City and 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.
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.
These 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.
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.
Searchable Database of Massachusetts Vital Records Series, 1620-1850 at AmericanAncestors.org
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. See the Library's online catalog for specific holdings.