Norfolk County, MassachusettsEdit This Page
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This is a historical and genealogical guide to the county of Norfolk. 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.
Norfolk County Massachusetts History
Norfolk County is home to some of the earliest settlements in Massachusetts Bay Colony though it is a relatively recent creation (1793). To learn about the earlier records for this area, see Suffolk County. The northeast portion of the county is the mostly heavily populated. The border towns were so intertwined with Boston, that they were annexed to the city in the late 1800s. Always remember the former towns which are listed in the Towns and Cities section below. It is a county of diversity. It is one of the wealthiest counties and has both rural and urban areas. Weymouth is a noted shipyard. Through politics, Norfolk is separated into three pieces. Hingham and Hull fought to stay part of Suffolk County when Norfolk was formed. Ultimately, Suffolk County succeded them to Plymouth County and thus creating the first break. Boston annexing the northern border towns caused the last break as Brookline refused to be annexed and now is surrounded by the city on 75% of its border.
The basic data are from the historical county boundary series with additions from various sources.
|20 June 1793||Suffolk County set off its southern two-thirds to create Norfolk County. [Mass. Acts, 1793, ch. 43, sec. 1, p. 272; ch. 9, sec. 1, p. 314]|
|22 June 1797||Needham exchanged with Natick, Middlesex Co. [Mass. Acts, 1797, ch. 22, sec. 1, p. 142]|
|8 Feb. 1798||Loss when a part of Stoughton annexed to Bridgewater, Plymouth Co. [Mass. Acts, 1798, ch. 10, sec. 1, p. 164]|
|6 Mar. 1804||The northern part of Dorchester called "Dorchester Neck" annexed to Boston and now called the neighborhood of "South Boston." [Mass. Acts, 1804, ch. 45, sec. 1, p. 412]|
|14 June 1823||Cohasset gained from Scituate, Plymouth Co. [Mass. Acts, 1823, ch. 28, p. 237]|
|22 Feb. 1825||Border adjusted between Brookline and Boston, Suffolk Co. [Mass. Acts, 1825, ch. 90, p. 73]|
|3 Mar. 1829||Medway exchanged with Holliston, Middlesex Co. [Mass. Acts, 1829, ch. 125, p. 200; ch. 133, p. 209]|
|18 Feb. 1830||Border between Wrentham and Attleborough, Bristol Co. - no change. [Mass. Acts, 1830, ch. 48, p. 319]|
|25 Mar. 1834||Loss when Dorchester's Thompson Island annexed to Boston, Suffolk co.. [Mass. Acts, 1834, ch. 102, p. 129]|
| 16 Mar. 1836
19 Apr. 1837
|Border between Roxbury and Boston redefined then adjusted. [Mass. Acts, 1836, ch. 37, p. 681; 1837, ch. 202, sec. 1, p. 222]|
|23 Apr. 1838||Gained when Roxbury annexed part of Newton, Middlesex Co.. [Mass. Acts, 1838, ch. 167, sec. 1, p. 481]|
|20 Mar. 1840||Loss when a part of Cohasset annexed to Scituate, Plymouth Co. [Mass. Acts, 1840, ch. 58, sec. 1, p. 206]|
|31 Mar. 1847||Border between Weymouth and Abington, Plymouth Co., clarified - no change. [Mass. Acts, 1847, ch. 138, p. 391]|
|3 May 1850||Border between Roxbury and Boston, Suffolk Co., through the water adjusted. [Mass. Acts, 1850, ch. 281, sec. 1, p. 460]|
|21 May 1855||Loss when a part of Dorchester annexed to Boston, Suffolk Co. [Mass. Acts, 1855, ch. 468, sec. 1, p. 907]|
|3 Apr. 1860||Slight change when border between Roxbury and Boston, Suffolk Co., moved from centerlines of streets to the side. [Mass. Acts, 1860, ch. 172, sec. 1, p. 138]|
|21 Mar. 1861||Border between Randolph and Abington, Plymouth Co., clarified - no change. [Mass. Acts, 1861, ch. 86, p. 390]|
|6 Jan. 1868||City of Roxbury annexed to Boston per act of 1 June 1867 [Mass. Acts, 1867, ch. 359, sec. 1, p. 754].|
|3 Jan. 1870||Loss when Dorchester annexed by Boston, Suffolk Co. [Mass. Acts, 1869, ch. 349, sec. 1, p. 646]|
|2 Apr. 1870||Slight change when border between West Roxbury and Boston, Suffolk Co., shifts from one side of the street to the other. [Mass. Acts, 1870, ch. 146, sec. 1, p. 21, 95]|
|18 June 1870||Loss when part of Brookline annexed by Boston, Suffolk Co. [Mass. Acts, 1870, ch. 374, sec. 1, p. 290]|
|7 Mar. 1872||Bellingham exchanged with Mendon, Worcester Co. [Mass. Acts, 1872, ch. 69, sec. 1, p. 57]|
|12 Apr. 1872||Loss when Mt. Hope Cemetery in West Roxbury annexed to Boston, Suffolk Co. [Mass. Acts, 1872, ch. 197, sec. 1, p. 143]|
|27 Apr. 1872||Brookline exchanged with Boston, Suffolk Co. [Mass. Acts, 1872, ch. 267, sec. 1, p. 210]|
|5 Jan. 1874||West Roxbury annexed to Boston, Suffolk Co. [Mass. Acts, 1873, c.314, sec. 1, p. 810]|
|8 May 1874||Loss when part of West Roxbury annexed to Boston, Suffolk Co. [Mass. Acts, 1874, ch. 220, sec. 1, p. 143]|
| 27 May 1890
13 Apr. 1894
|Border adjusted between Brookline and Boston, Suffolk Co. [Mass. Acts, 1890, ch. 339, sec. 1, p. 299; 1894, ch. 242, sec. 1, p. 219]|
|30 Apr. 1897||Border adjusted between Cohasset and Hingham, Plymouth Co. [Mass. Acts, 1897, ch. 330, sec. 1, p. 318]|
|1 Apr. 1898||Border adjusted between Hyde Park and Boston, Suffolk Co. [Mass. Acts, 1898, ch. 251, sec. 1, p. 185]|
|28 Mar. 1907||Border between Brookline and Newton, Middlesex Co., redefined - no change. [Mass. Acts, 1907, ch. 249, sec. 1, p. 194]|
|1 Jan. 1912||Hyde Park annexed to Boston by act of 24 May 1911 [Mass. Acts 1911, c.469, sec. 1, p. 450 and c. 583, sec. 1, p. 600].|
|23 Mar. 1928||Border between Cohasset and Hingham, Suffolk Co., adjusted - no discernible change. [Mass. Acts, 1928, ch. 160, sec. 1, p. 184]|
Towns and Cities
Brookline (1705) | Canton (1797) | Cohasset (1775)
Dedham (1636) | Dover (1836) | Foxborough (1778)
Franklin (1778) | Holbrook (1872) | Medfield (1651)
Medway (1713) | Millis (1885) | Milton (1662)
Needham (1711) | Norfolk (1870) | Norwood (1872)
Plainville (1905) | Quincy (1792) | Randolph (1793)
Sharon (1775) | Stoughton (1726) | Walpole (1724)
Wellesley (1881) | Westwood (1897) | Weymouth (1635)
Works written on the county include:
- Biographical Review; containing life sketches of leading citizens of Norfolk County, Massachusetts (Boston, 1898), 710 pp.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL film 908542 Item 1.
Digital version at Internet Archive.
- Elmer O. Cappers, Place Names in Norfolk County, Massachusetts ([Brookline, Mass., 1972?), 40 pp.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); Not at FHL.
- Louis Atwood Cook, History of Norfolk County, Massachusetts, 1622-1918 (S.l., 1918), 2v.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL book 974.47 H2c v. # and film 496755.
- D. Hamilton Hurd, ed., History of Norfolk County, Massachusetts, with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Philadelphia, 1884), xii, 1001 pp.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL book 974.47 H2h and film 1000071 Item 3 (with digital link).
- Thomas Noyes, "Complete List of the Congregational Ministers in the County of Norfolk, Mass., from the settlement of the county to the present time" in American Quarterly Register, 8 [1835/6]: 42-58.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); Not at FHL.
- The Norfolk County MA GenWeb Project, an member of The MAGenWeb Project, an affiliate of The USGenWeb Project.
- The USGenWeb Archives Project for Norfolk County.
- Norfolk County Massachusetts History - Genealogy Blog - by David Allen Lambert.
- FamilySearch.org Family History Library catalog for Norfolk County.
Norfolk 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 this county was established. 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
Quarterly Court of General Sessions of the Peace
This court was active from 1793 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 1793 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:
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.
Norfolk County Massachusetts Genealogy Societies
Norfolk County Massachusetts Genealogy References
Massachusetts: Bristol | Middlesex | Plymouth | Suffolk | Worcester
Rhode Island: Providence County
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