Essex County, Massachusetts Genealogy

From FamilySearch Wiki
Revision as of 20:59, 20 August 2013 by Yourgenealogist (talk | contribs) (Added Deeds section)

Jump to: navigation, search

United States Gotoarrow.png Massachusetts Gotoarrow.png Essex County

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

Essex County Massachusetts History

Brief History

Essex County was one of the four original counties when Massachusetts Bay Colony created counties in 1643 which includes the area known as Cape Ann. The only major change came with the addition of three miles on the northern border when the Old Norfolk County was eliminated in 1680. It was first settled in 1623. This was a major port for the United States through the late 1800s. Fishing was a thriving industry from the beginning, and is still notable in Gloucester. The most popular historical event was the witch trials of Salem in 1692. Haverhill, on the Merrimack River, became one of the centers of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1800s. As the city expanded with all the immigrant growth, the city annexed the town of Bradford on the south side of the river. The county government was abolished on 1 July 1999, but its former jurisdiction is used for state offices as a district.[1]

Historical Data

The basic data are from the historical county boundary series[2] with additions from various sources.

Dates Events
10 May 1643 Essex County created as one of the four original counties formed out of Massachusetts Bay Colony. [Mass. Rec., 2: 38]
26 May 1658 Andover gained 15 acres from Billerica, Middlesex Co.
18 Sept. 1679 Gained three miles north of the Merrimack River when the Old Norfolk County was dissolved adding the then towns of Haverhill and Salisbury.
22 Feb. 1841 Gained from part of Chelsea, Suffolk Co., annexed to Saugus.
10 Apr. 1854 Loss from part of Lynnfield annexed to Reading, Middlesex Co.
7 Jan. 1858 Lost from part of Lynnfield annexed to North Reading, Middlesex Co.
18 Sept. 1933 Loss from part of Saugus annexed to Wakefield, Middlesex Co.
10 Apr. 1947 Land exchanged between Lynnfield and Reading, Middlesex Co.
Top of Page

Towns and Cities

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.
Amesbury (1668) - Andover (1646) - Beverly (1668) - Boxford (1694)
Danvers (1752) - Essex (1819) - Georgetown (1838) - Gloucester (1642)
Groveland (1850) - Hamilton (1793) - Haverhill (1641) - Ipswich (1634)
Lawrence (1847) - Lynn (1635) - Lynnfield (1782) - Manchester (1645)
Marblehead (1633) - Merrimac (1876) - Methuen (1725) - Middleton (1728)
Nahant (1853) - Newbury (1635) - Newburyport (1764) - North Andover (1855)
Peabody (1855) - Rockport (1840) - Rowley (1639) - Salem (1630)
Salisbury (1639) - Saugus (1815) - Swampscott (1852) - Topsfield (1648)
Wenham (1643) - West Newbury (1819)

Extinct Town: Bradford (1675)

County Histories

Works written on the county include:

Top of Page

Essex 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 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.

Top of Page

Land Records and Atlases

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. Essex County is divided into two districts. The county was one district until the creation of the Northern District in 1869.

Northern Essex Registry of Deeds
354 Merrimack Street Suite #304 (Entry C)
Lawrence MA 01843
Phone 978-683-2745
This district includes Andover, Lawrence, Methuen, and North>

Original records

The records since 1986 (indexes and other records are earlier) can be viewed from their new (as of 23 July 2013) Search Page. Click on the specific search you want from the menu at the left.

Their older records are stored at the Southern District office. To view the originals, call ahead to determine where to go.

Southern Essex Registry of Deeds
45 Congress Street Suite 4100
Salem MA 01970
Phone 978-542-1700
This district covered the entire county until 1869.

Original records
  • Land deeds, 1639-present, online.
    The "classic" online search is still available covering indexes from 1964 and deeds from 1983 to present.
    Call the office ahead of time to see the older volumes. The county is currently in a restoration project to conserve the first 100 volumes. The first 20 volumes (1641-1709) have been conserved and viewable online. When you enter a volume and page, and click on the tif link, the image of the page is automatically downloaded to your device.
  • Land deed indexes, 1640-1799, 1800-1854, 1855-1950, 1951-1963, are online.
  • Plans, 1741-present, online.
  • Land court (registered land), 1899-present, online.
  • Essex County Atlases:
    Essex County, 1795 (mss.).
    Essex County, 1830 (mss.).
    Essex County, 1872.
    Essex County, 1884.
Original records on microfilm
  • Essex County Deed Indexes, Grantor/Grantee, 1639-1799, 1800-1819, 1820-1834, 1835-1839, 1840-1844, 1845-1854, and 1855-1879.
    Essex County Deeds, v. 1-695 (1639-1866).
    FHL film 862800 (1st of 365).
  • Essex County unregistered deeds, ca. 1700-ca. 1820.
    FHL film 878779.
  • Essex County miscellaneous probate records and deeds, 1779-1846.
    FHL film 893111 Item 6.
Published records
Published maps
Top of Page

Probate Records



Vessels sailing from Salem, Massachusetts between 1799 and 1879 made over 7900 voyages to foreign ports. A Crew List was required to be filed stating the vessel's destination and its crew. An Index to those Lists, containing 75,770 names, may be found at The Index may provide the following information:

• Name
• Age
• Birth Place
• Residence
• Complexion
• Voyage (Name of ship and date)


Massachusetts sailor's crew lists at  Between 1799 and 1879 over 7900 voyages to foreign ports sailed from Salem, Massachusetts. Prior to sailing the shipmaster or captain of each vessel was required to file a crew list containing information about the vessel's destination and its crew. This website provides an index to those crew lists. Containing over 75,770 names, it also provides access to crew members based upon age, complexion, birthplace, and residence place

Essex County Massachusetts Genealogy References