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United States Gotoarrow.png Massachusetts Gotoarrow.png Worcester County

This is a historical and genealogical guide to the county of Worcester. 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

Worcester County Massachusetts History

Brief History

Worcester County was created in the middle of the two largest counties with a third county throwing in another small part collecting the towns of Lancaster, Leicester, Lunenburg, Rutland, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Westborough, and Worcester from Middlesex County; Hassanamisco [later Grafton], Medfield, Mendon, Oxford, Sutton, Uxbridge, and Woodstock from Suffolk County; and Brookfield and "the south town laid out to the Narraganset soldiers" [likely Brimfield] from Hampshire County. Settlement was mainly an outgrowth of the older settlements to the east and to a lesser degree from the Connecticut River Valley. There was an influx after the Revolutionary War that included migration up from Rhode Island and Connecticut in addition to the east. This is the largest county in area and there have been fifteen attempts to split the county though none were successful. The county seat is Worcester, the second largest city in all of New England. The county government was abolished on 1 July 1997, but its former jurisdiction is used for state offices as a district.[1]

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Historical Data

The basic data are from the historical county boundary series[2] with additions from various sources.

Dates Events
10 July 1731 Worcester County was created from area along the undefined border between Hampshire County to the west and Middlesex County to the east plus the southwestern corner of Suffolk County that included what is now Woodstock, Connecticut. [Prov. Laws, 2: 584]
29 June 1732 Added land from Groton and Littleton in Middlesex Co. when the town of Harvard was established.
14 June 1735 Added land from Hopkinton, Middlesex Co., when western half of town was set off as the new town of Upton, Worcester Co.
16 Jan. 1741/2 Added land from Brimfield and Kingsfield [now Palmer], Hampshire Co., with western part of Brookfield to set off the new town of Western [now Warren].
-- May 1749 Woodstock, Connecticut seceded to Connecticut.
12 Apr. 1753
9 June 1756
Borders redefined and dispute between Hardwick and Greenwich, Hampshire Co., settled.
5 Jan. 1764 Small gain to Western [now Warren] from Palmer, Hampshire Co.
5 Feb. 1765 Small loss when part of Hardwick annexed to Greenwich, Hampshire Co.
6 Mar. 1767 Small loss when part of Ashburnham was annexed to northern half of Fitchburg, Middlesex Co., to set off the new town of Ashby, Middlesex Co.
25 Feb. 1783 Small loss when part of Harvard annexed to Boxborough, Middlesex Co.
15 Oct. 1783 Part of Athol and Royalton set off to create the new town of Orange, Hampshire Co.
16 Mar. 1784 Small gain when parts of Bolton and Northborough set off to create the new town of Berlin with a small part annexed from Marlborough, Middlesex Co.
7 Mar. 1786 Small gain when Southborough annexed part of Framingham, Middlesex Co.
16 Nov. 1792 Large triangular piece of land in Ashburnham annexed to Ashby, Middlesex Co.
15 July 1794 Small gain when Western [now Warren] annexed part of Palmer, Hampshire Co.
18 Feb. 1801 Large gain when parts of Hardwick and Petersham set off to create the new town of Dana with a part annexed from Greenwich, Hampshire Co.
20 June 1807 Small gain when Northborough annexed part of Marlborough, Middlesex Co.
8 Mar. 1808 Small gain when Upton annexed part of Hopkinton, Middlesex Co.
7 Feb. 1816 Small gain when Athol annexed part of Orange, Hampshire Co.
8 Feb. 1823 Small loss when a part of Western [now Warren] was annexed to Ware, Hampshire Co.
3 Nov. 1826 Irregularities of the county line with Windham Co., Conn., straightened.
11 Feb. 1829 One acre gained when Bolton annexed part of Marlborough, Middlesex Co.
3 Mar. 1829 Small loss when a part of Fitchburg was annexed to Ashby, Middlesex Co.
5 Feb. 1830 Small gain when Athol annexed part of New Salem, Franklin Co.
7 Feb. 1831 Small loss when a part of Western [now Warren] was annexed by Palmer, Hampden Co.
27 Mar. 1835 Gained when Milford annexed part of Holliston and Hopkinton, Middlesex Co.
16 Mar. 1837 Gained when Athol annexed part of New Salem, Franklin Co.
16 Mar. 1838 Redefined border between Bolton and Marlborough, Middlesex Co.
24 Mar. 1843 Small loss when a part of Southborough was annexed by Marlborough, Middlesex Co.
3 Mar. 1846
25 Apr. 1848
Border redefined between Lunenburg and Shirley, Middlesex Co.
1 Apr. 1859 Small gain when Milford annexed part of Holliston, Middlesex Co.
20 Mar. 1868 Small loss when part of Bolton was annexed by Hudson, Middlesex Co.
7 Mar. 1872 Exchanged between Mendon and Bellingham, Norfolk Co.
16 May 1901
1 May 1905
Redefined border for Southborough and Berlin with Marlborough and Hudson, Middlesex Co.
14 June 1906 Small loss when part of Harvard was annexed by Boxborough and Littleton, Middlesex Co.
16 May 1907 Redefined border for Milford and Upton with Hopkinton, Middlesex Co.
28 Apr. 1938 Large gain when Quabbin Reservoir created and "drowned" four towns. Petersham annexed part of Dana, and Greenwich and Prescott, Hampshire Co., and Hardwick annexed part of Greenwich.
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Towns and Cities

The following list of present-day Middlesex 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.

Ma-worcester.png
Ashburnham (1765) | Athol (1762) | Auburn (1778) | Barre (1774)
Berlin (1812) | Blackstone (1845) | Bolton (1738) | Boylston (1785)
Brookfield (1718) | Charlton (1775) | Clinton (1850) | Douglas (1775)
Dudley (1732) | East Brookfield(1920) | Fitchburg (1764) | Gardner (1785)
Grafton (1735) | Hardwick (1739) | Harvard (1732) | Holden (1741)
Hopedale (1886) | Hubbardston (1775) | Lancaster (1653) | Leicester (1714)
Leominster (1740) | Lunenburg (1728) | Mendon (1667) | Milford (1780)
Millbury (1813) | Millville (1916) | New Braintree (1775) | North Brookfield (1812)
Northborough (1775) | Northbridge (1775) | Oakham (1775) | Oxford (1713)
Paxton (1775) | Petersham (1754) | Phillipston (1786) | Princeton (1771)
Royalston (1765) | Rutland (1713) | Shrewsbury (1727) | Southborough (1727)
Southbridge (1816) | Spencer (1775) | Sterling (1781) | Sturbridge (1738)
Sutton (1714) | Templeton (1762) | Upton (1735) | Uxbridge (1727)
Warren (1742) | Webster (1832) | West Boylston (1808) | West Brookfield (1848)
Westborough (1717) | Westminster (1770) | Winchendon (1764) | Worcester (1684)


Ceded to Connecticut: Woodstock

Extinct Town: Dana (1801-1938)

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County Histories

MassachusettsNew HampshireConnecticutRhode IslandWorcester CountyFranklin CountyHampshire CountyHampden CountyMiddlesex CountyNorfolk CountyTolland CountyWindham CountyProvidence CountyCheshire CountyHillsborough CountyWorcesterWarrenWest BrookfieldNorth BrookfieldEast BrookfieldBrookfieldSturbridgeSouthbridgeDudleyWebsterDouglasUxbridgeMillvilleBlackstoneMendonNorthbridgeSuttonOxfordCharltonSpencerLeicesterAuburnMillburyGraftonUptonMilfordHopedaleWestboroughSouthboroughNorthboroughBerlinBoltonHarvardLancasterClintonBoylstonShrewsburyWest BoylstonSterlingLeominsterLunenburgFitchburgWestminsterPrincetonHoldenPaxtonRutlandHubbardstonGardnerAshburnhamWinchendonRoyalstonAtholPetershamHardwickNew BraintreeOakhamBarrePhillipstonTempletonWarwickOrangeWendellNew SalemPelhamBelchertownWarePalmerMonsonWalesHollandBrimfieldMedwayBellinghamFranklinAshbyTownsendPepperellDunstableTyngsboroughWestfordGrotonShirleyAyerLittletonBoxboroughActonMaynardStowHudsonMarlboroughSudburyFraminghamAshlandHopkintonHollistonStaffordEllingtonTollandWillingtonUnionAshfordEastfordWoodstockThompsonBurrillvilleGlocesterSmithfieldNorth SmithfieldWoonsocketCumberlandLincolnWinchesterRichmondFitzwilliamRindgeNew IpswichGreenvilleMasonBrooklineHollisNashuaHudson
Modern city and town borders in Worcester County, Massachusetts.

Works written on the county include:

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Worcester 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. Worcester County is divided into two districts. The county was one district until the creation of the Northern District on 1 August 1884.

Worcester Northern District Registry of Deeds
Putnam Place
166 Boulder Drive, Suite 202
Fitchburg MA 01420
Phone 978-342-2132
Email fitchreg@sec.state.ma.us
This district includes Ashburnham, Fitchburg, Leonminster, Lunenburg, and Westminster. Records date back to 1868.

Original records


Records are available at the Registry. Most of the records are available ONLINE, they are:

  • Recorded Land indexes, 1955-present (Note: indexes prior to 1982 have not been verified).
  • Recorded Land Scanned Index by name, 1868-1965 (Note: work in progress).
  • Recorded Land images.
  • Recorded Land Plan indexes and images.
  • Land Court name index, 1899-present.
  • Land Court document images, 1899-present.
  • Land Court certificates, 1899-present.

There are no microfilmed records from this district.

Worcester South District Registry of Deeds
90 Front Street
Worcester MA 01608
Phone: 508-798-7717
This district included the entire county up to 1884 and all southern towns not listed above after that.

Original records


The original records are held by the Registry. All their records are available ONLINE at www.masslandrecords.com/worcester. Deeds are searchable by index since 1961. The older deeds can be viewed on the site, but only by volume and page. The records fully indexed online are:

  • Deeds [recorded land], 1961-present.
  • Plans, 1900-present.
  • Registered Land [Land Court], 1899-present.
  • Registered Land Plans, 1899.

Note: To see records before 1961, you must first go to the SEARCH OUR DOCUMENTS option from the Registry page at the left that takes you to the masslandrecords.com website for "Southern" Worcester District. Under the link at the top left called "Search Criteria," you can select the grantor or grantee index. From the new search page, you can search for a surname or exact name. The default is the period up to 1839. Later periods to 1960 can be selected before your search. These indexes will give you the volume and page you need for the Registry's main search page of older records by volume and page.

Original records on microfilm


Note: All these records (FHL film 842930 (1st of 416)) listed below are online at FamilySearch.org as a browsable collection only (as of Aug. 2013).

  • Grantor indexes, 1731-1889, 22 reels.
  • Grantee indexes, 1731-1889, 18 reels.
  • Deeds, v. 1 (1722) - v. 716 (1866).
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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 page.

Worcester Probate and Family Court
225 Main Street Suite 2001
Worcester MA 01608
508 831-2200

Original records


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

Original records online


There are no records available online, but the FamilySearch.org is scheduled to upload the Worcester Probate Files from 1731 to 1925 in the future. [as of Aug. 2013].

Original records on microfilm


The following records are available at the FHL film 859169 (1st of 319); Massachusetts Archives; and New England Historic Genealogical Society with records through v. 469 (1881).

  • Indexes, 1731-1881, see published books below.
  • Docket books, no. 1-68399.
  • Record books, v. 1-833, 1731-1915.
  • Signed releases, 1865-1879 (only at Massachusetts Archives).

At FHL film 868526 Item 1:

  • Probate records, 1798-1854.
    Note: Needs to be viewed to see if it is different than the records above.
Manuscript records


  • Janet K. Pease, "Worcester County, Massachusetts, Probate Abstracts, 1748-1751" (S.l., 1979), 47 leaves, FHL film 1033623 Item 7.
Published records


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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 1731 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 at the Family History Library:

  • Court sessions, v. 1-20, 1731-1862, FHL films 859239-859250.
    These films will need to be viewed to see what the post-1827 record contain as the court no longer existed then.

The records microfilmed at the Massachusetts Archives:

  • Court of General Sessions, v. 1-8, 1731-1827.

Derivative records published:

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Inferior Court of Common Pleas

This court was active from 1731 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 at the Family History Library:

The records microfilmed at the Massachusetts Archives:

  • Court of Common Pleas, executions, record book, [1744-1765].
  • Court of Common Pleas, record books, v. 1-131, 1731-1859.
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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.

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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.

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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 Middlesex County


Record Dates Location Index Microfilm/Online
Superior Court 1837-1906 National Archives - Waltham Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) Petitions, v. 1-37, FHL Digital Capture 7254629 (1st of 50); Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906
Court of Common Pleas 1798-1859 National Archives - Waltham Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) Petitions, FHL Digital Capture 7254571 (1st of 5); Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906
Western Worcester District Court (Brookfield) 1902-1906 National Archives - Waltham Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) Petitions, FHL Digital Capture 7239085; Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906
First Eastern Worcester District Court (Westborough) 1892-1906 National Archives - Waltham Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) Petitions, FHL Digital Capture 7254581; Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906
Second Eastern Worcester District Court (Clinton) 1885-1906 National Archives - Waltham Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) Petitions, FHL Digital Capture 7239092 (1st of 9); Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906
First Northern Worcester District Court (Gardner) 1883-1906 National Archives - Waltham Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) Petitions (#2-1244), FHL Digital Capture 7254585 (1st of 6); Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906
First Southern Worcester District Court (Southbridge) 1898-1905 National Archives - Waltham Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) Petitions (#1-576)FHL Digital Capture 7254595; Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906
Third Southern Worcester District Court (Milford) 1900-1903 National Archives - Waltham Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) Petitions (#1-445), FHL Digital Capture 7254634-7254635; Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906
Central Worcester 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) Petitions, v. 1-29, FHL Digital Capture 7270457 (1st of 29); Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906
Fitchburg Police Court 1885-1904 National Archives - Waltham Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) Petitions (#1-2272)FHL Digital Capture 7239079 (1st of 7); Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906
Winchendon District Court 1906 National Archives - Waltham Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) Petitions (#9-46), FHL Digital Capture 7254559; Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906
Worcester Police Court 1851-1854 National Archives - Waltham Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) Petitions, FHL Digital Capture 7283185-7283187; Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906
Worcester County Naturalization Records


Record Dates Location Index Microfilm/Online
Superior Court 1809-1991 Judicial Archives Card index Records, 1906-1945, at Mass. Arch. RR
Petitions, 1906-1945, v. 1-165 (#1-43193), and Petition index, 1885-1939, 1939-1949, FHL film 2111407 (1st of 123)
Declarations, 1909-1945, v. 1-101 (#1-57057), FHL film 2132429 (1st of 32)
Returns of naturalization, 1916-1929, FHL film 1902579
Naturalization records index, 1943-1978, and Declarations index, 1943-1978, FHL film 2110956 (1st of 10)
Clinton District Court 1891-1896 Judicial Archives Card index NO microfilm
Dudley/Webster District Court 1885-1906 Judicial Archives Card index NO microfilm
Fitchburg District Court 1885-1906 Judicial Archives Card index NO microfilm
Grafton/Westborough District Court 1885-1906 Judicial Archives Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906
Worcester District Court 1850-1855
1885-1906
Judicial Archives Part of Card Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906, NARA M1299, FHL film 1429671 (1st of 117) Part of the New England Naturalization Index, 1791-1906
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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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Worcester County Massachusetts Genealogy Societies and Libraries

Massachusetts Society of Genealogists - Worcester Chapter
PO Box 215
Ashland MA 01721
Email president@msoginc.org

American Antiquarian Society
185 Salisbury Street
Worcester MA 01609
Phone 508-755-5221
Email library@americanantiquarian.org
This is the largest collection of U.S. printed material to 1876 in the United States. It has extensive newspaper and manuscripts holdings and a strong genealogical collection. A detailed guide to the collection by subject is available online and also find items in their online catalog.

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Family History Centers

Worcester County Massachusetts Genealogy References

Adjacent counties: Massachusetts: Franklin | Hampden | Hampshire | Middlesex | Norfolk
Connecticut: Tolland | Windham
New Hampshire: Cheshire | Hillsborough
Rhode Island: Providence County



 

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  • This page was last modified on 28 August 2014, at 20:49.
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