Barnstable County, Massachusetts Genealogy

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United States > Massachusetts > Barnstable County
showing location of Barnstable County
satellite image of Barnstable County.

County Courthouse

Superior Court House
3195 Main Street
P.O. Box 427
Barnstable, MA 02630

Quick History


Barnstable County is part of Cape Cod and was made an island when the Cape Cod Canal was finished in 1914. (besides the two vehicle bridges and a railroad bridge across the canal the only other other access is by boat or plane). Well there is a little piece of the county (part of Bourne) on the north side of the canal, but it is still fun to think of it as an island. In fact, some of the islanders may have advocated closing the canal bridges to vehicle traffic.

The Mayflower and its 99 passengers landed first on Cape Cod near Provincetown and then at Plymouth on 21 Nov 1620.

The ship Fortune arrived in Nov 1621.

The Anne and Little James followed so that by 1624 there are about 180 persons in Plymouth Colony.

Late 1630s settlements formed in what is now Barnstable County.

In Sandwich there are some families led by Rev. John Vincent before 1637.

Settlers in Yarmouth before 1639 and the Town of Barnstable in 1638.

Eastham is the fourth area settled in Mar 1644.

Barnstable County was originally part of Plymouth Colony, separated from Massachusetts Bay colony to the north by "the Old Colony Line." Plymouth Colony was initially centered on the landing place of the Pilgrims, the town of Plymouth. But since the 1620s the population and reach of the colony had grown considerable. At first, Governor Bradford had only one assistant, Isaac Allerton. By 1685 the colony was governed by a governor, a deputy governor, six assistants, deputies and constables from seventeen towns, grand jury members, and highway surveyors. The seventeen towns of Plymouth Colony at that time were governed by selectmen. So in 1685, with government rapidly growing and travel still difficult, the deputies of the General Court which made the laws for the Colony decided to divide the colony into three counties, Bristol to the south and west, Barnstable to the south and east and Plymouth to the north. These three counties would each have a government able to record deeds, operate judicial courts and more closely respond to the needs of the citizens.

Barnstable - The County, Town or Village? Town of Barnstable - founded by Rev. John Lothrop and his group after they left Scituate (pronoune Sit'-u-et). September 3, 1639 is the precise birthdate given to Barnstable, which really represents just the best guess of when a band of hardy colonists officially took advantage of Plymouth Colony laws passed in March, 1638 authorizing towns to send deputies to the General Court.

Parent County

2 June 1685: from the Plymouth Colony lands. [1]

Boundary Changes

Established as a County in the year 1685, the current boundary lines were drawn in 1707 and have not changed since that date.

Record Loss

Places / Localities

Populated Places

Barnstable, Eastham, Provincetown, Sandwich, more . . .

Neighboring Counties

Dukes | Nantucket | Plymouth




Cemeteries (Rural)

for local cemeteries, please refer to specific town/village in "Populated Places"


State Census

1865 Massachusetts State Census—A free Internet index and images to the 1865 Massachusetts State Census can be viewed on the FamilySearch Record Search – Pilot Site. This index includes every name listed on the census and is linked to an image including information about each person’s residence and age in 1865, birthplace, occupation, other family members, and neighbors.

Church History and Records (Rural)

for local churches, please refer to specific town/village in "Populated Places"

Court  Records and Indexes

Description and Travel





Land and Deed Records 



Military History and Records

Native Races 

Naturalization and Citizenship



Probate Records



Vital Records

Societies and Libraries

Falmouth Genealogical Society serves primarily Upper Cape towns.

Cape Cod Genealogical Society serves primarily Mid and Lower Cape towns. If you image Cape Cod as an arm with Provincetown as the hand then Upper Cape corresponds with upper arm and lower Cape corresponds with lower arm (even though Lower Cape town of Provincetown at the tip of the peninsula is "higher" than Falmouth which is located in the Upper Cape)

Web Sites


  1. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 181. [FHL book 973 D27e 2002].