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Brief History

The following important events in the history of Massachusetts affected political jurisdictions, family movements, and record keeping.

  • 1620-1691: The Plymouth Colony was established. It eventually spread over today's Plymouth, Barnstable, and Bristol Counties.
  • 1621:  Peace Treaty between Wampanoag Indians and Pilgrams - Strawberry hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts arranged by Squanto.
  • 1630: Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded. It expanded to today's area of Essex, Middlesex, Old Norfolk (now part of New Hampshire), and Suffolk Counties.
  • 1631:First public Thanksgiving - Massachusetts Bay Colony
  • 1660:John Eliot founded first Indian church in New England at Natick, Massachusetts on the Charles River.
  • 1675-1676:  King Philips War, between the Indians and colonist.
  • 1691: A new charter was granted to Massachusetts Bay Colony, uniting it with Plymouth Colony. Parts of Maine and Nova Scotia were also added to Massachusetts.
  • 1775: The Revolutionary War began at Lexington and Concord.
  • 1786: The Ohio Land Company was formed, resulting in the emigration of many Massachusetts residents toOhio.
  • 1788: (February 6,) Massachusetts became the sixth state to ratify the Constitution.
  • 1820:Maine was separated from Massachusetts.
  • 1830s-1840s: As the factory system developed, thousands of foreign laborers began moving to Massachusetts.
  • 1861-1865: During theCivil War 146,000 men from Massachusetts served in the Union Army.
  • 1898: Over 300,000 men were involved in the Spanish-American War which was fought mainly in Cuba and the Philippines.
  • 1917–1918: More than 26 million men from the United States ages 18 through 45 registered with the Selective Service. World War I over 4.7 million American men and women served during the war.
  • 1930's: The Great Depression closed many factories and mills. Many small farms were abandoned, and many families moved to cities.
  • 1940–1945: Over 50.6 million men ages 18 to 65 registered with the Selective Service. Over 16.3 million American men and women served in the armed forces during World War II.
  • 1950–1953: Over 5.7 million American men and women served in the Korean War.
  • 1950's–1960's The building of interstate highways made it easier for people to move long distances.
  • 1964–1972: Over 8.7 million American men and women served in the Vietnam War.

Historical Content

Histories are great sources of genealogical information. Many contain biographical information about individuals who lived in the area, including:

  • Parents' names
  • Maiden names of women
  • Place of birth, death, or marriage
  • Occupation
  • Migration
  • Military service
  • Descendants

Local Histories

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search. Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies.

  • Massachusetts: A Bibliography of Its History [1]
  • A Bibliography of American County Histories [2] [3]
  • United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress [4] [5]

State Histories Useful to Genealogists

Good genealogists strive to understand the life and times of their ancestors. In this sense, any history is useful. But certain kinds of state, county, and local histories, especially older histories published between 1845 and 1945, often include biographical sketches of prominent individuals. The sketches usually tend toward the laudatory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name. Some examples for the State of Massachusetts are:

  • Commonwealth History of Massachusetts: Colony, Province, and State [6]

United States History

The following are only a few of the many sources that are available:

  • The Almanac of American History, [7] [8] This provides brief historical essays and chronological descriptions of thousands of key events in United States history.
  • Dictionary of American History, Revised ed [9] [10] This includes historical sketches on various topics in U.S. history, such as wars, people, laws, and organizations. A snippet view is available at Google books.
  • Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium [11] [12] [13] This includes a history, some maps, tables, and other historical information.

To find more books and articles about Massachusetts' history use the Internet Google search for phases like "Massachusetts history." Family History Library Catalog Surname Search lists many more histories under topics like:

MASSACHUSETTS - HISTORY
MASSACHUSETTS, [COUNTY] - HISTORY
MASSACHUSETTS, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - HISTORY
MASSACHUSETTS, BIBLIOGRAPHY

Web Sites

Sources

  1. Haskell, John Duncan. Massachusetts: A Bibliography of Its History. Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1983. (Family History Library book 974.4 H23m.)
  2. Filby, P. William. A Bibliography of American County Histories. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1985. (FHL book 973 H23bi)
  3. Worldcat
  4. Kaminkow, Marion J. United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress. 5 vols. Baltimore: Magna Charta Book, 1975-76. (FHL book 973 A3ka.)
  5. Worldcat
  6. Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed. Commonwealth History of Massachusetts: Colony, Province, and State. 5 vols. New York, NY: The States History, 1927-30. (Family History Library book 974.4 H2h.)
  7. Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983. (FHL book 973 H2alm)
  8. Worldcat
  9. Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976. (FHL book 973 H2ad.)
  10. Worldcat
  11. Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. Springfield, Mass.: G&C Merriam, 1971. (FHL book 973 H2v)
  12. Limited view at Google Books
  13. Worldcat
  14. Writings on American History By American Historical Association, Library of Congress, United States National Historical Publications Commission, Published by KTO Press, 1921 FHL book 973 H23w
  15. Worldcat

 

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