Berkshire County, Massachusetts Genealogy

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United States Gotoarrow.png Massachusetts Gotoarrow.png Berkshire County

This is a historical and genealogical guide to the county of Berkshire. 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.

Berkshire County Massachusetts History

Brief History

Berkshire County has always been at the crossroads of settlers on the move. As the western side of the Berkshire Mountains, those moving west from all other Massachusetts counties, Rhode Island, and much of Connecticut, and occasionally from very southern New Hampshire and Vermont would converge here. Many would continue west into New York state or up the western side of Vermont following the first roads that allowed easy travel through this region. It was never a populous county, but the rugged terrain was often were "lost" ancestors called home.

Historical Data

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

Dates Events
30 June 1761 Berkshire County was created from the western third of Hampshire County. [Mass. Col. Acts, Vol. 4, Ch. 33 [1760/1], Sec. 1, p. 432]
30 June 1768 Loss when part of Plantation #3 was included in the new town of Worthington, Hampshire Co. [Mass. Col. Acts, Vol. 4, Ch. 16 [1768], Sec. 1, p. 1028]
23 June 1779 Loss when part of Plantation #5 was included in the new town of Cummington, Hampshire Co. [Mass. Col. Acts, Vol. 5, Ch. 6 [1779/80], Sec. 1, p. 1072-1073]
12 Mar. 1783 Loss when parts of Becket, Partridgefield [now Peru], and Washington along with Chester, Prescott's Grant, and Worthington in Hampshire Co. were included in the new town of Middlefield, Hampshire Co. [Mass. Acts, 1783, Ch. 19, Sec. 1, p. 228]
9 Feb. 1785 Loss when Myrifield Grant and unincorporated county land created the new town of Rowe, Hampshire Co. [Mass. Acts, 1785, Ch. 2, Sec. 1, p. 230]
9 Mar. 1793 Loss when part of Plantation #7 was annexed to Hawley, Hampshire Co. [Mass. Acts, 1793, Ch. 18, Sec. 1, p. 242]
21 Feb. 1822 Loss when the Gore was combined with the western part of Rowe, Hampshire Co., to create the new town of Monroe, Hampshire. [Mass. Acts, 1822, Ch. 93, Sec. 1, p. 707]
2 Apr. 1838 Loss when part of the territory known as Zoar was annexed to Charlemont and Rowe, Hampshire Co. [Mass. Acts 1838, Ch. 56, Sec. 1, p. 344 and Ch. 57, Sec. 1, p. 345]
4 May 1853
15 May 1855
Border between Sandisfield and Tolland, Hampden Co., clarified then redefined. [Mass. Acts, 1853, Ch. 293, p. 535; 1855, Ch. 358, Sec. 1, p. 755]
11 Jan. 1855 Loss when the southwest corner of the county [and state] known as Boston Corner annexed to Columbia Co., N.Y.
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Towns and Cities

The following list of present-day Berkshire 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.
Adams (1778) | Alford (1773) | Becket (1765) | Cheshire (1793)
Clarksburg (1798) | Dalton (1784) | Egremont (1775) | Florida (1805)
Great Barrington (1761) | Hancock (1776) | Hinsdale (1804) | Lanesborough (1765)
Lee (1777) | Lenox (1775) | Monterey (1847) | Mount Washington (1779)
New Ashford (1835) | New Marlborough (1775) | North Adams (1878) | Otis (1773)
Peru (1771) | Pittsfield (1761) | Richmond (1765) | Sandisfield (1762)
Savoy (1797) | Sheffield (1733) | Stockbridge (1739) | Tyringham (1762)
Washington (1777) | West Stockbridge (1775) | Williamstown (1765)
Windsor (1771)

Annexed to Columbia Co., N.Y.: Boston Corner District

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County Histories

Works written on the county include:


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Berkshire County Massachusetts Genealogy Resources

Vital Records

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 before this county was created. 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.

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Land Records

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Probate Records

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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
Phone 617-557-1082

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Quarterly Court of General Sessions of the Peace

This court was active from 1761 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:

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Inferior Court of Common Pleas

This court was active from 1761 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:

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Superior Court

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.

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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.

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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 for all levels are outlines below. For more information, see the Massachusetts state page for more on naturalization.

Federal Naturalization Records for Berkshire County
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Berkshire County Massachusetts Genealogy Societies

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Berkshire County Massachusetts Genealogy References

Adjacent counties: Massachusetts: Franklin | Hampden | Hampshire
Connecticut: Litchfield
New York Counties: Columbia | Dutchess | Rensselaer
Vermont County: Bennington