Settled 1628 - Incorporated 1643

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From the standpoint of record and resource availability, Essex County Massachusetts is as close to "genealogist's heaven" as is possible. Organized, published records for most events are available back into the 1630s.

In spite of the above, it must be recognized that diligence and perseveranceare still required in your research efforts. One pitfall in Essex County research is the plethora of information available, ranging from family genealogies, town histories published over the years, published vital records through 1849 (unique to Massachusetts), Internet web sites, online archived materials and helpful fellow genealogists, to name a few. Additionally, the Essex Researcher has the respected, Essex Society of Genealogists as a reliable resource for Essex County information. That ESOG has nearly 1000 members, making it oneof the largest U.S. societies, speaks for the interest in Essex County research nationwide. Unfortunately, the old genealogist's caveat "check your sources"becomes more meaningful when there are so many. View the Standards of Sound Genealogical Research as recommended by the National Genealogical Society.

Below is a detailed breakdown of Essex County sources along with some research tips for use of them as tools in your research.

ESSEX COUNTY VITAL RECORDS

Earliest through 1849

All Essex County towns were included in the "Official Records Series" funded by the state and published by various agencies in the early 1900's. These are available in many libraries and through LDS FamilyHistory Centers, generally on microfilm. John Slaughter is currently managing the MA Vital Records Project. To access this information click here.

In addition, Jane Devlin and Ray Brown are both working on making transcriptions available for Essex county and surrounding areas.

Google Books also has scanned versions of several Essex county towns. These books can be downloaded in pdf format for viewing offline. Below is a list of Essex towns and a link to a pdf of the available information. Please note that some towns are multi volume sets and are noted with an *. The table below includes what was currently available (3/15/2010).

Town Vital Record PDFs
Amesbury Andover* Vol II Deaths & Marriages Beverly* Vol II Deaths & Marriages
Boxford Bradford Essex
Gloucester* Volume I Births Hamilton Lynn* Volume I Births
Lynnfield Manchester Marblehead* Volume III Genealogical Data
Middleton Newbury* Volume I Births Newburyport* Volume I Births
Salem* Volume I Births Saugus Salisbury
Topsfield Wenham West Newbury
Danvers* Vol II Deaths & Marriages    

 

If you know of any others that should be listed here, please let the coordinator know. This is ONLY for sites that provide free access to their records.

1850 to present

Your first step, if the town is known, is to contact the Town Clerk in the subject town.
Addresses for Clerks in all Massachusetts towns and cities can be found at:
State of Massachusetts Clerk Index

If that fails or you are uncertain of the town, contact the Massachusetts State sources:

1850 to 1910

Massachusetts Archives at Columbia Point
220 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125
Phone 617-727-2816

They have a searchable index.

1911 and later

Registry of Vital Records and Statistics
1st Floor
150 Mt. Vernon Street
Dorchester MA 02125-3105
(next to the Bayside Expo Center)
(617) 740-2600

ESSEX COUNTY PROBATE RECORDS

Probate records are available from the Massachusetts State Archives and some other sources.

1638-1882

State Archives
Massachusetts Archives at Columbia Point
220 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125

Old (1600 and 1700s) probate records can be found at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. The Phillips Library of P.E.M. has microfilm of the Essex County Probate Record Books through 1881 with indexes, and through 1914 with docket books. Their address and other Information can be found at their website: http://www.pem.org

Also: "Probate Records of Essex County, Massachusetts; 1635-1681," In three volumes, The Essex Institute; Salem, MA; 1916 are available in some libraries and through LDS Family History Centers. These are also included on the Essex County VR CD mentioned above.

There is a published probate index for the years 1638 to 1840 which is, unfortunately, out of print. It can be found in some libraries.

There are over 200 old Essex County Wills on line. Submissions are always welcome. Please note that these may take some time to get online due to other projects.

1882-1896

Newburyport Archives
Newburyport Record Center
188 State St.
Newburyport, MA.
(978) 557-1083

1897 - present

Essex County Probate Court
32 Federal St.
Salem, MA 01970

ESSEX COUNTY DEEDS

Prior to 1869


Essex Deeds
32 Federal St.
Salem, MA 01970
(978) 741-0200

After 1869

The county was divided into a northern and southern district.

The county was divided into a northern and southern district.
Southern District (All towns except Andover, Lawrence, Methuen and North Andover.)
Essex Deeds
32 Federal St.
Salem, MA 01970
Phone: (978) 741-0200

Northern District (Andover, Lawrence, Methuen and North Andover.)
Essex Northern District
381 Common St.
Lawrence, MA 01840
Phone: (978) 683-2745

U.S. CENSUS DATA

There are printed indexes for most released Massachusetts U.S. Censuses (except 1890, that census was destroyed by fire in the 1920's.) Indexes to the 1790 through 1860 censuses are also available on CD.
The 1850 census was the first "every name" census. All previous censuses only listed the head of household along with un-named information regarding the household. The 1880 Census information is available for free at Familysearch.org.

MA STATE CENSUS DATA

There are two surviving Massachusetts State Censuses for Essex County. They are available on microfilm from LDS Libraries. The towns and (LDS) film numbers are listed below.

LDS 1855 Mass. State Census Micro Films

Towns/Film Number
Amesbury to Gloucester / 0953978
Groveland to Lawrence / 0953979
Lynn to Rowley / 0953980
Salem to W Newbury / 0953981

LDS 1865 Mass. State Census Micro Films

Towns/Film Number
Amesbury to Gloucester / 0953971
Groveland to Lawrence / 0953972
Lynn to Methuen / 0954560
Middleton to Rowley / 0954561
Salem to West Newbury / 0954562

CITY DIRECTORIES

Beginning in about 1850, earlier in some larger cities, independent publishers began to publish yearly or semi-annually, directories listing all the individualsin a town. Depending on the publisher, these directories contained, in additionto name and address, place of work or business, martial status, children,deaths, removals too other places etc. They serve as some what of a census for each town for the period covered. It should be understood that the information for these directories was collected, in many cases, by the cheapestavailable help and the collectors may, in some cases, not have been as diligentin speaking to the specific individual being recorded as the "official" census takers who were in some cases less than diligent as well. These directories are almost always available in the specific town library. LDS Libraries have an extensive collection.

MISCELLANEOUS RECORDS

USGenWeb Massachusetts Archive Files. Online files from original source information.

Social Security Death Index Interactive Search - On Ancestry.com.

Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-land-warrent Application Files. - Index site to the microfilm information. LDS online site.

 

Essex County Massachusetts Genealogy Project - Founded August 1996


Last Updated: 27 February, 2013

MA GenWeb Project US GenWeb Project