One of the more common types of questions we get at the State Library are questions related to genealogy. We have some great resources that can help you in your hunt for information.
The first is our Guide to Genealogical Resources. This guide is a great place to start your research as it can send you in so many different directions. We break down resources by topic, starting with geographical resources. You can search through tax valuations, vital records, and probate records. We even have an alphabetical list of Massachusetts city and town reports. Many of these reports, which contain vital information such as births and deaths, have been digitized and are available in our digital repository. Those that haven’t been can be viewed in our Special Collections Department with an appointment made in advance.
In terms of biographical resources that can help you with your genealogy research, the State Library has a few different things to offer. Our historical newspaper collection
spans the 18th-20th centuries with a focus mostly on newspapers from Massachusetts. We also have a collection of published family histories
and a Legislative Biographical File
, pictured on the left.
This file was put together by Caleb Tillinghast, the first State Librarian of Massachusetts. Consisting of over 20,000 hand-written cards, it is indexed alphabetically by last name and includes legislative biographical information for each member of the Massachusetts General Court and Constitutional Offices starting in 1780. It can be used on-site during the Library’s open hours.
|Photograph of F. B. Dwier,|
101st Infan. 3rd. Recruit Co.
If you’re interested in genealogy research related to Massachusetts soldiers and sailors, check out this guide
for some helpful resources. We have a WWI Soldier Card File
with close to 40,000 index cards containing biographical and service information for Massachusetts soldiers who served in WWI. That can be viewed in our Special Collections Department by appointment. If you’d like to take a look at some WWI soldier photographs that we have digitized, check out this collection
on DSpace, our digital repository. These 8,500 or so photographs were given to the State Library by the Boston Globe in 1935. The photos appear to be the professional military photo of each soldier and contain the name, rank, unit, and division of each person. Some photos contain additional information, if an article had appeared in the Globe.
|Sergeant Andrew Jackson Smith|
(from the Col. Alfred S. Hartwell
Additionally, we digitized volumes of Massachusetts soldiers, sailors & Marines of the Revolutionary War
and the Civil War
. You’ll find biographical information in these resources, as well as information related to their service. We also have the Colonel Alfred Stedman Hartwell Papers
. This collection contains photographs of Civil War soldiers in the 44th and 55th regiments of the Massachusetts Infantry. Our Special Collections Department holds these papers, so be sure to contact them if you’d like to take a look, but you can also view this collection
If you need further help with your research, we can point you in the direction of other organizations to reach out to. A few of these organizations include:
Massachusetts Archives: Repository for Massachusetts vital records (births, marriages and deaths) for the period between 1841 and 1920. A guide to their genealogical resources is available on their website. The Archives also houses the historical military records of the Massachusetts Adjutant General. This collection is one of the most complete state records of MA servicemen and women from 1775-1940.
Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics: Official repository for all Massachusetts birth, marriage and death records from 1921 to the present.
Boston Public Library: Collection of governmental records, city and town directories, New England newspapers, family and town histories, and more. A guide to their genealogical resources is available on their website. Their newspaper databases include the Boston Globe (1872-present), New York Times (1851-2015), 19th-century and international newspapers. [BPL eCard required for access to their newspaper database; free to all Massachusetts residents]
Google newspaper archive: Includes the freely accessible Boston Evening Transcript (1851-1915), and the Boston Daily Evening Transcript (1866-1872)
For a more comprehensive list of outside sources, we’ll refer you once again to our Genealogical Resources guide and our guide on Massachusetts soldiers and sailors. You’ll find contact information for these other organizations towards the middle/bottom of those guides. For an easy-to-read version of genealogical resources, take a look at the digital version of our genealogical resources pamphlet.
The State Library has a lot to offer when it comes to genealogy resources and the research process itself can sometimes seem daunting to start. We’re here to help though! Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have and we’ll point you in the right direction. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, chat with us virtually, or visit us in room 341 of the State House (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm).