Massachusetts Genealogy and Ancestry Research

This page will provide you with information that will help you in your genealogy and ancestry research for the state of Massachusetts. It includes a timeline for the state, when the state began recording vital records, what US and State census records are available, a map of the counties in the state and link to page showing when counties were formed, and links to a variety of genealogy and ancestry resources for the state of Massachusetts.

The Pilgrims landed on the outermost reaches of Cape Cod in 1620, considerably north of their original destination in Virginia. The the Massachusetts Bay Colony was established ten years later and set a course for new models regarding the concept of community, political life, and records. During the ‘Great Migration’ between 1620 and 1643, an estimated 20,000 people left England and settled in these two colonies that eventually merged, in 1691, to become the Province of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts State History Timelines

There are more detailed timelines in the Links section below.

1497 – John Cabot sails up the coast of Massachusetts.

1620 – The Pilgrims arrive at Plymouth and establish the first permanent English settlement.

1621 – The Pilgrims hold the first “Thanksgiving Festival.”

1629 – The Massachusetts Bay Colony is founded.

1691 – The Province of Massachusetts is formed when the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Plymouth Colony combine.

1692 – Nineteen people are put to death for witchcraft during the Salem witchcraft trials.

1770 – Five Boston colonists are shot by British troops in the Boston Massacre.

1773 – Colonists in Boston dump crates of tea into the harbor in the Boston Tea Party.

1775 – The Revolutionary War begins with the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

1788 – Massachusetts becomes the sixth state of the United States.

1820 – Maine separates from Massachusetts to become the 23rd state.

1961 – John F. Kennedy becomes the 35th President of the United States.

1987 – The “Big Dig” construction project begins in Boston.

Massachusetts Vital Records

Spurred by legislative order, over 200 (out of 364) towns had all their vital records to 1850 published. The volume (or volumes) in this Systematic Series for each town is divided into births, marriages, and deaths, then alphabetized by surname and, finally, given name…..

A good write up about Massachusetts Vital Records can be found at Massachusetts Vital Records, written by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG, for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources. has a variety of collections. available for free online. I’ve included many of the links below.

Massachusetts Census Records

Population Schedules

  • Indexed’1790, 1800 (incomplete), 1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
  • Soundex’1880, 1900, 1920

Industry and Agriculture Schedules

  • 1850, 1860, 1870

Mortality Schedules

  • 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880

Union Veterans Schedules

  • 1890


  • 1855 and 1865

Massachusetts Counties

Massachusetts Counties Map
Massachusetts Counties Map

Massachusetts County Resources, published in Red Book American State, County, and Town Sources, 3rd Edition, 2004, includes beginning dates and locations of Massachusetts deeds, probates, and court records.

Massachusetts Genealogy and Ancestry Links has a variety of collections available (memebership fees may apply). – a variety of collections available online for free

Massachusetts Online Genealogy Records

Find My Past – United States Marriages

Massachusetts GenWeb Project

The Ancestor Hunt – Massachusetts Birth, Marriage and Death Record Links – Massachusetts

Genealogy Trails – Massachusetts

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness

GenealogySpot – Massachusetts

Massachusetts Archives Division

Massachusetts Archives: Columbia Point Archives building files

New England Historic Genealogical Society

City of Boston – Archives and records management

LDS Genealogy – Massachusetts Genealogy

Massachusetts State History Timeline Links – Brief History Timeline

eReference Desk – Massachusetts History Timeline

Ducksters – Massachusetts State History – Massachusetts History Timeline

Timelines of History – Timeline Massachsetts

Society of Colonial Wars in Massachusetts – Massachusetts Timeline

MassHome – Notable Events in Massachusetts History