Massachusetts History

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For a detailed guide to Massachusetts research,
see the Massachusetts Genealogy Guide page.

Jonathan Fairbanks house in Dedham, Massachusetts. Oldest standing wood frame house in North America.

Online resources

Brief History

The following important events in the history of Massachusetts affected political jurisdictions, family movements, and record keeping.

Historical Content

Histories are great sources of genealogical information. Many contain biographical information about individuals who lived in the area, including:

  • Parents' names
  • Maiden names of women
  • Place of birth, death, or marriage
  • Occupation
  • Migration
  • Military service
  • Descendants

Local Histories

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search. Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies.

State Histories Useful to Genealogists

Good genealogists strive to understand the life and times of their ancestors. In this sense, any history is useful. But certain kinds of state, county, and local histories, especially older histories published between 1845 and 1945, often include biographical sketches of prominent individuals. The sketches usually tend toward the laudatory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name. Some examples for the State of Massachusetts are:

United States History

The following are only a few of the many sources that are available:

To find more books and articles about Massachusetts' history use the Internet Google search for phases like "Massachusetts history." FamilySearch Catalog Surname Search lists many more histories under topics like:

MASSACHUSETTS - HISTORY
MASSACHUSETTS, [COUNTY] - HISTORY
MASSACHUSETTS, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - HISTORY
MASSACHUSETTS, BIBLIOGRAPHY

Web Sites

Wiki articles describing online collections are found at:

Sources

  1. Haskell, John Duncan. Massachusetts: A Bibliography of Its History. Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1983. (Family History Library book 974.4 H23m.)
  2. Filby, P. William. A Bibliography of American County Histories. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1985. (FHL book 973 H23bi)
  3. Worldcat
  4. Kaminkow, Marion J. United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress. 5 vols. Baltimore: Magna Charta Book, 1975-76. (FHL book 973 A3ka.)
  5. Worldcat
  6. Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed. Commonwealth History of Massachusetts: Colony, Province, and State. 5 vols. New York, NY: The States History, 1927-30. (Family History Library book 974.4 H2h.)
  7. Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983. (FHL book 973 H2alm)
  8. Worldcat
  9. Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976. (FHL book 973 H2ad.)
  10. Worldcat
  11. Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. Springfield, Mass.: GC Merriam, 1971. (FHL book 973 H2v)
  12. Limited view at Google Books
  13. Worldcat
  14. Writings on American History By American Historical Association, Library of Congress, United States National Historical Publications Commission, Published by KTO Press, 1921 FHL book 973 H23w
  15. Worldcat
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