Franklin County, Massachusetts Genealogy

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United States Gotoarrow.png Massachusetts Gotoarrow.png Franklin County

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.

Franklin County Massachusetts History

Brief 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.[1]

Historical Data

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

Dates Events
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]
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Towns and Cities

The following list of present-day Franklin 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.
Ashfield (1765) | Bernardston (1762) | Buckland (1779)
Charlemont (1765) | Colrain (1761) | Conway (1775)
Deerfield (1677) | Erving (1838) | Gill (1793)
Greenfield (1775) | Hawley (1792) | Heath (1785)
Leverett (1774) | Leydon (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)
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County Histories

Works written on the county include:


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Franklin 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 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.

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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 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.

The records microfilmed:

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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.

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 Franklin County
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Franklin County Massachusetts Genealogy Societies

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Franklin County Massachusetts Genealogy References