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Brief Land History
1620-1691: The Plymouth Colony was established. It eventually spread over today's Plymouth, Barnstable, and Bristol Counties.
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.
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.
1786: The Ohio Land Company was formed, resulting in the emigration of many Massachusetts residents toOhio.
1819:Maine was separated from Massachusetts.
During the colonial period, land was granted by the General Court to proprietors, who also granted land. These records are located at the Massachusetts State Archives and other repositories. The state archives also has records and papers relating to proprietary grants, land claims, grants of bounty lands to soldiers, boundary disputes, and surveyors' records.
After proprietors sold their land or a town was incorporated, town clerks recorded deeds and mortgages. These records are at the town halls; and the Family History Library has copies of most of them. After a county was created, the land records were and still are kept by the county registry of deeds office (see the County Records section below).
Plymouth Colony records (1632–1701)
The original Plymouth Colony papers, including deeds, are at the Plymouth County Commissioners Office.
The Massachusetts State Archives has transcripts of these papers with indexes.
Some of these records and records from the Commissioners of the United Colonies are in:
- -Shurtleff, N. B. and David Pulsifer, eds. Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New England. 12 Volumes. Boston, Massachusetts: William White, 1855-61. (FHL Collection book 974.4 N2n; film 944128-29; fiche 6046866.)
- - New Plymouth Colony, Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, 1643-1679, approx, (microfilm of original manuscript, filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1972. FHL film 912074 items 1-3 )
- - New Plymouth Colony, Plymouth Colony Records, Scrap Book, 1636-1695, microfilm of original manuscript, filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1972. FHL film 912073 item 1 )
For information about land transactions between Plymouth Colony and Indians, see:
- - Bangs, Jeremy Dupertuis, Indian Deeds: Land Transactions in Plymouth Colony, 1620-1691, (Boston, Massachusetts : New England Historic Genealogical Society, c2002). FHL book 970.1 B225i)
Massachusetts Bay Colony records (1628–1685)
Shurtleff, Nathaniel B. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England. Five Volumes. Boston, Massachusetts: W. White, 1853-54. (FHL Collection book 974.4 N2s; FHL Collection fiche 6046893)
After a county was created, land records were recorded at the county registry of deeds offices. Berkshire, Bristol, Essex, Middlesex, and Worcester counties have more than one office because they are divided into two or more land districts.
For a list of towns and cities with their Registry of Deeds, see the City/Town to Registry Guide.
For links to the addresses, phone numbers and web sites of the Registry of Deeds offices, see Registry of Deeds Links.
Indexes to the land records are online by district/county though mostly post 1948.
The Family History Library has most county land records and indexes from the county's creation to the early 1900s. For example:
- Suffolk County (Massachusetts). Register of Deeds: Records of Deeds, 1639–1885; Indexes to Deeds, 1639–1920. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1969. (on 1128 FHL films.)
Boston and Suffolk County records (1629–1697)
Suffolk Deeds. 14 Volumes. Boston, Massachusetts: Rockwell and Churchill, 1880-1906. (Family History Library book 974.46 R2s; Volumes. 1-14 are on five films, beginning with Family History Library film 1033902; vols. 1-2, 4-7, 9-11, and 14 are on Family History Library fiche 6046903.)
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