Massachusetts Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections

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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
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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


Many periodicals are published concerning Massachusetts families and history. Among the more frequently used are:

  • The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, published since 1847 by the society, serves all of New England and sets a standard for professional research with genealogies, local history, vital, church, and cemetery records and important book reviews. Each volume has an every-name annual index. A cumulative index across volumes is available as well as a more complete index in book form, online from the society or through subscription databases (see page 17), and in CD-ROM format.
  • The American Genealogist (TAG), P.O. Box 398, Demorest, GA 30535-0398 is an independent quarterly founded by Donald Lines Jacobus in 1922. Its primary focus is New England.
  • Great Migration Newsletter, in a category of its own, is available by subscription or published in groups of back issues from [http:<]. It includes articles on a variety of topics, including the settlement of early New England towns, migration patterns, seventeenth-century passenger lists, church records, and land records.
  • Essex Institute Historical Collections (1859'1993) and Essex Antiquarian: A Quarterly Magazine Devoted to the Biography, Genealogy, History and Antiquities of Essex County, Massachusetts (1897'1909) cover considerable primary and secondary source material for Essex County.
  • The Mayflower Descendant: A Quarterly Magazine of Pilgrim Genealogy and History (1899'1936; 1985-present) is published by the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants (see Archives, Libraries, and Societies). It is indexed in separate volumes with a consolidated index for 1899'1936.
  • The Mayflower Quarterly (1935-present), published by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants primarily serves as a news magazine for members with articles on the Pilgrim experience and some researched genealogies.

Periodicals focused specifically on local genealogy are:

  • The Essex Genealogist (Essex, Mass., 1980-present), published by the Essex Society of Genealogists, Inc., P.O. Box 313, Lynnfield, MA 01940-0313.

Other periodicals, no longer being published, that contain historical material include:

  • The Historical Collections of Danvers Historical Society, Danvers, Mass.: 1913'67.
  • The Dedham Historical Register, Dedham, Mass.: 1890'1903.
  • The Medford Historical Register, Medford, Mass.: 1898'1940.


Since 1704, Massachusetts newspapers have included some notices of deaths and marriages. A good number of these newspapers have been indexed in either published or typescript form. The New England Library Association's Bibliography Committee has produced A Guide to Newspaper Indexes in New England (Lynnfield, Mass.: the committee, 1978), which is extremely helpful. The American Genealogical-Biographical Index (see Background Sources for Connecticut), now also in CD-ROM format, includes an index to the genealogical column of the defunct Boston Evening Transcript (see below).

For ninety years, the Boston Pilot ran an advertising service for Irish immigrants searching for missing friends and family members. The advertisements have been published in either a six-volume set (covering years 1831'70) or CD-ROM format (for years 1831'1920), by Ruth-Ann M. Harris and B. Emer O'Keefe, eds., The Search for Missing Friends: Irish Immigrant Advertisements placed in the Boston Pilot, 1831'1920 (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1991'2002).

The largest collection of microfilm copies of newspapers in the state can be found at the Boston Public Library at Copley Square, the American Antiquarian Society, the State Library of Massachusetts. But perhaps the most important newspaper for genealogical purposes, and one which should not be overlooked in Massachusetts research, is the Boston Evening Transcript. Between 1895 and 1941, it offered a genealogical column of queries, answers, and notes. Indexes to these valuable columns are available at the Boston Public Library and other New England repositories along with indexes of a similar column in the Hartford Times (see Connecticut Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections).


Rich manuscript sources exist in many excellent repositories in the state. In the eastern portion of the state are the following key collections: the New England Historic Genealogical Society; Massachusetts Archives; Massachusetts Historical Society, which has a catalog of seven volumes; and the Peabody Essex Institute, Old Colony Historical Society in Taunton and Old Sturbridge Village.

There are several collections in the western portion of the state, the largest of which are at the Berkshire Athenaeum and Connecticut Valley Historical Museum.