A Treasure Trove of Colonial History

The entire New England area is rich in colonial history, much of it faithfully documented by local historians.

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The Massachusetts Bay Colony and Boston itself date back to 1620. The entire New England area is rich in colonial history, much of it faithfully documented by local historians. You’ll find a treasure trove of research resources in Boston. The significant resources for genealogical research in the city include the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston Public Library, and the State of Massachusetts Archives. These institutions offer a wealth of resources to help you trace your ancestry and build your family tree — and much of it is free.

New England Historic Genealogical Society

New England Historic Genealogical Society

The New England Historic Genealogical Society is the place to visit if your time is limited. It offers 200,000-plus published genealogies, biographies and local histories, and over 100,000 microfilm reels containing vital records, administrations, and wills going as far back as 1620. Located on Newberry Street in Boston, NEHGS is a kind of umbrella research facility that houses many City of Boston records, including births, death, and marriage records. Vast amounts of information are available online and in the research library. However, to access these records, you must be a member. A new visitor welcome tour is held on the second Saturday of each month.

State Archives (Massachusetts Secretary of State)

The Boston State Archives is the place to research military, court, and legislative records dating from as far back as 1620. It is also the repository of the state census records and property deeds. Access to most records is available online and in the two State and Commonwealth of Massachusetts libraries. The Massachusetts Archive Database is an online resource that goes back to 1629 and provides immigration records, as well as records of Indian affairs and witchcraft trials.

Massachusetts Historical Society

Founded in 1791, the Massachusetts Historical Society holds the Presidential papers of John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. It houses a large collection of individual and family letters, diaries, newspapers, maps, and broadsides (one-page notices that were posted to make announcements) from the Colonial era.

Boston Public Library

If local histories and heraldic resources are of interest, the Boston Public Library is the place to find them. The library also offers an extensive collection of historical journals and periodicals.

Boston is a vibrant and dynamic city that offers a wealth of research resources that date back to the very founding of the United States.  Beginning with the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the researcher can explore extensive collections of Boston and Massachusetts State records and find everything from birth, death, and marriage records to court records and newspapers. If you can’t schedule a visit to the city, you can supplement your Boston search with free genealogy research online.

Additional Massachusetts Resources: