Middlesex County, Massachusetts Genealogy
This is a historical and genealogical guide to the county of Middlesex. 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 Essex County Massachusetts History
- 2 Middlesex County Massachusetts Genealogy Resources
- 3 Middlesex County Massachusetts Genealogy Societies
- 4 Middlesex County Massachusetts Genealogy References
Essex County Massachusetts History
Middlesex County was one of the four original counties when [Bay Colony] created counties in 1643. When established, it had no defined western or northern border. These borders were more clearly defined when Worcester County was created in 1731 on the west and the Province of New Hampshire in 1680 to the north, but this border remained in dispute until 1741. Early settlers in this county went north, west, and south to establish new settlements in the 1600s and 1700s. The oldest college in the United States was established in Cambridge in 1636 - Harvard College, now Harvard University. Lowell, on the Merrimack River, became one of the centers of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1800s that drew many immigrants to work in the mills, especially Irish and French-Canadian. The county government was abolished on 11 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.
|10 May 1643||Middlesex County created as one of the four original counties formed out of Massachusetts Bay Colony with no defined western boundary. [Mass. Rec., 2: 38]|
|26 May 1658||Billerica lost 15 acres to Andover, Essex Co.|
|10 July 1731||Worcester County created from the western portion.|
|29 June 1732||Land from Groton and Stow, and Lancaster, Worcester Co., taken to form the new town of Harvard in Worcester Co. that altered the border there.|
|14 June 1735||Small lost when Upton, Worcester Co., was created on its border.|
|6 Mar. 1767||Small gain when Ashby was created from Townsend with small parts of Ashburnham and Fitchburg in Worcester Co.|
|25 Feb. 1783||Gained when Boxborough annexed part of Harvard, Worcester Co.|
|16 Mar. 1784||Small lost when Berlin was created from Bolton and Northborough (all in Worcester Co.) and Marlborough.|
|7 Mar. 1786||Small lost when Southborough, Worcester Co., annexed from Framingham.|
|16 Nov. 1792||Gained large triangular piece when Ashby annexed it from Ashburnham, Worcester Co.|
|22 June 1797||Sizable loss when Natick and Needham, Norfolk Co., exchanged land to straighten out border.|
|20 June 1807||Small lost when Northborough, Worcester Co., annexed a part of Marlborough.|
|8 Mar. 1808||Small lost when Upton, Worcester Co., annexed a part of Hopkinton.|
|11 Feb. 1829||One acre lost when Bolton, Worcester Co., annexed a part of Marlborough.|
|27 Mar. 1835||Redefined border between Hopkinton and Holliston, and Milford, Worcester Co.|
|16 Mar. 1838||Redefined border between Marlborough and Bolton in Worcester Co.|
|23 Apr. 1838||Sizable loss when Roxbury, Norfolk Co., annexed a part of Newton.|
|24 Mar. 1843||Small area gained when Marlborough annexed a part of Southborough, Worcester Co.|
| 3 Mar. 1846
25 Apr. 1848
|Redefined border between Shirley and Lunenburg, Worcester Co.|
|10 Apr. 1854||Reading annexed a part of Lynnfield, Essex Co.|
|7 Jan. 1858||North Reading annexed a part of Lynnfield, Essex Co.|
|1 Apr. 1859||Small lost when Milford, Worcester Co., annexed a part of Holliston.|
|20 Mar. 1868||Hudson annexed a small part of Bolton, Worcester Co.|
|5 Jan. 1874||Suffolk County annexed all of Brighton and Charlestown.|
| 29 May 1874
1 July 1875
|Redefined border between Newton and Boston, Suffolk Co.|
|4 May 1891||Redefined border between Somerville and Boston, Suffolk Co.|
| 29 Mar. 1898
16 May 1898
|Redefined border in Charles River with Cambridge and land with Newton, with Boston, Suffolk Co.|
|16 May 1901||Redefined border with Marlborough and Southborough, Wocester Co.|
| 21 May 1903-
2 May 1905
|Several redefined borders with Tewksbury, North Reading, and Reading with Essex Co. towns.|
|1 May 1905||Redefined border between Hudson and Marlborough with Berlin, Worcester Co.|
|14 June 1906||Small gain when Littleton annexed a part of Harvard, Worcester Co.|
|28 Mar. 1907||Redefined border between Newton and Brookline, Norfolk Co.|
|16 May 1907||Redefined border between Hopkinton with Milford and Upton, Worcester Co.|
|29 Mar. 1910||Redefined border in Charles River with Cambridge with Boston, Suffolk Co.|
|18 Sept. 1933||Small gain when Wakefield annexed a part of Saugus, Essex Co.|
|10 Apr. 1947||Redefined border between Reading and Lynnfield, Essex Co.|
Towns and Cities
The following list of present-day Middlesex 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.
Ayer (1871) | Bedford (1729) | Belmont (1859) | Billerica (1655)
Boxborough (1835) | Burlington (1799) | Cambridge (1636) | Carlisle (1780)
Chelmsford (1655) | Concord (1635) | Dracut (1701) | Dunstable (1673)
Everett (1870) | Framingham (1700) | Groton (1655) | Holliston (1724)
Hopkinton (1715) | Hudson (1866) | Lexington (1713) | Lincoln (1754)
Littleton (1715) | Lowell (1826) | Malden (1649) | Marlborough (1660)
Maynard (1871) | Medford (1630) | Melrose (1850) | Natick (1781)
Newton (1688) | North Reading (1853) | Pepperell (1775) | Reading (1644)
Sherborn (1674) | Shirley (1775) | Somerville (1842) | Stoneham (1725)
Stow (1683) | Sudbury (1639) | Tewksbury (1734) | Townsend (1732)
Tyngsborough (1809) | Wakefield (1812) | Waltham (1738) | Watertown (1630)
Wayland (1780) | Westford (1729) | Weston (1713) | Wilmington (1730)
Winchester (1850) | Woburn (1642)
Works written on the county include:
- Biographical Review ... containing life sketches of leading citizens of Middlesex County, Massachusetts (Boston, 1898), 838 pp.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL book 974.44 D3b or film 1320577 Item 2.
Digital versions at Internet Archive and Torrentz.
- Henry J. Cadbury, "Quakers and their abettors, Middlesex County, Massachusetts" in the Bulletin of Friends' Historical Association, 27 [Spr. 1938]: 9-16.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL film 1697442 Item 4.
Digital version at Project Muse.
- Edwin P. Conklin, Middlesex County and its People: a history (New York, 1927), 5v.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL book 974.44 H2c v. #.
- Samuel Adams Drake, ed., History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, containing carefully prepared histories of every city and town in the county ... (Boston, 1880), 2v.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL book 974.44 H2d v. # (with digital link) or FHL film 1550234.
Digital versions at Internet Archive (v. 1 and v. 2) and Google Books (v. 2 only).
- Levi Swanton Gould, Ancient Middlesex with brief Biographical Sketches of the Men who served the county officially since its settlement ([Somerville], Mass., 1905), 336 pp.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL book 974.44 D3g and film 1320725 Item 9.
Digital versions at Internet Archive, Hathi Trust, and Ancestry ($).
- D. Hamilton Hurd, ed., History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men ... (Philadelphia, 1890), 3v. in 4.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL book 974.44 H2h v. # (with digital link).
Digital versions at Internet Archive (v. 1, v. 2, and v. 3), Google Books (v. 1 and v. 3 only), and Ancestry ($).
- Christopher Roberts, The Middlesex Canal, 1793-1860 (Cambridge, Mass., 1938), xii, 252 pp.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); Not at FHL.
- Samuel Sewall, "A Brief Survey of the Congregational Churches and Ministers in the County of Middlesex, and in Chelsea in the County of Suffolk, Ms., from the first settlement of the country to the present day" in American Quarterly Register, 11 [1838-1839]: 45-55, 174-197, 248-279, 376-402; 12 [1839-1840]: 234-250; 13 [1840-1841]: 37-57; 14 : 251-264, 393-411.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); Not at FHL.
- Roger Thompson, Sex in Middlesex: popular mores in a Massachusetts County, 1649-1699 (Amherst, Mass., 1986), xix, 252 pp.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); Not at FHL.
- The Middlesex County MAGenWeb Project, an member of The MAGenWeb Project, an affiliate of The USGenWeb Project.
- The USGenWeb Archives Project for Middlesex County
- The USGenWeb Archives Project for Middlesex County (backup site)
- FamilySearch.org Family History Library catalog for Middlesex County
Middlesex 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 by 1800. An index to the county copy can be found at FHL film 1420474 Item 3. 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. Middlesex County is divided into two districts. The county was one district until the creation of the Northern District in 1855.
Middlesex North Registry of Deeds
360 Gorham Street
Lowell MA 01852
This district includes Billerica, Carlistle, Chelmsford, Dracut, Dunstable, Lowell, Tweksbury, Tyngsborough, Westford, and Wilmington.
The original records are held by the Registry but closed to the public. All their records are available ONLINE at LowellDeeds.com. Deeds are searchable by index since 1976. The older deeds, books 1 through 2789, can be viewed on the site, but only by volume and page. Deeds for this district prior to its creation in 1855 were copied from the southern district by town. This is available online, too, but without an index and it does not correspond to the southern district's volume and page.
Note: To see records before 1976, you must first go to the SEARCH option that takes you to the masslandrecords.com website for Northern Middlesex. Under the link at the top left called "Search Criteria," you can select the grantor or grantee index. From the new search page, you can search for a surname or exact name. The default is the pre-district period up to 1855. Later periods to 1975 can be selected before your search. These indexes will give you the volume and page you need for the Registry's main search page of older records by volume and page, town, a brief description, and the type of deed. The pre-1856 index includes the original volume and page found in the Middlesex South distict.
There are no microfilmed records from this district.
Middlesex South Registry of Deeds
208 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA 02141
This district included the entire county up to 1855 and all southern towns not listed above after that.
The original records are held by Registry office and your research will likely require a personal visit to the office. The only records online are: Deed indexes since 1974 and deed books since 1986 are available online from the main page that directs you to the MassLandRecords.com for Middlesex South.
Note: Grantor indexes (NOT grantee) from 1896 to 1973 are available for sale on 8-disc DVD set from the Middlesex South Registry.
Note: All these records (FHL film 532454 (1st of 1780)) listed below are online at FamilySearch.org as a browsable collection only (as of Aug. 2013). Also, it is not clearly stated, but these records are for the entire county up to 1855, though only for Middlesex South after that.
- Grantor indexes, 1639-1950, 358 reels.
As 1639-1799 (3); 1800-1835 (3); 1836-1846 (2); 1847-1859 (6); 1860-1869 (14); 1870-1880 (21); 1881-1890 (22); 1891-1895 (15); 1896-1950 (272).
- Grantee indexes, 1639-1905, 95 reels.
As 1639-1799 (3); 1800-1835 (3); 1836-1846 (2); 1847-1859 (6); 1860-1869 (11); 1870-1880 (18); 1881-1890 (16); 1891-1895 (13); 1896-1905 (23).
- Deeds, v. 1 (1639) - v. 2790 (1899).
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 page.
Middlesex County operates one office for the entire county holding all the records. Most probates are handled by one of the four satellite offices in the county.
Cambridge Satellite Session
121 Third Street
Cambridge MA 02141
Concord Satellite Session
305 Walden Street
Concord MA 01742
Marlborough Satellite Session
45 Williams Street
Marlborough MA 01752
Lowell Satellite Session
360 Gorham Street
Lowell MA 01852
The original records are likely still stored at the courthouse. That could not be confirmed by a telephone call to the court in August 2013.
There are no records available online, but the FamilySearch.org is scheduled to upload the Middlesex County Probate records from 1648 to 1967 in the future. [as of Aug. 2013]
The following records are available at the FHL film 385978 (1st of 886); Massachusetts Archives through 1871 with record books to 1909 and file papers to 19846; and New England Historic Genealogical Society through 1924 (1st series, complete) and through 1967 (2nd series, incomplete).
- For indexes, see published books below.
- Docket books, #1-45383.
- Record books, v. 1-609.
- File papers, #1-45383.
- Probate packets, 2nd series, 1872-1967, #1-19935.
- Miscellaneous index and records, 1659-1692
- Thomas Bellows Wyman, "Abstract of Middlesex Court files from 1649 [to 1675]," Mss 596, R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston ($) (with digital link).
- Robert H. Rodgers, Middlesex County in the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay in New England: Records of Probate and Administration (Boston, 1999-2005), 3v.
Note: Vol. 1, 1649-1660; Vol. 2, 1661-1670; Vol. 3, 1671-1676.
WorldCat (Other Libraries) (WorldCat v. 1, v. 2, v. 3; FHL book 974.44 P2r v. 1 or 2 and does not have v. 3.
- Index to the probate Records of the County of Middlesex, Massachusetts (Cambridge, Mass., 1912-1953), 10v.
First Series, 1648-1870; Second Series, 1871-1909; Third Series, 1910-1924; Fourth Series, 1925-1939; Fifth Series, 1940-1949.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL book 974.44 P22m ser. 1 and film 385977 (with digital link) and FHL book 974.44 P22m ser. 2 and films 385970-385973 (3rd-5th ser.).
Digital versions at AmericanAncestors ($) First Series and Internet Archives, Second Series (v. 1 and v. 2).
- William A. Richardson, "Judges of Probate, County of Middlesex, Mass." in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 29 : 61-66.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL book 974 B2ne v. 29 and film 962859.
Digital version also at AmericanAncestors.org ($).
Other Court Records
- Hendrik Hartog, "The Public Law of a County Court: Judicial Government in Eighteenth Century Massachusetts" in American Journal of Legal History, 20 : 282-329.
A study of the records of the Middlesex County Court of General Sessions, 1728-1803.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL book 973 B2ajL v. 20.
Digital version at Jstor ($).
- Nathaniel Harris, Records of the Court of Nathaniel Harris, one of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace within and for the county of Middlesex, holden at Watertown from 1734 to 1761 ... (Watertown, Mass., 1938), 135 pp.
WorldCat (Other Libraries); FHL digital link.
- [Alicia Crane Williams], "Handlist of Middlesex County Massachusetts Fornication cases, 1649-1749" (S.l., typ., 1979), 23 pp.
Not on WorldCat; Not at FHL; Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants Library.
Middlesex County Massachusetts Genealogy Societies
Middlesex County Massachusetts Genealogy References
- Abolished County Governments - Secretary of State, Acts of 1997, Ch. 48, Sect. 1.
- Massachusetts Atlas of Historical County Boundaries