Massachusetts County Resources
This entry was originally written by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG, for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
The following is a guide to beginning dates and locations of Massachusetts deeds, probates, and court records. Inquiries for land records should be addressed “Registry of Deeds” at the county (or district) seat. In some counties, division of the Registry of Deeds became necessary to make the location closer to the land involved in the transaction. Some registeries have websites. Make sure the deed information sought falls in the appropriate district for the time period and geography involved.
The “Probate Court Clerk” at the county seat should be addressed for probate records; and “Clerk of Courts” for civil court records. As with other New England states, the New England Genealogic Historical Society has an extensive microfilm collection of county resources for Massachusetts.
|Map||County||County Address||Date Formed||Parent County(ies)||Land||Probate||Court|
|J6||Barnstable||Main Street, Barnstable 02630||1685 as Barnstable||County of Plymouth Colony||1827*||1686||1686|
|*Fire destroyed nearly all early deed books and probate files, but probate books survived. Although the official deed books only begin in 1827, many deeds were re-recorded back to about 1783, though these are far from complete.|
|A3||Berkshire||44 Bank Row, Pittsfield 01201||1761||Hampshire||1761||1761||1761|
|Divided into three districts in 1788. The above office is the “parent” county seat, encompassing all the Berkshire towns between 1761—88. After that it was still the probate office for the county, but only the registry of deeds for the Middle District (see Town Resources for towns in each of Berkshire’s three registry of deeds districts).|
|G5||Bristol||11 Court St., Taunton 02780||1685 as Bristol||County of Plymouth Colony||1685||1685||1685|
|The county seat was Bristol until 1746 when succeeded by Taunton. The Taunton seat divided into three districts in 1837 with the above remaining as probate office but only registry of deeds for the Northern District (see Town Resources for towns in each of Bristol’s registry of deeds districts).|
|Bristol Southern District||25 N. Sixth St., New Bedford 02740||1837|
|Bristol Fall River District||441 N. Main St., Fall River 02720||1837|
|H7||Dukes||81 Main St., Edgartown 02539||1683 (as a New York County)||1695 (as a Mass. County)||1686||1696||1665|
|Records from 1665 deal with Martha’s Vineyard.|
|H2||Essex||32 Federal St., Salem 01970||1643||original||1637||1635||1636|
|The county was divided into two districts in 1869. The above office is the “parent” county seat. After that it remained the probate office for the county, but the registry of deeds for only the Southern District (see Town Resources for towns in each of the registry of deeds districts). This registry also has all the “old” Norfolk County (1637—1714) and Ipswich Series Deeds, 1640—94, two of which have been transcribed by George Sanborn for the manuscript collection at New England Historic Genealogical Society. Essex court records to 1800 are at the Peabody Essex Museum (see Archives, Libraries, and Societies).|
|Essex Northern District||381 Common St., Lawrence 01840||1869|
|B2||Franklin||425 Main St., Greenfield 01310||1811||Hampshire||1787*||1812||1812|
|*Earlier deeds for land now in Franklin County are at Springfield (see Hampden County). Abstracts of these deeds recorded at the Springfield registry from 1663—1786 are at Greenfield. Deeds for 1787-present are in Greenfield; between 1787—1812 they were recorded at the Deerfield registry, which was transferred to Greenfield in 1812. Probates before 1812 for towns now in Franklin County are at Northampton (see Hampshire County).|
|B4||Hampden||50 State St., Springfield 01103||1812||Hampshire||1636*||1812†||1812†|
| *Although not established as Hampden County until 1812, Springfield was the registry for Hampden’s parent county, Hampshire, which was divided into three registries–Deerfield, Springfield, and Northampton–in 1787. Deerfield registry was transferred to Greenfield when Franklin County was established in 1811 (see Franklin and Hampshire). All deeds for land originally in Hampshire as well as Franklin and Hampden before their county division from Hampshire are located at the Springfield registry.
†Probates before 1812 for towns covered now by Hampden County are at the Hampshire Probate Office in Northampton. The bulk of the pre-1812 court records are also in Northampton.
|C3||Hampshire||33 King St., Northampton 01060||1662||Middlesex||1812*||1660||1677|
|*In 1787 three registry offices were created (Deerfield, Springfield, and Northampton) for Hampshire County corresponding with what eventually became the three present counties of Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire, respectively. All deeds for the Northampton registry before it became what is now Hampshire County are located at the Springfield registry.|
|F2||Middlesex||208 Cambridge St., Cambridge 02141||1643||original||1649*||1654*||1643|
|*Until 1649, records were kept in Boston. The county was divided into two districts in 1855. The above office is the “parent” county seat, encompassing all the Middlesex towns between 1643—1855. After that it was still the probate office for the county, but the registry of deeds for only the Southern District (see Town Resources for towns in each of Middlesex’s two registry of deeds districts).|
|Middlesex Northern District||360 Gorham St., Lowell 01852||1855|
|K7||Nantucket||16 Broad St., Nantucket 02554||1695||Dukes||1695||1706||1721|
|Norfolk “Old”||Essex County Courthouse, 32 Federal, Salem 01970||1643 (abolished 1680)||original||1637–1714|
|Exeter, Salisbury, Hampton, Haverhill, Dover, and Portsmouth (formerly Strawbery Banke) were in this county until it was abolished. All but Salisbury and Haverhill are now in New Hampshire. Probate and deed records for these towns in this period are located here.|
|G4||Norfolk||649 High St., Dedham 02026||1793||Suffolk||1793||1793||1793|
|Plymouth County towns of Hingham and Hull were part of Norfolk County from 1793—1803.|
|H5||Plymouth||11 S. Russell St., Plymouth 02360||1685 as Plymouth County of Plymouth Colony||1620||1633||1630|
|Plymouth Colony divided into three counties in 1685. The entire colony joined with Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691 to form the commonwealth. All earlier records that apply to Plymouth Colony are at the county commissioner’s office above, bound in a separate series. The present probate and registry of deeds office is at the same address. Court records (1686—1859) are at the Pilgrim Society, Court Street, Plymouth, MA 02360.|
|E3||Worcester||2 Main St., Worcester 01608||1731||Middlesex/Suffolk||1731||1731||1731|
|Worcester divided into two registries for deeds only in 1884 (see Town Resources for those towns that fall under this Worcester district registry after that date).|
|Worcester Northern District||84 Elm St., Fitchburg 01420||1884|