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This is a historical and genealogical guide to the county of Franklin. 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 Franklin County Massachusetts History
- 2 Franklin County Massachusetts Genealogy Resources
- 3 Franklin County Massachusetts Libraries and Genealogy Societies
- 4 Franklin County Massachusetts Genealogy References
Franklin County Massachusetts History
Franklin County was long settled by the time it was set off as its own county in 1811. Early settlers made their way into the region first along the Connecticut River. It was a crossroads for migrations from eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, and the gateway to Vermont and New Hampshire's river valley settlements. The county has always been sparsely settled. Franklin's county government was abolished on 1 July 1997, but its former jurisdiction is used for state offices as a district.
The basic data are from the historical county boundary series with additions from various sources.
|2 Dec. 1811||Franklin County set off from the northern third of Hampshire County. [Mass. Acts, 1811, Ch. 61, p. 467]|
|7 Feb. 1816||Small loss when part of Orange annexed to Athol, Worcester Co. [Mass. Acts, 1816, Ch. 62, p. 71]|
|28 Jan 1822||Loss when part of New Salem was combined with Pelham, Hampshire Co., to create the new town of Prescott, Hampshire Co. [now extinct]. [Mass. Acts, 1822, Ch. 34, Sec. 1, p. 614]|
|21 Feb. 1822||Gained when part of Rowe was combined with the Gore in Berkshire Co. to create the new town of Monroe in Franklin Co. [Mass. Acts, 1822, Ch. 93, Sec. 1, p. 707]|
| 5 Feb. 1830
16 Mar. 1837
|Small loss when part of New Salem annexed to Athol, Worcester Co. [Mass. Acts, 1830, ch. 33, p. 300 and 1837, Ch. 80, Sec. 1, p. 70]|
|2 Apr. 1838||Gain when part of the territory known as Zoar in Berkshire Co. was annexed to Charlemont and Rowe [Mass. Acts 1838, Ch. 56, Sec. 1, p. 344 and Ch. 57, Sec. 1, p. 345]|
|2 Feb. 1849||Border between Whately and Williamsburg, Hampshire Co., clarified - no change. [Mass. Acts, 1849, Ch. 3, p. 198]|
|27 Apr. 1911||Border between New Salem and Prescott, Worcester Co. [now extinct], redefined - no change. [Mass. Acts, 1911, Ch. 340, Sec. 1, p. 310]|
|28 Apr. 1938||Large gain when Quabbin Reservoir created and "drowned" four towns. New Salem annexed parts of Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott, all in Hampshire Co. [Mass. Acts, 1827, Ch. 321, Sec. 1, p. 384; 1938, ch. 240, Sec. 1, p. 188]|
Towns and Cities
Charlemont (1765) | Colrain (1761) | Conway (1775)
Deerfield (1677) | Erving (1838) | Gill (1793)
Greenfield (1775) | Hawley (1792) | Heath (1785)
Leverett (1774) | Leyden (1809) | Monroe (1822)
Montague (1775) | New Salem (1775) | Northfield (1723)
Orange (1810) | Rowe (1785) | Shelburne (1775)
Shutesbury (1761) | Sunderland (1714) | Warwick (1763)
Wendell (1781) | Whately (1771)
Works written on the county include:
- Biographical Review: this volume contains biographical sketches of the leading citizens of Franklin County, Massachusetts (Boston, 1895), 668 pp.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL book 974.422 D3b and film 1320725 Item 1.
Digital version at Internet Archive.
- Theophilus Packard, A History of the Churches and Ministers, and of Franklin Association, in Franklin County, Mass., and an appendix respecting the County (Boston, 1854), vii, 456 pp.
WorldCat (Other Libraries) and [Index; FHL fiche 6206740.
Digital versions at Internet Archive and Google Books.
- Francis Nims Thompson, "The Probate Court and its Judges" in History and Proceedings of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, 7 [1921-1929]: 631-653.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL has to v. 6 only.
Digital version at Ancestry ($).
- The Franklin County MA GenWeb Project, an member of The MAGenWeb Project, an affiliate of The USGenWeb Project.
- The USGenWeb Archives Project for Franklin County.
- FamilySearch.org Family History Library catalog for Franklin County.
- Massachusetts Genealogy Franklin County Genealogy.
- Kindred Trails Franklin County Massachusetts Genealogy.
- Cyndi's List for Franklin County.
- Local History and Genealogy Index Franklin County, Massachusetts.
Franklin 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 this county was established. 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.
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.
Franklin District Registry of Deeds
30 Olive Street - Suite 2
Greenfield MA 01301
Records are available at the Registry. Their records ONLINE are:
- Recorded Land [i.e. deeds], 1951-present.
Note: Index back to 1951, but records online back only to 1958. Record images back to 1787 can be found under "Search Criteria" by selecting "Unindexed Property Search," but you need to know the volume and page. Records before 1812 are copies from the Hampshire County records.
- Recorded Plans, 1800-present.
- Registered Land [i.e. land court], 1900-present.
- Registered Land Plans, 1899-present.
- Hampshire County Land records abstracted, v. 1-4 plus index, 1663-1786, at FHL films 1769542-1769543.
Note: These are the Indian deeds that for the area that became Franklin County.
- Deeds, v. 1-485, 1787-1902, index, 1787-1889, 1890-1899, at FHL film 893536 (1st of 217) and New England Historic Genealogical Society (to v. 431).
Note: v. 223 (1859) missing.
- Deeds, v. 1-485, 1787-1902, index, 1787-1889, 1890-1899, at FamilySearch.org, browsable but not indexed.
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 Genealogy Guide.
Franklin Probate and Family Court
PO Box 590
425 Main Street
Greenfield MA 01302
The original records are either at the courthouse or at the Judicial Archives in Boston. Their located has not been researched.
- The Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants has online the Franklin Co., Mass., Probate Guide and Index, 1812 to 1925. From this page, select where in the alphabet you want to start. That brings you to a page for that section with a link to the page of the index by the first name on that page.
- Franklin County Probate files, #1-18089, 1812-1915, at FHL film 1787376 (1st of 394).
- Franklin County Probate: records, v. 1-49 (1812-1866), v. 1-71 (1828-1894) [no description for second series]; dockets, #1-18800 (1812-1921); index, 1812-1925, 1926-1965, at FHL film 854379 (1st of 45), New England Historic Genealogical Society, and Massachusetts Archives (to v. 49).
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
Quarterly Court of General Sessions of the Peace
This court was active from 1812 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.
There are no records microfilmed. The original records are either in the county courthouse or at the Judicial Archives. Their location has not been researched.
Inferior Court of Common Pleas
This court was active from 1812 to 1859. The court heard all civil cases over 40s unless a case involved freehold or was appealed from a justice of the peace.
- Court of Common Pleas, dockets, 1823-1865, records, 1812-1858, at FHL film 854382 (1st of 220).
- Court of Common Pleas, records, v. 16-17, 1844-1847, at New England Historic Genealogical Society.
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.
- Superior Court, records, 1859-1867, at FHL films 901086-901087.
- Superior Court, divorce record books, 1888-1933, at FHL films 2196180-2196181 and Massachusetts Archives.
- Superior Court, divorce docket, 1888-1923, at FHL film 1769526.
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.
- Supreme Judicial Court: Index, 1816-1888; Docket books, 1816-1888; Record books, 1816-1889 (inc. divorce) at Massachusetts Archives and FHL film 901088 (1st of 6) (records to 1871 only).
Justice of the Peace
- Records of Philip Phillips, J.P. of Ashfield, 1790-1792, at FHL film 902898 Item 5.
- Record of Henry Bassett, J.P. of Ashfield, 1816-1838, at FHL film 902898 Item 6.
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.
No federal records as yet digitized at NARA.
|Superior Court||1812-1976||Judicial Archives||Index at courthouse|| Records, 1907-1945, at Mass. Arch. RR|
Petitions, 1907-1945, FHL film 2195582 (1st of 11)
Declarations, 1906-1945, FHL films 2195580-2195581
Index, 1811-1991, FHL film 1769521-1769526, 1769527
|n/a||District courthouse||Indexed||Records, 1891-1906, and Index, 1891-1906, FHL films 1765478-1765479|
|n/a||District courthouse||n/a||Final declarations, 1899-1906, FHL film 1769564|
There are so many published maps of interest to genealogists and historians that this list will not be recreated here. The focus is with resources you can access online and in the Family History Library.
- Henry Francis Walling, Map of Franklin County, Massachusetts (1858) at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library.
- 1895 map of Franklin County.
Franklin County Massachusetts Libraries and Genealogy Societies
PO Box 53
6 Memorial Street
Deerfield MA 01342
This library is located at Historic Deerfield in association with the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association Library.
Franklin County Massachusetts Genealogy References
- Abolished County Governments - Secretary of State, Acts of 1996, Ch. 151, Sect. 567.
- Massachusetts Atlas of Historical County Boundaries