Learn about the court archives

Find out what type of information is available in the court archives and where it's available.

Table of Contents

What's in the Judicial Archives?

In 1984, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) made an agreement with the Secretary of the Commonwealth that permanent court records from 1620-1860 would be housed at the Massachusetts Archives. The collection held at the Judicial Archives also includes 1st series probate records and pre-1906 naturalization records. Records falling outside these guidelines are held in Trial Court record storage facilities, or remain with their respective courthouses. Details regarding the court records held at the Massachusetts Archives can be found in the Supreme Judicial Court Archives collection guide.

The Judicial Archives is a separate, distinct repository within the Massachusetts Archives, housing original records from state, county, and local courts. Judicial records are an invaluable resource for genealogical researchers, historians, and the general public. These holdings include microfilm of select probate, naturalization, and divorce records, and colonial era court records. Please contact archives staff for additional information about this microfilm. FamilySearch has digitized all Massachusetts court records formerly on microfilm, providing online access through FamilySearch.org. The Judicial Archives holds the originals of these records.

The Suffolk Files

The Suffolk Files contain the earliest file papers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, including the Supreme Judicial Court and its predecessors, the Court of Assistants, and the Superior Court of Judicature (1692-1799). There are also records of the county courts and the Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions of the Peace. The records contain cases not just from Suffolk County, but from other parts of Massachusetts and parts of Maine and New Hampshire. This was because of the circuit nature of the Superior Court and the fact that most of the action brought before the upper courts of judicature had been appealed from lower courts throughout the region. Extensive indices of every person, place, and subject, as well as date and calendar indices, were prepared. Microfilm of the Suffolk Files and indices are available in the Massachusetts Archives Reading Room. FamilySearch provides online access to digital images of the microfilm. The originals are in the Judicial Archives.

What's in the Trial Court Records Centers?

There are 3 Trial Court Record Center locations: Worcester, Newburyport, and East Brookfield. They have records from the mid-18th century and more than 40,000 boxes of permanent records. They are boxed based on county, court, and docket numbers. The end date for the records held in the storage facilities varies by court – courts send records when they no longer have the space to store them. All requests for records at the Trial Court Records Centers should come through the local courts and/or the Supreme Judicial Court Archives. 

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