Dukes County, MassachusettsEdit This Page

From FamilySearch Wiki

United States Gotoarrow.png Massachusetts Gotoarrow.png Dukes County

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

Dukes County Massachusetts History

Brief History

The region was first recorded in detail by Capt. Gosnold in 1602 who named the string of islands after his daughter Elizabeth, which later became the town of Gosnold. Fishermen were the first to occupy the islands in the early 1600s. Settlements develop in the 1640s. Town records begin in 1671. County government is established in 1683 by New York. These records are rumored to be in Albany, but as yet have not been identified. Records after 1695 are complete.

Historical Data

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

Dates Events
in 1674 The region was included in a grant to the Duke of York.
1 Nov. 1683 Dukes County was established by the Colony of New York that included the islands of Elizabeth, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket. [N.Y. Col. Laws, Ch. 4, Sect. 1, p. 122]
7 Oct. 1691 Dukes became part of the rechartered Massachusetts Bay Colony without being established as a county.
22 June 1695 Dukes County re-established as Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands. [Mass. Col. Acts, Vol. 1, Ch. 7 [1695/6], p. 216]
Top of Page

Towns and Cities

Ma-dukes.png
The following list of present-day Dukes 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.

Aquinnah (formerly Gay Head, 1870) | Chilmark (1714)
Edgartown (1671) | Gosnold (1864)
Oak Bluffs (1880) | Tisbury (1671)
West Tisbury (1892)





Top of Page


County Histories

Dukes CountyBristol CountyPlymouth CountyBarnstable CountyFreetownAcushnetDartmouthNew BedfordFairhavenRochesterMattapoisettMarionWarehamBourneSandwichBarnstableMashpeeFalmouthGosnoldAquinnahChilmarkWest TisburyTisburyOak BluffsEdgartownNomans Land (unoccupied island) part of Chilmark
Modern town borders in Dukes County, Massachusetts.

Works written on the county include:

Top of Page

Dukes 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.

Top of Page

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.

Dukes County Registry of Deeds
PO Box 5231
81 Main Street
Edgartown MA 02539
Phone 508-627-4025
Email info@dukescounty.org

Original records

The earliest records under New York jurisdiction are found under Record of deeds, 1652-1884, Series A0453, New York State Archives, Albany. Few deeds were recorded in practice those the Duke's Laws of 1665 provided for it. These records have been microfilmed and these films are available at the Archives and FHL (though not yet identified in the FHL catalog).

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

  • Recorded Land [i.e. deeds], 1982-present.
    Note: There is an unindexed property search, but what is available is not stated and it does not go back to the earliest records.
  • Recorded Plans, 1900-present.
  • Registered Land [i.e. land court], 1979-present.
  • Registered Land Plans, 1899-present.
Original records on microfilm
Top of Page

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.

Dukes Probate and Family Court
Dukes County Courthouse
PO Box 237
81 Main Street
Edgartown MA 02539
Phone 508-627-4703
Email info@dukescounty.org

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

Original records on microfilm
Top of Page

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

Top of Page | Top of Court

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:

Top of Page | Top of Court

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:

Top of Page | Top of Court

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.

There are no records microfilmed. The original records are either in the county courthouse or at the Judicial Archives. Their location has not been researched.

Top of Page | Top of Court

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.

There are no records microfilmed. The original records are either in the county courthouse or at the Judicial Archives. Their location has not been researched.

Top of Page | Top of Court

County Commissioners' Court

There has been no good description found for the function and authority of this court. It is referenced since records have been located.

Top of Page | Top of Court

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.

There are no records microfilmed for the Federal or State County courts.

Top of Page | Top of Court

Maps

  • Henry Francis Walling, Map of the counties of Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket, Massachusetts, based upon the trigonometrical survey of the state (1858) at FHL fiche 6079543 and the Norman B.Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library.
Top of Page

Dukes County Massachusetts Libraries and Genealogy Societies

Martha's Vineyard Museum
PO Box 1310
59 School Street
Edgartown MA 02539
Phone 508-627-4441
This research facility has the most extensive genealogical services on the island.

Top of Page

Dukes County Massachusetts Genealogy References

Adjacent counties: Massachusetts: Barnstable | Nantucket | Plymouth
New York: Suffolk County

 

Need additional research help? Contact our research help specialists.

Need wiki, indexing, or website help? Contact our product teams.


Did you find this article helpful?

You're invited to explain your rating on the discussion page (you must be signed in).

  • This page was last modified on 31 March 2014, at 19:16.
  • This page has been accessed 6,376 times.