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Massachusetts Research Guide

Introduction to Massachusetts Research

This is a genealogical guide to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and its state-level records. You will find help with state vital records, histories, church archives, newspaper collections, genealogical libraries, understanding the court system, military records, and immigration and naturalization records.

Get Started with These Resources

* Birth Records * Census Records
* Marriage * Probate
* Death * Military Records
* Church Records * Migration
* Land and Property * Local Resources

Try These Records Next

Biographies and Family Histories

Newspapers

Newspapers were first published in Massachusetts in 1690. The Commonwealth has a rich history documented within these pages. Most all libraries have copies of their local newspapers and research university libraries include more. There are two libraries whose collection rivals all others:

  • American Antiquarian Society, Worcester (see details below under Libraries), collects all things in print before 1876. They hold the largest single collection of original newspapers in the country.
  • Boston Public Library, Boston (see details below under Libraries), is the repository for Massachusetts part of the national effort to microfilm all known existing copies of newspapers called the Massachusetts Newspaper Program. For their holdings, see the online guide for newspapers.

Massachusetts History and Geography

Counties

For a list of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with the dates of when they were settled, when incorporated as a town and, if applicable, when incorporated as a city, as well as the county in which there are located, see Massachusetts City and Town Incorporation and Settlement Dates.

Click on the map below to go to a county page. Hover over a county to see its name.
MassachusettsRhode IslandConnecticutNew YorkVermontNew HampshireMaineIsles of Shoals (part Maine; part New Hampshire)Block Island (New Shoreham, Rhode Island)Fishers Island (Suffolk County, New York)Nantucket CountyDukes CountyBarnstable CountyPlymouth CountyBristol County, MassachusettsNorfolk CountySuffolk County (largely Boston)Essex CountyMiddlesex CountyWorcester CountyFranklin CountyHampshire CountyHampden CountyBerkshire CountyBristol County, Rhode IslandNewport CountyProvidence CountyKent CountyWashington CountyWindham CountyNew London CountyTolland CountyHartford CountyMiddlesex CountyNew Haven CountyFairfield CountyLitchfield CountyWestchester CountyPutnam CountyDutchess CountyColumbia CountyAlbany CountyRensselaer CountySaratoga CountyWashington CountyBennington CountyWindham CountyWindsor CountyCheshire CountySullivan CountyMerrimack CountyHillsborough CountyRockingham CountyStrafford CountyYork County
Modern county borders in Massachusetts, and her neighbors. Most records useful to genealogists for Massachusetts and other New England states were generated at the town level.


Obsolete Jurisdictions of Massachusetts:  Cornwall (ME)  · Devonshire (ME)  · Dominion of New England  · Dukes (NY)  · Maine  · Massachusetts Bay Colony  · New Hampshire  · New Netherland  · Norfolk (old)  · Plymouth Colony  · Yorkshire (ME)

Major Repositories

Migration Routes

Bay Road · Catskill Road · Coastal Path · Greenwood Road · Kennebunk Road · King's Highway or Boston Post Road · Massachusetts Turnpike · Mohawk Trail · Old Connecticut Path · Old Roebuck Road · Connecticut River · Atlantic Coast Ports

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Historical Background

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts entered the Union on February 6, 1788, as the sixth state. It is governed under its original constitution, which was adopted in 1780. Boston (also known as "The Hub" and "Beantown") became the capitol city of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1632. It has served as the state capitol since 1780. For more information about the history of Massachusetts, see the Massachusetts History article.

Research Tools and Resources

  • The Massachusetts GenWeb Project provides county information about formation date, parent county, county seat, bibliography, cemeteries, census, churches, towns, history, look ups, obituaries, queries, repositories, surname registry, and many Internet links.
  • Massachusetts Land Records provides access to indexes and search tools to find recorded records. Some counties have records, with images, available back to 1900.
  • County Creation Dates and Divisions showing dates they were created or renamed and counties created from older counties.

Wiki articles describing these collections are found at:

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Training and Help

  • Massachusetts Research Video Tutorials.
  • Join the Massachusetts Research Facebook Community.
  • Call or chat with an experienced researcher.
  • Consult a professional genealogist.

Help Wanted on the Massachusetts Wiki pages

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In order to make this wiki a better research tool, we need your help! Many tasks need willing volunteers. You can help:

  • Expand county articles
  • Check links on pages
  • ...and more

Find more opportunities to help with the Massachusetts pages.


To add your knowledge and help expand the wiki click here:
  • This page was last modified on 4 December 2013, at 12:33.
  • This page has been accessed 741 times.