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Massachusetts courts that kept records of genealogical value include:
1620-1865 General Court. This was an appellate court that gave rulings on estates. Its records are at the Massachusetts State Archives. Some records of this court are in the Massachusetts Archives Collections described in Massachusetts Genealogy.
1636-1693 County courts or quarter courts. These courts were originally called inferior quarter courts. Most of the records of these courts are in county courthouses, and many are on microfilm at the Family History Library. These courts were replaced in 1692 by the superior courts of judicature, courts of common pleas, and courts of sessions. Superior courts replaced the courts of common pleas in 1859.
1692-present Superior courts of judicature. These courts were replaced by supreme judicial courts in 1782. These were courts of appeals. The records are at the Supreme Judicial Court Building, 1300 New Court House, Boston, MA 02108.
1822-present District, police, and municipal courts. The first district court was established in Boston in 1822. The records are in the various local courthouses.
Records of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and Appeals court are available by searching by the involved party at:
A large and complex collection of court records from Massachusetts and a few counties in neighboring states is:
Massachusetts. County Court (Suffolk County). County Court Files, 1629–1797. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah. (On 1630 FHL films.) The records and their indexes cover the years 1629 to about 1860. Many original court records are at the Massachusetts State Archives.
Abstracts of pre-1860 Plymouth court records are in:
Konig, David Thomas, ed. Plymouth Court Records 1686-1859: The Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions of the Peace. 16 Volumes. Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1978-1981. (FHL book 974.482 P2p.) No index is currently available.
Transcripts of Massachusetts Bay Colony and Plymouth Colony records have been published by Nathaniel B. Shurtleff (see Massachusetts Land and Property)
For more information about court procedures and records, see:
Wright's Report on the Custody and Condition of the Public Records (see Massachusetts Archives and Libraries).
Law in Colonial Massachusetts, 1630-1800. Boston, Massachusetts: Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1984. (FHL book 974.4 P3L.)
- There is a collection of early court records at www.ancestry.com which is a subscription website.