Presentation Notes: 2006-2007

Internet Access to the Massachusetts Archives

Presented by Janis Duffy - January 10, 2007

Presentation Notes -

Janis Duffy announced at the January meeting of CCGS that the Massachusetts Archives has come into the 21st century. They are redesigning the website and are continuing to add data online. Currently, three indices are accessible as searchable databases on the website: 18 volumes of the Archives Collection, Passenger Manifests (1848-1891, Port of Boston), and the 1841-1910 Vital Records. Each of these databases is a partial reflection of the series, but is being added to periodically.

The first collection - early colonial records.
The Archives, with 171h century and 181h century records, including voluminous amounts of Revolutionary era sources is an important source of records for Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire materials,according to their brochure. "Many volumes trace the General Court's involvement with localities and individuals. Documents range from tavern licenses, divorce petitions, Shay's Rebellion, and land grants to records pertaining to the compensation for the loss of a horse or the siting of a meeting house. Most of the volumes have a table of contents and many have been indexed. Microfilm must be used for most of the volumes for research. The creation of the database is an effort to make these documents more easily accessible." If not listed, she said, don't assume it isn't there. Help is available online and at the Archives.

Passenger Lists, Port of Boston, 1848-1891.
Over a million immigrants came into the Port of Boston in this time period and so far, 500,000 names are in the database. Index cards appear with information, but not the manifest itself (originals and microfilm copies available at Archives).You can look at the index to get more information, see fellow travelers, etc. This includes the name, age, sex and occupation of the immigrant, the country of birth, last residence and the passenger list number. Also included is the name of the ship and the date of its arrival in Boston. Researchers may request a search through the card index and can write or call in their surnames to be entered into the database. Some names have not yet been processed.

Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910.
The Archives holds vital records and indices covering births, marriages, and deaths that occurred in the state. Information from the 1841-1910 death notices and births has been entered into a searchable database. Volunteers have worked to correct errors through scanning etc., though there are still mistakes. The marriage indices will be added in the near future. Researchers are welcome to use this database to find the citations for the records they want. Ms. Duffy advised genealogists to use your imagination, try different spellings, as the software is not perfected yet, but is a very good tool. The audience participated by giving her surnames of their ancestors which she checked through her computer. In response to a question, she noted that when people died at sea, their deaths were recorded at the first port of entry.

Massachusetts Archives
Phone: 617-727-2816
220 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125
Website - Home Page:
Website - Searchable Collections:

See the Presentation Notes Index for summaries of other presentations given at the Society's monthly meetings.