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Winter 2002
A Publication of the St. Louis Public Library

Vol. 2   No. 1


The Did You Know? section is designed to provide tips and research strategies and to  highlight a particular type of genealogical tool or resource.

The focus of this issue of Gateway Family Historian is Massachusetts’s resources. This time, we will look at the wealth of information contained in the collections of the Massachusetts Archives. The Massachusetts Archives is under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Commonwealth. It is the repository for records generated by state government. Earliest holdings of the Archives date from 1628. The Archives is open weekdays 9 AM-5 PM, and Saturdays 9 AM- 3 PM (closed legal holidays). Archives staff can only do limited research, so answers to lengthy or complex questions will require either a visit to the Archives or hiring a professional researcher. The Archives holds Massachusetts city and town registration books for the period 1841-1910. These books contain lists of births, deaths, and marriages occurring in that place during the year in question. Index books covering five-year periods allow access to these records. The Archives also has a set of 328 numbered scrapbook volumes known as the Massachusetts Archives Collection. These volumes contain various governmental records for the time period 1629-1799. Most of the volumes have been microfilmed, most have a table of contents, and many have been indexed.

Within the Archives building is a collection known as the Judicial Archives. It contains numerous types of Massachusetts court records, most pre-1900. Such records can include materials on wills, probates, naturalizations, divorces, and other types of legal proceedings. Before visiting, the re-searcher should call ahead to be sure the court records desired are held by the Judicial Archives, as some court records are still maintained by the court of origination.

gfhbooks.gif (35011 bytes)The Archives also holds:

  • Federal Census microfilm for Massachusetts, 1790-1880, plus the 1890 Special Census of Massachusetts Union veterans and their widows.
  • 1855 & 1865 Massachusetts State Census.
  • Port of Boston passenger lists, 1841-1891.
  • 1754 Massachusetts Slave Census.
  • Seamen’s certificates, Massachusetts sailors, 1815-1860.
  • Returns of Massachusetts paupers, lunatics, and idiots, 1842.
  • Various military records for Massachusetts soldiers in the colonial wars: Revolutionary War, Shays’ Rebellion, War of 1812, Civil War, and Spanish-American War.

Information on other materials in the Massachusetts Archives collections may be found on its website:

Secretary of the Commonwealth Massachusetts Archives
220 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, MA 02125
(617) 727-2816

Table of Contents