Massachusetts Archives, Libraries, and Societies

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This entry was originally written by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG, for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
Massachusetts sil.png
the Massachusetts Family History Research series.
History of Massachusetts
Massachusetts Vital Records
Census Records for Massachusetts
Background Sources for Massachusetts
Massachusetts Maps
Massachusetts Land Records
Massachusetts Probate Records
Massachusetts Court Records
Massachusetts Tax Records
Massachusetts Cemetery Records
Massachusetts Church Records
Massachusetts Military Records
Massachusetts Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Massachusetts Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Massachusetts Immigration
Massachusetts Naturalization
Ethnic Groups of Massachusetts
Massachusetts County Resources
Massachusetts Town Resources
Map of Massachusetts

New England Historic Genealogical Society

101 Newbury St.
Boston, MA 02116-3087

Founded in the mid-nineteenth century, the society is an extremely active center for New England family research, with an extensive collection of local and family histories, educational programs, and superior publications, including The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, a quarterly periodical, and New England Ancestors (formerly Nexus), now a quarterly magazine, both distributed to the membership. Library facilities of open stacks (except for manuscripts and rare books) and massive microfilm collections of New England town and vital records are available on a per-day basis (free for members). The book loan department makes materials available by mail to members for a small fee, with an online catalog listing circulating books. A research service is available to the general public for a fee.

Massachusetts Archives at Columbia Point

220 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125

The Massachusetts Archives holds all state copies of vital records (1841'95); passenger lists for the Port of Boston (1848'91), including a new index expected to go online; federal census records (state copies, 1850'70, with 1880 on microfilm) with all supplemental federal schedules and state censuses for 1855 and 1865; legislative records from the General Court with land grants, petitions, tax records (1643'1787); Eastern land records for the settlement of Maine; human service institution records; all military records for the state through the Revolution; and Judicial Archives beginning with colony era courts to mid-nineteenth century courts (see Massachusetts Court Records).

State Library of Massachusetts

341 State House, Beacon St.
Boston, MA 02133

Its genealogical collection includes extensive newspaper collections and indexes, town and county histories, town and county maps and atlases, and city directories back to 1787. See Kenneth E. Flower, A Guide to Massachusetts Genealogical Material in the State Library of Massachusetts (Boston: Massachusetts State Archives, 1978) or the online catalog.

Boston Public Library

Copley Sq.
700 Boylston St.
Boston, MA 02117

The Social Science Department, Newspaper, and Microtext departments have important collections for genealogical research. The first holds family genealogies and vertical file material not found elsewhere. The newspaper department has over 260 newspapers, including the Boston Evening Transcript and indexes, although they are not limited to Boston or Massachusetts. Microtext has an extensive collection of census records for New England; copies of National Archives' Boston ship passenger arrival lists (1820'91), and indexes (1848'90) (see Massachusetts Immigration; probate records for Middlesex, Suffolk, and Hampshire counties; Suffolk Court of Common Pleas; and town records, newspapers, and city directories from over 200 cities and towns in the United States. See the website for further description of holdings in various departments.

Connecticut Valley Historical Museum Library and Archives

Springfield Library Genealogy Department
220 State St.
Springfield, MA 01103

Serving the western portion of the state extremely well, this collection (formerly at the Springfield Public Library) holds an excellent local archives starting in 1636 for Springfield and vicinity. This is one of the better collections of ethnic materials available'French Canadian, Irish, and African American.

Berkshire Athenaeum

1 Wendell Ave.
Pittsfield, MA 01202

The Local History and Genealogy Department holds the Cooke Collection of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century church and cemetery records as well as abstracts of newspaper notices of marriages and deaths, the personal records of ministers, and vital records that supplement the Systematic Series (see Vital Records). Other collections include files of research notes collected by local researchers, and a three-by-five card file of vital records and notes throughout the state and the northeast. This includes Connecticut, Vermont, and Hudson Valley, New York, as well, since the area was a major conduit for movement north and west. The Berkshire Family History Association, P.O. Box 1437, Pittsfield, MA 01201 has a close relationship with the Local History and Genealogy Department of the Athenaeum, and provides a research service in the collections for its members.

Peabody Essex Museum

East India Sq.
132-134 Essex St.
Salem, MA 01970

Formerly the Essex Institute, this is the largest collection of Essex County original source material. There is a good collection of published genealogies and town histories for Essex County. This private library, available with an annual membership or for a daily fee, has the pre-1800 Essex County Court records (see Massachusetts Court Records). See website for details of holdings and accessibility.

General Society of Mayflower Descendants

P.O. Box 3297
Plymouth, MA 02361-3297

The society is the national headquarters for the state organizations of descendants of Mayflower Pilgrims. It publishes the Mayflower Quarterly and the five-generation project (see Background Sources for Massachusetts). A research library is available. The Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, 100 Boylston St., #750, Boston, MA 02116-4610 also has a useful library.

Massachusetts Historical Society

1154 Boylston St.
Boston, MA 02215-3695

Although not a genealogical library, the collection includes rare books, personal papers, manuscripts, particularly the Thwing Collection of Early Bostonians (most of which is now available on CD-ROM from the society and New England Historic Genealogical Society), and rare books focusing particularly on Boston, Massachusetts, and New England.

Pilgrim Hall Museum

75 Court St.
Plymouth, MA 02360

While its collections are historical, not genealogical, the museum library holds the Plymouth County Court Record Books from 1686'1859. Otherwise, the collection focuses on the Pilgrim experience in Plymouth.

American Antiquarian Society

185 Salisbury St.
Worcester, MA 01609

Its superior collection, specializing in printed sources of American history prior to 1877, also includes a fine newspaper collection.