Dukes County, Massachusetts Genealogy
This is a historical and genealogical guide to the county of Dukes. 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.
- 1 Dukes County Massachusetts History
- 2 Dukes County Massachusetts Genealogy Resources
- 3 Dukes County Massachusetts Genealogy Societies
- 4 Dukes County Massachusetts Genealogy References
Dukes County Massachusetts History
The region was first recorded in detail by Capt. Gosnold in 1602 who named the string of islands after his daughter Elizabeth, which later became the town of Gosnold. Fishermen were the first to occupy the islands in the early 1600s. Settlements develop in the 1640s. Town records begin in 1671. County government is established in 1683 by New York. These records are rumored to be in Albany, but as yet have not been identified. Records after 1695 are complete.
The basic data are from the historical county boundary series with additions from various sources.
|in 1674||The region was included in a grant to the Duke of York.|
|1 Nov. 1683||Dukes County was established by the Colony of New York that included the islands of Elizabeth, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket. [N.Y. Col. Laws, Ch. 4, Sect. 1, p. 122]|
|7 Oct. 1691||Dukes became part of the rechartered Massachusetts Bay Colony without being established as a county.|
|22 June 1695||Dukes County re-established as Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands. [Mass. Col. Acts, Vol. 1, Ch. 7 [1695/6], p. 216]|
Towns and Cities
Edgartown (1671) | Gosnold (1864)
Oak Bluffs (1880) | Tisbury (1671)
West Tisbury (1892)
Works written on the county include:
- The Dukes County MAGenWeb Project, an member of The MAGenWeb Project, an affiliate of The USGenWeb Project.
- FamilySearch.org Family History Library catalog for Dukes County
Dukes 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 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 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
This court was active from 1636 (called a quarterly court and then the county court when Suffolk was created in 1643) to 1692. The court heard all civil causes up to 10 shillings (raised to 40 shillings in 1647) and all criminal causes not concerning life, limb, or banishment. These were all jury trials. Some records can be found in the [Suffolk_County,_Massachusetts#Suffolk_Files|Suffolk Files].
The records microfilmed:
At the Massachusetts Archives:
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.
The records microfilmed:
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.
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.
Dukes County Massachusetts Genealogy Societies
Dukes County Massachusetts Genealogy References
New York: Suffolk County