Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Early Massachusetts Registers: A Researcher’s Goldmine

The State Library’s digitized collection of early Massachusetts Registers, which cover from the mid-18th up through the late 19th centuries, were recently made available through our DSpace electronic documents repository. Not to be confused with what is presently known as the “Massachusetts Register” (published by the Office of the Secretary of State of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts), these early annual publications acted as both almanacs and directories and sought to inform readers on the weather and celestial events, important dates, duties on imports, basic census figures, and other topics that allow us to document the goings-on in Massachusetts during these years. The almanacs are also an invaluable resource on Massachusetts state and city/town elected officials, justices, lawyers, sheriffs, ministers, and officers of various organizations throughout the state; institutions such as schools, churches, and societies; area businesses; soldiers; and military activities. In earlier volumes, it’s common (and exciting!) to come across such famous names as John and Samuel Adams, John Hancock, George Washington, James Bowdoin, and others.
One interesting feature found within the 1862 register is a lengthy section titled “History of the Rebellion and Massachusetts Action”, which covers state, legislative and military action, noteworthy men, and the historical events leading up to the beginning and early years of the Civil War through 1862. A substantial part of this section provides a complete account of the Massachusetts Volunteer regiments, including sketches about each regiment and lists of soldiers’ names accompanied by the Mass. cities and towns from which they hailed.

For more information on the early Massachusetts Registers, or if you would like to view them in person, please visit our Special Collections Department in Room 55 in the State House, or call 617-727-2595 to speak with a Special Collections librarian. The State Library is open Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm.

Kaitlin Connolly, Library Technician
Reference Department