MAGenWeb Resources

Historical Genealogical Societies

New England Historic Genealogical Society [NEHGS]

Massachusetts Historical Society

Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities

Listing of additional Historical Societies

Libraries

Government-Presidential

Government-State

Consortia

Library Associations

Public Libraries

Massachusetts Vital Records

Earliest through 1849

Massachusetts Vital Records Project by John Slaughter

1850 to present

Your first step, if the town is known, is to contact the Town Clerk in the subject town.
Addresses for Clerks in all Massachusetts towns and cities can be found at:
State of Massachusetts Clerk Index

If that fails or you are uncertain of the town, contact the Massachusetts State sources:

1850 to 1910 (onsite 1841 - 1920)

Massachusetts Archives at Columbia Point
220 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125
Phone 617-727-2816

They have a searchable index.

Family Search - - they have images and a search function

MA Births 1841 - 1915

MA Marriages 1841 - 1915

MA Deaths 1841 - 1915

1920 and later

Registry of Vital Records and Statistics
1st Floor
150 Mt. Vernon Street
Dorchester MA 02125-3105
(next to the Bayside Expo Center)
(617) 740-2600

Probate Records

Probate records are available from the Massachusetts State Archives and some other sources.

1638-1882

State Archives
Massachusetts Archives at Columbia Point
220 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125

In Massachusetts, probate records are filed at the county level, based on the residence of the decedent at the time of death. To clarify, if a person died in Boston (Suffolk County) but actually lived in Duxbury (Plymouth County), than the probate file, if any, is filed at the Plymouth County Probate Court, not Suffolk County.

Unfortunately, over the years many original records have simply vanished. That's where probate "record books" come in useful, but more on that further ahead. Many other original county probate records are in storage and are basically inaccessible to the average researcher.

Other avenues that out of state researchers can pursue is to rent microfilm from the Family History Library (FHL) of the Church of the Later Day Saints (LDS).  The FHL has microfilmed many of the probate indexes and probate record books for the entire state. With the exception of Middlesex county - the FHL did film the original probate case files for Middlesex county - only - through 1871 - these probate record books filmed by the FHL are simply transcriptions of the wills and - perhaps - other documents in the case file. They are generally not films of the complete original file. The main problem with record books is that you never really know for sure what was or was not transcribed into the record book. Most important and most crucial to probate researchers, is that the list of petitioners or list of heirs, is generally not included.

Record books are invaluable in the cases of missing, lost or stolen original probate files. The serious researcher, if at all possible, should not rely solely on record book transcriptions.

Additional Probate Information including the name, location and jurisdiction of each county court.

Deeds

During the colonial period, land was granted by the General Court to proprietors, who also granted land. These records are located at the Massachusetts State Archives and other repositories. The state archives also has records and papers relating to proprietary grants, land claims, grants of bounty lands to soldiers, boundary disputes, and surveyors' records.

After proprietors sold their land or a town was incorporated, town clerks recorded deeds and mortgages. These records are at the town halls; and the Family History Library has copies of most of them. After a county was created, the land records were and still are kept by the county registry of deeds office.

After a county was created, land records were recorded at the county registry of deeds offices. Berkshire, Bristol, Essex, Middlesex, and Worcester counties have more than one office because they are divided into two or more land districts.

For more information and a list of locations, go to the Deeds page.

Passenger Lists

Over one million immigrants came through the Port of Boston between 1848 and 1891. The Massachusetts Archives is engaged in a multi-year project to convert this voluminous amount of information into a database, which is available on the Archives website. As new surnames are entered into the database, the website is updated periodically to reflect these additions.

Census Information

1790 Census Heads of Household - PDFs
Barnstable - Berkshire
Bristol - Essex
Hampshire - Middlesex
Nantucket - Suffolk
Worcester

Family Search Census Records - on going project

MA 1855 State Census
MA 1865 State Census
United States Census (Mortality Schedule), 1850
United States Census (Slave Schedule), 1850
United States Census, 1850
United States Census, 1860
United States Census, 1870
United States Census, 1880
United States Census, 1900
United States Census, 1910
United States Census, 1920
United States Census, 1930
United States, 1890 Census of Union Veterans and Widows of the Civil War
United States, Census of Merchant Seamen, 1930

Databases, Search sites, Lookups

Rootsweb Massachusetts Resource Links

Massachusetts GeneaSearch Database

Massachusetts Resouce Page at Rootsweb

Books We Own [lookups] - New England, Massachusetts

Social Security Death Index Interactive Search-Updated Monthly - mostly 1962 to present records. Probably the best SSDI search engine on the web. Extremely powerful when used in advanced mode.

Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-land-warrent Application Files. - Index site to the microfilm information. LDS online site.

Google search for Massachusetts genealogy

City Directories

Beginning in about 1850, earlier in some larger cities, independent publishers began to publish yearly or semi-annually, directories listing all the individualsin a town. Depending on the publisher, these directories contained, in additionto name and address, place of work or business, martial status, children,deaths, removals too other places etc. They serve as some what of a census for each town for the period covered. It should be understood that the information for these directories was collected, in many cases, by the cheapestavailable help and the collectors may, in some cases, not have been as diligentin speaking to the specific individual being recorded as the "official" census takers who were in some cases less than diligent as well. These directories are almost always available in the specific town library. LDS Libraries have an extensive collection.

List of available directories - this is at another site - but might be useful to know which directories are available. When you scroll down the list, there are a few links to free directories that are online.

Massachusetts Maps

Counties, Cites & Towns, Congressional Districts

1890 Gazetteer of Massachusetts

Historic USGS Maps of New England

Massachusetts county maps - 1914

Old Maps, Prints and Articles of Historical and Genealogical Interest from Massachusetts

Massachusetts Studies Project

Email Lists/Message Boards

County Message Boards

Barnstable | Berkshire | Bristol | Dukes | Essex | Franklin | Hampden | Hampshire | Middlesex | Nantucket | Norfolk | Plymouth | Suffolk | Worcester

If you DO NOT know the county, submit your query here.

County Mailing Lists

Barnstable | Berkshire | Bristol | Dukes | Essex | Franklin | Hampden | Hampshire | Middlesex | Nantucket | Norfolk | Plymouth | Suffolk | Worcester

General Interest email lists