Free Online Colonial Massachusetts Records

The Colonial Society of Massachusetts was founded at Boston in 1892 to promote the study of Massachusetts history from the earliest settlements to the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Society occasionally convenes conferences on the subject. It is a member organization of the Ne England Regional Fellowship Consortium. And it is co-sponsor, with the University of Massachusetts/Boston of the New England Quarterly.

While the society does not have a library or manuscript collection of its own, the largest part of the execution of its mission, however, has been the publication of records. Their focus is on documentary collections that cover the period of their mission. 

Altogether the Society has published 88 volumes of material. Twenty-six of these volumes are transactions of their meetings from 1892 through 1963. While meeting proceedings, may sound a bit dry, there may be valuable information in them. While there are long reports and letters, that may be of little interest, you will often find more significant materials. For example, many members would present items of interest, such as maps, images, documents, and more. 

Volume 18, for example, includes information about members of the Philomusarian Club at Harvard. This information sometimes included dates and places of birth and death, parents’ and grandparents’ names, and information about their later life. (p.82–4). Also at this meeting, a muster roll for Captain Thomas Larimore’s Company, mustered 1 December 1702. If you have ancestors who served in these units, it can help you discover more about their service. It includes information about troop movements and duties, and a transcription of the information on the original roll (p. 84–93).

Some of the volumes deal with cultural subjects, such as eighteenth century furniture in Boston, law, medicine, music, seafaring, and other topics in colonial Massachusetts, New England Silver and Silversmithing, and more. There are a number of collections of personal papers, journals, and diaries. 

Perhaps most important, however, are the collections of record transcriptions that have been published:

  • Records of the Suffolk County Court 1671–1680 (vol. 29–30)
  • The Records of the First Church in Boston, 1630–1868 (vol. 39–41)
  • The Records of Trinity Church, Boston 1728–1830 (vol. 55–56)
  • The Eighteenth-Century Records of the Boston Overseers of the Poor (vol. 69)

The Colonial Church Records of the First Church of Reading (Wakefield) and the First Church of Rumney Marsh (Revere) (vol. 72)The best part is that the Society has made all of these volumes available online for free on their website. They are searchable by keywords. The search can be limited to individual publications, or all of them. Each volume is presented as it was originally published, with the original indexes and page numbers. Check out the publications section of the website for more information. 

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