Annual Conference & INFO-EXPO Boston Convention & Exhibition Center June 14 -16, 2015

Categorized | Boston for..., History

Boston for Genealogists and Family Historians

Boston for Genealogists and Family Historians

This post was written by Sharon Christenson and Hope Tillman, members of the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists

Massachusetts is a great place to research your family history. Together with other Massachusetts ports, Boston has served as a major gateway for immigration to New England since the early 1600s. A large number of others made their way to Massachusetts from New York and Canada. Do plan ahead to make the most of your visit. You may find it useful to purchase the Legacy QuickGuide: Massachusetts Genealogy ($2.95  PDF Download Edition) to facilitate your research.

Where to go in Boston

This map will show you where these places are in relation to the convention center.

New England Historical Genealogical Society (NEHGS)  (99 Newbury Street, Back Bay. Closed Sunday and Monday)
NEHGS is America’s leading research center for genealogists. Access millions of documents, manuscripts, records, books, microfilms, photographs, artifacts, electronic resources, and other items that preserve and reveal our nation’s history. NEHGS genealogists, archivists, and librarians are available to assist patrons with their research inquiries and provide orientations to the library collections.  Buy a day pass for $15. Membership includes remote access to the NEHGS American Ancestors online databases.

Boston Public Library (700 Boylston Street, Copley Square, Back Bay.  Monday through Sunday hours)
A comprehensive collection of governmental records, city and town directories, New England newspapers, family and town histories, and more. See the guide to their resources on their web site. Most Massachusetts newspapers can be researched on microfilm in the Microtext Department. These are not generally available online. See also

Massachusetts Historical Society (1154 Boylston Street. Closed Sundays. Call ahead! 617.536.1608)
The library is free and open to researchers of all ages and levels of interest in American history six days a week. The library does not lend materials, but any person interested in using the collections can register as a researcher and use materials in the library.

Massachusetts State Library (24 Beacon Street, State House, Room 341. Closed Saturday and Sunday)
Collection includes Massachusetts town reports, historical newspaper collections, city directories, voting lists and related materials. Search the Library’s online public catalog for specific holdings.

Massachusetts Archives (220 Morrissey Boulevard)
The Massachusetts Archives is the repository for Massachusetts vital records (births, marriages and deaths) for the period between 1841 and 1920. Do peruse their guide to genealogical resources on the web site.

Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (150 Mt. Vernon St., Dorchester. Closed Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, limited hours on remaining days. Call ahead! 617-740-2600)
Repository for all Massachusetts birth, marriage and death records from 1921 to the present.

University of Massachusetts Boston (100 Morrissey Boulevard.  Contact Archives staff to make a research appointment:
Archival and Manuscript Collections collection: areas of concentration include social welfare agencies, community organizations and alternative movements and local history. The records of local 19th and early 20th century private social welfare and charitable organizations provide a history of the work of these agencies and of the people they served. The agencies include orphanages, settlement houses, and social welfare institutions in the Boston area. Searchable finding aids, some items online.

Beyond Boston

American Antiquarian Society (Worcester, MA)
The American Antiquarian Society (AAS) library houses the largest and most accessible collection of printed materials from first contact through 1876 in what is now the United States, the West Indies and parts of Canada.

Berkshire Athenaeum (Western Massachusetts, in Pittsfield)
Call ahead, talk to a reference librarian about the local history collection ((413) 499-9480).

Cape Cod Genealogical Society Library (Dennis Port, MA)
The society’s Genealogy Room is located in the Dennis Public Library. CCGS Volunteers are available to assist patrons in all aspects of genealogy research. A handout packet of useful genealogical forms and information is available for beginning researchers.

General Society of Mayflower Descendants Library (Plymouth, MA)
Each year, thousands of hopeful genealogy seekers travel to Plymouth to look for a link to the Mayflower.  A knowledgeable staff, headed up by the Historian General, is available to assist those who visit. Friendly volunteers willingly show guests around and help to find valuable documentation. 

National Archives and Records Administration(Waltham, MA)
Repository of federal records, including population censuses for all states, passenger arrival records for Boston and other New England ports, New England naturalization records, and more. t.

Old Colony Historical Society  (Taunton, MA)
Specializing in primary sources prior to 1850 for Southeastern Massachusetts, OCHS offers comprehensive genealogical research material for both novice and experienced genealogists. Genealogical research fees are $7 per day. Though not necessary, if you would like to schedule a research appointment with a member of the staff please contact the main office.

The Irish Ancestral Research Association (Auburndale, MA)
Visitors may use the books and newsletters in TIARA’s library for research by appointment. Explore the website for information on available resources and the catalog at:  Contact Joan Callahan ( for an appointment. She recommends having done some basic research before visiting.

Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, MA)
Search the catalog, special collections, and digitized materials for relevant genealogical resources. Research visit requires an appointment.

W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts  (Amherst, MA)
The Library’s numerous books, magazines, journals, newspapers, government documents, and maps are especially strong in Massachusetts and New England history. Although the Library does not specifically collect genealogical materials, the research quality and the variety of its historical collections guarantee they are of particular interest to genealogists.

Worcester Public Library (Worcester, MA)
Strong local history resources including foreign language newspapers of ethnic communities.

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