Massachusetts Town Resources
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This entry was originally written by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG, for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
The Historical Data Relating to Counties, Cities and Towns in Massachusetts, cited in Background Sources for Massachusetts, provides some of the information that follows. Addresses are “Town Hall,” unless otherwise indicated, and come from the most recent list of town clerks distributed by the [http://www.state.ma.us/sec/ele/eleclk/clkidx.htm secretary of state. The second column lists the date the town was established and, in parentheses, former names or towns from which it was formed. The third column lists county and, if relevent, the registry of deeds district is indicated under the county.
Early records of town meetings have been published for a number of Massachusetts towns. See Ann S. Lainhart, “Town Records,” Essex Genealogist 10 (February 1990): 3-10, for a list and discussion. Some are interspersed in the original vital record books on microfiche distributed by Archive Publishing, 57 Locust St., Oxford, MA 01540. Those for Middlesex County towns are at the Boston Public Library, New England Historic Genealogical Society, or can be acquired through Early Massachusetts Records, Inc., 1154 Boylston, Boston, MA 02215. A descriptive guide to the collection was published in 1976 and can be obtained from that address.
The researcher should assume that vital records, whether in separate books or in town records, begin with the formation of the town, as do the town records. See parent towns for earlier records; and the county (see Massachusetts County Resources) for beginning dates of deeds, probates, and court records. Clerks respond to inquiries regarding vital records, since most have indexes available, but unindexed town records with details of town life (officers, tax lists, freeman’s lists, cattle and hog marks, voting lists, warnings out, overseers of the poor accounts, school records, etc.) must be searched in person either on microfilm or at the town’s office.