Capture 7510270 (1st of 6) (part of above); Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906
Superior Court 1856-1885 National Archives - Waltham Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) FHL Digital Capture 7510290 (1st of 6) (part of above); Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906
District Court 1885-1895 National Archives - Waltham Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) FHL Digital Capture 7510282 (1st of 3) (part of above); Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906

Bristol Co.

2nd Dist.

Fall River
District Court 1885-1906 National Archives - Waltham Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) FHL Digital Capture 7485697 (1st of 31) (part of above); Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906

Bristol Co.

3rd Dist.

New Bedford
District Court 1885-1906 National Archives - Waltham Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) FHL Digital Capture 7497800 (1st of 13) (part of above); Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906

Bristol Co.

4th Dist.

Attleboro
District Court 1904-1906 National Archives - Waltham Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) FHL Digital Capture 7485696 (part of above); Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906
Bristol County Naturalization Records


Record Dates Location Index Microfilm/Online
Supreme Judicial Ct. 1805-1856 Judicial Archives Indexed FHL film 1863593 (1st of 15; Index, FHL film 1869523 Item 1
Supreme Judicial Ct. ca. 1852-1885 Judicial Archives Indexed Records, FHL film 1872216 (1st of 6); Index, FHL film 1869523 Item 2
Superior Court 1856-1945 Judicial Archives NO index FHL film 1854469 (1st of 128)
Superior Court 1905-1991 Judicial Archives Card index at Judicial Archives and on microfilm 1905-1945 at Mass. Arch. RR; 1906-1930, FHL film 1862899 (1st of 18)
Index, 1907-1992, at Mass. Arch. RR, FHL film 1869524 (1st of 25)
Superior Court 1927 Judicial Archives NO index FHL film 1872367 Item 2
Court of Common Pleas 1805-1885 n/a Card index on microfilm Index, 1833-1885, at Mass. Arch. RR; Index, 1805-1906, FHL film 1523081 Item 2
1st Dist. Ct.
Taunton
1884-1895 County courthouse, Taunton, in 1988 Docket book FHL film 1530406 Items 2-4
1st Dist. Ct.
Taunton
Primary declarations, 1885-1906 County courthouse, Taunton, in 1988 NO index FHL film 1523082 Item 2
1st Dist. Ct.
Taunton
Petition packets, 1885-1906 County courthouse, Taunton, in 1988 Indexed FHL film 1523081 (1st of 9)
1st Dist. Ct.
Taunton
Card file, 1885-1906 Judicial Archives Card index at Judicial Archives FHL films 1523101, 1523081
1st Dist. Ct.
Taunton
Declarations, 1896-1906 County courthouse, Taunton, in 1988 NO index FHL film 1530406 Item 1
1st Dist. Ct.
Taunton
Final apps., 1896-1906 County courthouse, Taunton, in 1988 NO index FHL film 1523039
1st Dist. Ct.
Taunton
Declarations, 1901-1906 County courthouse, Taunton, in 1992 Card index, 1885-1906 Records and index, FHL film 1853521 (1st of 5)
2nd Dist. Ct.
Fall River
1885-1906 Judicial Archives Card index at Judicial Archives and on microfilm Mass. Arch. RR; Not at FHL
3rd Dist. Ct.
New Bedford
1885-1906 Judicial Archives NO index NO microfilm
4th Dist. Ct.
Attleboro
1904-1906 District Court, Attleboro, in 1988 Docket books FHL film 1523041
4th Dist. Ct.
Attleboro
1904-1906 District Court, Attleboro, in 1992 Card index FHL film 1853965
All Dist. Cts. 1906-1909 Judicial Archives NO index FHL films 1872366-1872367
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Maps

There are so many published maps of interest to genealogists and historians that this list will not be recreated here. The focus is with resources you can access online and in the Family History Library.

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Bristol County Massachusetts Libraries and Genealogy Societies

Old Colony Historical Society
66 Church Green
Taunton MA 02780
Phone 508-822-1622
The society's Genealogy and Local History Research focuses on the "Old Colony" that now includes Barnstable, Bristol, and Plymouth Counties.

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Bristol County Massachusetts Genealogy References


 

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  • This page was last modified on 18 July 2014, at 23:43.
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