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== Brief History  ==
 
== Brief History  ==

Revision as of 22:10, 15 August 2012

United States Gotoarrow.png Massachusetts Gotoarrow.png Plymouth County

Vital Records in Massachusetts



Contents

Brief History

Plymouth County was one of the three original counties when Plymouth Colony made such subdivisions in 1685. It then included the towns of Bridgewater, Duxbury, Marshfield, Middleborough, Plymouth, and Scituate. For a brief time, the county was part of the Dominion of New England from 1686 to 1689, then in limbo until the "Colony" was merged with Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691 to form the Royal colony of Massachusetts Bay.

Historical Data

The basic data are from the historical county boundary series[1] with additions from various sources.

Dates Events
2 June 1685 Plymouth County created as one of the three original counties formed out of New Plymouth Colony. [Ply. Laws, ch. 6, p. 19]
7 Oct. 1691 Plymouth County became part of the new Massachusetts Bay Colony when its new charter absorbed New Plymouth Colony with no border changes. [Mass. Col. Acts, v. 1, ch. 27 [1692-1693], sec. 1, p. 63]
19 Nov. 1707 Plymouth County added the town of Rochester from Barnstable County. [Mass. Col. Acts, v. 21, ch. 60 [1707], p. 755]
29 Oct. 1708 Plymouth County added a small non-county area lying between Bristol and Plymouth counties. [Mass. Col. Act,
18 Mar. 1711/2 The "Old Colony Line" that formerly divided Massachusetts Bay and New Plymouth colonies was declared as the border between Suffolk, Bristol, and Plymouth counties with no changes. [Mass. Col. Acts, v. 21, ch. 152 [1711], p. 799]
20 Nov. 1770 When Bridgewater annexed land from Stoughton, that area moved from Suffolk to Plymouth County. [Mass. Col. Acts, v. 5, ch. 15 [1770-1771], sec. 1, p. 116]
8 Feb. 1798 When Bridgewater annexed a strip of land from Stoughton, that area moved from Suffolk to Plymouth County. [Mass. Acts 1798, ch. 10, sec. 1, p. 164]
18 June 1803 Plymouth County added the towns of Hingham and Hull from Suffolk County. [Mass. Acts 1803, ch. 14, sec. 1, p. 246]
14 June 1823 When Cohasset annexed land from Scituate, that area moved from Plymouth to Norfolk County. [Mass. Acts 1823, ch. 28, p. 237]
9 Apr. 1836 When Rochester and Fairhaven redefined their border, that also redefined the line between Plymouth and Bristol counties. [Mass. Acts 1836, ch. 193, sec. 1, p. 876]
20 Mar. 1840 When Scituate annexed land from Cohasset, that area moved from Norfolk to Plymouth County. [Mass. Acts 1840, ch. 58, sec. 1, p. 206]
31 Mar. 1847 When Abington and Weymouth redefined their border, that also redefined the line between Plymouth and Norfolk counties. [Mass. Acts 1847, ch. 138, p. 391]
1 June 1867 When Taunton and Lakeville redefined their border, that also redefined the line between Plymouth and Bristol counties. [Mass. Acts 1867, ch. 352, sec. 1, p. 745]
14 Apr. 1897 When Wareham and Bourne redefined their border, that also redefined the line between Plymouth and Barnstable counties. [Mass. Acts 1897, ch. 281, sec. 1, p. 258]
30 Apr. 1897 When Hingham and Cohasset redefined their border, that also redefined the line between Plymouth and Norfolk counties. [Mass. Acts 1897, ch. 330, sec. 1, p. 318]
23 Mar. 1928 When Hingham and Cohasset redefined their border, that also redefined the line between Plymouth and Norfolk counties. [Mass. Acts 1928, ch. 160, sec. 1, p. 184]
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Towns and Cities

Ma-plymouth.png
The following list of present-day Plymouth County towns and cities links them to their individual pages. There you will find a list of other names used for the town or city and of villages and sections of the town or city. A master list of these names will be included in the Massachusetts state page.
Abington (1712) - Bridgewater (1656) - Brockton (1821) - Carver (1790)
Duxbury (1637) - East Bridgewater (1823) - Halifax (1734) - Hanover (1727)
Hanson (1820) - Hingham (1635) - Hull (1644) - Kingston (1726)
Lakeville (1853) - Marion (1852) - Marshfield (1640) - Mattapoisett (1857)
Middleborough (1669) - Norwell (1849) - Pembroke (1712) - Plymouth (1620)
Plympton (1707) - Rochester (1686) - Rockland (1874) - Scituate (1633)
Wareham (1739) - West Bridgewater (1822) - Whitman (1875)




Top of Page

County Histories

[[Image:
Barnstable CountyBristol CountyPlymouth CountyNorfolk CountySuffolk CountyFalmouthMashpeeSandwichBourneFairhavenAchushnetNew BedfordDartmouthWestportFall RiverFreetownBerkleyTauntonRaynhamEastonStoughtonAvonHolbrookCantonRandolphWeymouthCohassetBraintreeQuincyMiltonBostonHullHinghamScituateNorwellRocklandAbingtonBrocktonWest BridgewaterWhitmanHanoverMarshfieldDuxburyPembrokeHansonEast BridgewaterBridgewaterHalifaxPlymptonKingstonPlymouthCarverMiddleboroughLakevilleRochesterWarehamMarionMattapoisett
Modern towns and cities in Plymouth County, Massachusetts

]] Works written on the county include:

  • Thomas Noyes, "Complete List of the Congregational Ministers, in the County of Plymouth, Mass. from the Settlement of the Country to the Present Time" in American Quarterly Register, 8 [1835-1836]: 144-159.
    Digital versions at Internet Archive and Google Books
  • The Plymouth County Directory, and Historical Register of the Old Colony, Containing Historical Sketch of the County, and of each Town in the County; a Roll of Honor, with the Names of all Soldiers of the Army and Navy, from this County, who lost their lives in service; an alphabetical list of voters; a complete index to the mercantile, manufacturing, and professional interests of the county (Middleboro, Mass., 1867), v.p. [ca. 450 pp.]
    Digital versions at Internet Archive and General Files.
    WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL book 974.482 E4p or film 928257 Item 4; FHL fiche 6078749.
  • Lincoln Newton Kinnicutt, Indian Names of Places in Plymouth, Middleborough, Lakeville and Carver, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, with Interpretations of Some of Them (Worcester, Mass., 1909), 64 pp.
    Digital versions at Internet Archive and Google Books.
    WorldCat (Other Libraries); Not at FHL.
  • James Baker, A Guide to Historic Plymouth (Charleston, S.C., 2008), 142 pp.
    WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL does not have this item.
Top of Page

Land Records

Land transfers, commonly called deeds, are recorded on the county level in Massachusetts. Not all deeds were recorded as is common practice today. The earliest transactions were charters or grants from the English Crown. Once local government was established, the colony would grant land to settlers directly or to towns to dole out. Some towns first start out as proprietorship and records were recorded there. Once towns were established, deeds were recorded on the county level. For Plymouth County, they start in 1685.

The Plymouth County Registry of Deeds has a main office at Plymouth and two satellite offices:

Plymouth County Registry of Deeds
50 Obery Street
Plymouth MA 02360
508-830-9200
Email admin@plymouthdeeds.org

Brockton Satellite Office
155 West Elm Street
Brockton MA 02301
508-586-6998

Rockland Satellite Office
920 Hingham Street
Rockland MA 02370
781-792-2800

Original records
in Plymouth

All online records can be viewed from their Search Page.

  • Land Record books, 1685 to present. [all online]
  • Grantor/Grantee Index, 1685 to present. [online from 1955]
  • Plan books and index, 1899 to present. [online index from 1975]
  • Highway, county taking, and other road related. [no index online]
  • Land Court records, 1899 to present. [all online]
  • Land Court registered land. [online index from 1926]
  • Microfilm of the originals created by the Family History Library, 1664-1900 (indexes to 1914), v. 1-792, FHL film 567747 (first of 462).
Published records

There is no book that transcribes, abstracts, or indexes the Plymouth County land records. Abstracts were created by George Ernest Bowman. He published them in first in Pilgrim Notes and Queries from 1916 to 1917 and continued in The Mayflower Descendant from 1933 to 1937. He completed the first 117 pages from volume 1. Ann Smith Lainhart continued the abstracts in the latter journal from 1985 to 1998 and completed up to volume 2, page 41. That work is available online by article and issue at the Mass. Society of Mayflower Descendants website for those years of the Mayflower Descendant. Ms. Lainhart's work from 2000 to 2005 in the same journal is not available online where she ended her work at volume 3, page 13. For a current full citation to "Plymouth County, Mass., Records of Deeds" series, see Dale H. Cook's Consolidated Contents for the journal.

Top of Page

Probate Records

Probate and Family Court is organized on a county level in Massachusetts since the creation of the counties. The main records genealogists seek are testate (wills), intestate (administrations), guardianships, and divorces (since 1922), though there are many more that are valuable to any researcher, too. See a further discussion of the topic in general on the Massachusetts page.

Plymouth County Probate and Family Court
52 Obery Street
Plymouth MA 02360
Phone 508-747-6204
Email plymouthprobate@dacbase.com

Brockton Satellite Office
215 Maine Street, Suite 220
Brockton MA 02301
Phone 508-897-5400

Original records
Microfilm records

The Family History Library (Note: The New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston has the probate records only, not docket books) has the following microfilms of the originals:

Top of 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.

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. A county copy of marriages were recorded here from 1726 to 1737.

The record books of this court have been published:

  • David Thomas Konig, ed., Plymouth Court Records 1686-1859 [General Sessions of the Peace, 1686-1827, and Court of Common Pleas, 1686-1859] (Wilmington, Del., 1978-1981), in 16v.
    This is available on a searchable CD from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and on their website ($).
    WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL book 974.482 P2p v. # (with digital link).
    v. 1 - General Sessions of the Peace, 1686-1721 and Court of Common Pleas, 1686-1702.
    v. 2 - General Sessions of the Peace, 1719-1749 (includes marriages, 1726-1737).
    v. 3 - General Sessions of the Peace, 1748-1781.
    v. 4 - General Sessions of the Peace, 1782-1827.
  • Court records, 1686-1817, FHL films 906746-906748.
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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. A county copy of births, marriages, and deaths were recorded here from 1724 to 1788 for the towns of Abington, Bridgewater, Duxbury, Halifax, Hanson, Kingston, Marshfield, Middleborough, Pembroke, Plymouth, Plympton, Rochester, Scituate, and Wareham. Note: Volume 19 of original records contains marriages from 1771 to 1795.

The record books of this court have been published:

  • David Thomas Konig, ed., Plymouth Court Records 1686-1859 [General Sessions of the Peace, 1686-1827, and Court of Common Pleas, 1686-1859] (Wilmington, Del., 1978-1981), in 16v.
    This is available on a searchable CD from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and on their website ($).
    WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL book 974.482 P2p v. # (with digital link).
    v. 1 - General Sessions of the Peace, 1686-1721 and Court of Common Pleas, 1686-1702.
    v. 5 - Court of Common Pleas, 1702-1736.
    v. 6 - Court of Common Pleas, 1736-1744.
    v. 7 - Court of Common Pleas, 1744-1760.
    v. 8 - Court of Common Pleas, 1760-1772.
    v. 9 - Court of Common Pleas, 1773-1785.
    v. 10 - Court of Common Pleas, 1785-1796.
    v. 11 - Court of Common Pleas, 1796-1807.
    v. 12 - Court of Common Pleas, 1807-1815.
    v. 13 - Court of Common Pleas, 1816-1825.
    v. 14 - Court of Common Pleas, 1825-1834.
    v. 15 - Court of Common Pleas, 1835-1845.
    v. 16 - Court of Common Pleas, 1846-1859.
  • Court records, 1702-1859, FHL films 906732-906745, 906749.
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Superior Court

This court was created in 1859 and combines the authority of the two courts listed above. Though one court, the civil and criminal matters are handled separately and today that is achieved through two physical courts: Plymouth (civil) and Brockton (criminal).

Plymouth County Superior Court
52 Obery Street - Suite 2041
Plymouth MA 02360
Phone 508-747-8565

Plymouth County Superior Court (criminal sessions)
72 Belmont Street
Brockton MA 02301
Phone 508-583-8250

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
Phone 617-557-1082

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Divorce Records

Jurisdiction over divorce matters changes over time. The Governor and Council heard cases before 1785, then it was the Supreme Judicial Court until 1887, followed by the Superior Court until 1922, and presently this is a matter for the Probate and Family Court (with minor exceptions in all periods).

Naturalization Records

Naturalization records were created on a variety of governmental levels from the Federal down to the city at the same time. The county records are outlines below.

Indexes

Records

Taxation Records

The county had the power to tax its citizens through action of the Quarterly Court of General Sessions (listed above). Most taxes after this time are levied by the state or town.

Warnings Out

Warning Out was the court’s action under the poor laws of the colony and commonwealth to create a legal public notice that a town was not responsible for the welfare of a new person or family settling there. That responsibility remained with the town from which they had come. People were not forced out of the new town, but could not expect to be supported if they were unable to sustain themselves. Warnings Out were issued by the Inferior Court of Common Pleas to the Selectmen of the town for notification of persons named in them.

  • Ruth Wilder Sherman, Robert M. Sherman, and Robert S. Wakefield, An Index to Plymouth County, Massachusetts Warnings Out from The Plymouth Court Records 1686-1859 (Plymouth, Mass., 2003).
    WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL book 974.482 P22s.
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Maps

This list includes maps of particular interest to genealogists, and is not an effort to trace the vast cartographic history of the county in full.

Top of Page

Societies

Plymouth County Genealogists
PO Box 167
East Bridgewater MA 02333
Email plymcountygen@gmail.com
The group meets on the first Saturday each month except July and August

South Shore Genealogical Society
PO Box 396
Norwell MA 02061
Email uechika@msn.com
The group meets on the second Saturday each month except July and August

Vital Records

Vital Records in Massachusetts

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 1700. 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 Vital Records page.

References