Hampshire County, Massachusetts GenealogyEdit This Page
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This is a historical and genealogical guide to the county of Hampshire. 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.
Hampshire County Massachusetts History
Hampshire County covered the western half of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the seat of the first settlements in this region. Migration was up the Connecticut River and from the east. It is where all the old probate records reside, but the the early deeds will be found in Springfield, Hampden Co. The county government was abolished on 1 January 1999, but its former jurisdiction is used for state offices as a district.
The basic data are from the historical county boundary series with additions from various sources.
|7 May 1662||This county was formed around the settlements of Springfield, Northampton, and Hadley. The boundary was the southern line of Massachusetts Bay Colony and thirty (30) miles from these three towns so that its effectively became the entire western half of the Colony. [Mass. Recs., 4: 2: 52]|
|19 May 1669||The inhabitant of Woronoake belonging to Springfield petitioned and were granted the creation of a new town called Westfield [which then included Southwick] including land below the south line of the Colony that later was the source of a border dispute. [Mass. Recs., 4: 2: 432]|
|3 June 1674||The granting of the six-square-mile town of Suffield (being an abbreviation for Southfield) whose northern border is the south border of Springfield. The grant read "it being the southernmost toune that either at present is or like to be in that country, & neere adjoyning to the south border of our patent in those parts." [Mass. Recs., 5: 12-13]|
|16 May 1683||The granting of the town of Enfield starting at the mouth of the Longmeadow Brook [about one mile north of the present state line], for six miles south along the Connecticut River eastward from this river ten miles.|
|10 July 1731||Worcester]. [Mass. Col. Acts, Vol. 2, Ch. 8 [1730/1], Sec. 1, p. 584]|
|16 Jan. 1741/2||Loss when part of Brimfield was combined with parts of Brookfield and Kingsfield to set of the new town of Western (now Warren). [Mass. Col. Acts, Vol. 2, Ch. 17 [1741/2], Sec. 2, p. 1088]|
|-- May 1749||Large loss when Enfield and Somers [formerly the eastern part of Enfield] petitioned Connecticut to be annexed which was granted.|
|12 Apr. 1753||Hampshire County boundaries redefined to include all territory west of the Connecticut River. [Mass. Col. Acts, vol. 3, Ch. 27 [1752/3], p. 656]|
|9 June 1756||Border adjusted between Greenwich [now extinct] and Hardwick, Worcester Co., that resulted in no discernible change. [Mass. Col. Acts, vol. 15, ch. 51 [1756/7], p. 550]|
|30 June 1761||Large loss as western third of the county was set off to establish Berkshire county. [Mass. Col. Acts, vol. 4, Ch. 33 [1760/1], Sec. 1, p. 432]|
|5 Jan. 1764||Small loss when part of Palmer annexed to Western [now Warren], Worcester Co. [Mass. Col. Acts, Vol. 17, ch. 14 [1764/5], p. 516]|
|5 Feb. 1765||Small gain when Greenwich [now extinct] annexed part of Hardwick, Worcester Co. [Mass. Col. Acts, Vol. 17, ch. 218 [1764/5], p. 603]|
|30 June 1768||Gain when the town of Worthington was created in Hampshire Co. from Plantation #3 in Berkshire Co. [Mass. Col. Acts, Vol. 4, Ch. 16 , Sec. 1, p. 1028]|
|in 1774||Loss when Connecticut unilaterally took over the southern part of what would become Southwick in 1775 that was south of the 1713 Provincial boundary.|
|23 June 1779||Cummington]] was created in Hampshire Co. from Plantation #5 in Berkshire Co. [Mass. Col. Acts, Vol. 5, Ch. 6 [1779/80], Sec. 1, p. 1072-1073]|
|12 Mar. 1783||Gained when parts of Chester, Prescott's Grant, and Worthington along with parts of Becket, Partridgefield [now Peru], and Washington, Berkshire Co., were included in the new town of Middlefield [Mass. Acts, 1783, Ch. 19, Sec. 1, p. 228]|
|15 Oct. 1783||Gain when parts of Athol and Royalston in Worcester Co. were combined to create the new town of Orange. [Mass. Acts, 1783, Ch. 2, Sec. 1, p. 38]|
|9 Feb. 1785||Gain when Myrifield Grant and unincorporated county land both in Berkshire Co. were combined to create the new town of Rowe in Hampshire Co. [Mass. Acts, 1785, Ch. 2, Sec. 1, p. 230]|
|9 Mar. 1793||Gain when Hawley annexed part of Plantation #7, Berkshire Co. [Mass. Acts, 1793, Ch. 18, Sec. 1, p. 242]|
|15 July 1794||Small loss when part of Palmer was annexed to Western [now Warren], Worcester Co.|
|18 Feb. 1801||Loss when parts of Greenwich [now extinct] was combined with parts of Hardwick and Petersham in Worcester Co. to create the new town of Dana in Worcester Co. [Mass. Acts, 1801, Ch. 14, Sec. 1, p. 453]|
|in 1804||Gained back the "Southwick Jog" that Connecticut annexed in 1774 being the portion of the former town grant below the 1713 Provincial boundary.|
|2 Dec. 1811||Large loss when the northern third was set off to create Franklin County. [Mass. Acts, 1811, Ch. 61, p. 467]|
|1 Aug. 1812||Large loss when the northern half was set off to create Hampden County. [Mass. Acts, 1812, Ch. 137, p. 291]|
|28 Jan. 1822||Gained when parts of Pelham and New Salem, Franklin Co., combined to create the new town of Prescott (now extinct). [Mass. Acts, 1822, Ch. 34, Sec. 1, p. 614]|
|8 Feb. 1823||Small gain when Ware annexed part of Western [now Warren], Worcester Co. [Mass. Acts, 1823, Ch. 76, p. 114]|
|2 Feb. 1849||The border between Williamsburg and Whately, Franklin Co. clarified - no change. [Mass. Acts, 1849, Ch. 3, p. 198]|
|25 May 1853||Gain when Norwich [now Huntington] annexed parts of Chester and Blandford, both in Hampden Co. [Mass. Acts, 1853, Ch. 421, Sec. 1, p. 639]|
|9 June 1909||Loss when part of Northampton annexed by Holyoke, Hampden Co. [Mass. Acts, 1909, ch. 480, Sec. 1, p. 498]|
|29 Mar. 1910||Border between Ware and Palmer, Hampden Co., redefined - no change. [Mass. Acts, 1910, Ch. 471, Sec. 1, p. 422]|
|28 Apr. 1938||Loss when Quabbin Reservoir created and "drowned" four towns. Parts of Greenwich and Prescott annexed to Petersham, Worcester Co.|
Towns and Cities
Cummington (1799) | Easthampton (1809) | Goshen (1781)
Granby (1768) | Hadley (1661) | Hatfield (1670)
Huntington (1775) | Middlefield (1783) | Northampton (1656)
Pelham (1743) | Plainfield (1807) | South Hadley (1775)
Southampton (1775) | Ware (1775) | Westhampton (1778)
Williamsburg (1775) | Worthington (1768)
Works written on the county include:
- The Hampshire County MA GenWeb Project, an member of The MAGenWeb Project, an affiliate of The USGenWeb Project.
- The USGenWeb Archives Project for Hampshire County.
- FamilySearch.org Family History Library catalog for Hampshire County.
Hampshire County Massachusetts Genealogy Resources
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 1800. 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.
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
This court was active from 1636 (called a quarterly court and then the county court when Suffolk was created in 1643) to 1692. The court heard all civil causes up to 10 shillings (raised to 40 shillings in 1647) and all criminal causes not concerning life, limb, or banishment. These were all jury trials. Some records can be found in the [Suffolk_County,_Massachusetts#Suffolk_Files|Suffolk Files].
The records microfilmed:
At the Massachusetts Archives:
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:
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:
Until population warranted it, criminal and civil court cases were included in the same court records. The first 24 volumes in Hampshire County include civil cases from the Inferior Court of Common Pleas and criminal court cases from the Court of General Sessions of the Peace:
|Volume #||Vol. Letter||Date Range||FHL Film Item||Notes|
|| 886420 item 1
|| Includes County Court and Quarter Sessions|
|| 886420 item 2
|| Includes executions, 1716-1765|
|| Includes a few marriages|
|| 886423 item 4
|| Includes a few marriages|
|| 886425 item 1
|| Cataloged only under General Sessions|
|| 886425 item 2
|| May 1781-Jan 1790
|| 886427 item 1
|| Cataloged only under General Sessions|
|| 866427 item 2
|| Aug 1785-Sep 1788
|| 1715-1790, Feb 1789-Jan 1790
|| 886430 item 1
|| Includes executions, 1715-1764|
|| 886430 item 2
|| 886411 item 1
These volumes are completely indexed. After these 24 volumes, subsequent volumes were numbered restarting with 1. When part of Hampshire County became Hampden County in 1812, clerks copied applicable cases into the new county's records. For such cases, if you are unable to read one of the records, you may be able to read the copy in the other county.
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.
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.
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.
Hampshire County Massachusetts Genealogy Societies
Hampshire County Massachusetts Genealogy References
- ↑ Abolished County Governments - Secretary of State, Acts of 1998, Ch. 300, Sect. 11.
- ↑ Massachusetts Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
- ↑ Linda E. Brinkerhoff, "New England Research: A Matter of Jurisdiction," Arlene H Eakle's Genealogy Blog (http://www.arleneeakle.com/wordpress/2009/11/19/new-england-research-new-strategies-that-work/ : accessed 30 November 2009), para. 3-4; citing Grace Pittman.
- ↑ Family History Library Catalog, FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org : accessed 30 November 2009).