Although the State Library is primarily a government research library, it does hold some materials useful for genealogical research. The information below lists publications available here at the State Library as well as materials available online. While the State Library is unable to answer complex genealogical research questions, reference librarians are available to help guide you through our materials.

Geographical Resources

Massachusetts Town Reports 
These publications provide details of transactions recorded by town officials. Some towns published the names in recorded births, marriages, and deaths, though some recorded only the statistics of these events. Some reports contain jury lists and taxpayer lists and assessments.

Histories of Towns, Cities, and Counties 
The State Library has an extensive collection of histories for cities, towns, and counties across the Commonwealth. Search the Library's online public catalog for specific holdings.

Probate Records 
The Library’s collection includes some early probate records for Barnstable, Bristol, Essex, Middlesex, and Plymouth counties, as well as some index volumes for Middlesex (1648-1870), Suffolk (1636-1922), and Worcester (1731-1904) counties. Search the Library's online public catalog for specific holdings.

Vital Records Series (to 1850) 
Compiled and published in the early 20th century for many municipalities in Massachusetts, these volumes include birth, marriage, and death information transcribed from town and church records, cemeteries, and private sources. Some town records exist only on microfiche.

Historical Newspaper Collection 
The State Library has a large selection of historic newspapers covering the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. This collection, which primarily focuses on newspapers from Massachusetts, is split between the main library and the Special Collections Department.

City/Town Directories and Voting Lists 
This collection covers most Massachusetts communities and dates from the first Boston directory of 1789 through the last Boston directory published in 1981. Directories contain a list of persons, organized by last name, residing in a town or city. However, some directories do have house guides, which contain listings by address and not by individual. Many contain lists of businesses grouped by type as well as advertisements. City Directories and Voting Lists are found in the State Library's Special Collections Department.

Tax Valuations 
This material can help identify residents and land owners during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Valuations lists are particularly useful because they provide a very detailed picture of the property holdings and personal wealth of an individual. Aggregates, or summaries, of valuation data are part of this collection. Lists for Maine are also part of the collection. The collection is located in the Special Collections Department.

Biographical Resources:

Military Information
The State Library's collection has many histories of the Commonwealth, including regimental histories and official reports by the Adjutant General of Military Personnel. These include Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War and Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War, and many other series. For other specific holdings, please refer to the online public catalog.

Legislative Biography File
The file cards list basic information, such as years of service, political party (when available), education, occupation, birth and death dates, and other relevant information for all members of the Massachusetts General Court and Constitutional offices from 1780 to the present.

Zimmer Index
This is a subject index to Boston-area newspaper articles ca. 1878-1937. It was produced by staff librarians during that era and covers articles from the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Boston Evening Transcript, Springfield Republican, Worcester Telegram, New York Times, New York Post, and a few others. We have most of the newspapers that contain these articles.

Published Family Histories 
The Library has a historical collection of published family histories. For specific holdings please refer to the online public catalog.

Institutional and Historical Society Publications
The Library’s collection includes some histories of academic institutions such as Harvard College and Boston University, as well as publications of the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Bostonian Society, and some of the local historical societies. The NEHGS Register, the quarterly journal of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (1847-date) and New England Ancestors, the Society's magazine, are in the State Library's collection. For specific holdings please refer to the online public catalog.


Other Boston-Area Resources

  • Massachusetts Archives
    220 Morrissey Boulevard
    Boston, MA 02125
    Tel.: 617-727-2816

    The Massachusetts Archives is the repository for Massachusetts vital records (births, marriages and deaths) for the period between 1841 and 1920. In addition, the Archives has federal and state census records for Massachusetts, some probate records, and more. They have posted a guide to their genealogical resources on their web site.
  • Boston Public Library
    700 Boylston Street
    Boston, MA 02116
    Tel.: 617-536-5400

    A comprehensive collection of governmental records, city and town directories, New England newspapers, family and town histories, and more. They have posted a guide to their resources on their web site.

This information is provided by The State Library of Massachusetts.