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  • #7 Royal Descents, Notable Kin, and Printed Sources: 'Classic' New England Town Genealogies

    Gary Boyd Roberts

    Last week I promised to cover some "classic" New England "town genealogies"--works on all the families of a town or town histories with a major genealogical section, often a second volume covering town residents through 1850 or later. These I list below in geographical order (authors in parentheses) with comments on those I find good and those that are a bit under par. Most of the entries below refer to first-generation towns in Massachusetts, secondarily Connecticut. There are many histories for second- or third-generation towns in New Hampshire, and some for such places in Maine. "Authoritatively" below indicates thorough use of all town resources and a work as good as a talented scholar of that period could produce; of "middling quality" usually means little use of town resources beyond vital records, dates sometimes in years only, and often confusion or mistakes in colonial generations.

    1. Early Middlesex Co., Mass--Cambridge (Paige and Gozzaldi; Mrs. Gozzaldi summarizes and indexes Paige, and I find her work an essential supplement); Charlestown (Wyman, a splendid work with much probate and deed abstraction, 1000-plus pages); Watertown (Bond, one of the best 19th century works despite its early date [1860], with both a main section and an extensive supplement); Lexington (Hudson); Newton (Jackson of middling quality, and A Biographical Directory, which summarizes all records in Newton 1679-1779).
    2. South Shore--Braintree (Sprague, mss. [original at NEHGS] on microfilm, 6100 cards authoritatively covering all colonial residents of Braintree, Quincy, Randolph, and Holbrook); Hingham (George Lincoln [dependable but not as good as Wyman or Bond]; Weymouth (Chamberlain)--very fine; Cohasset (Davenports); Scituate (Welch, Mss., at NEHGS, largely a reworking of the published VRs, with no will or deed work and dates in years only); Hull (17th century only--Ethel F. Smith in Register).
    3. Plymouth Colony, Cape Cod, and the Islands--Bridgewater (Mitchell), Plymouth (Davis), Barnstable (Otis), all three of middling quality; "Genealogical Notes of Cape Cod Families" (original at Sturgis Library in Barnstable, microfilm at NEHGS-- very good but short of authoritative); Library of Cape Cod Genealogy (early 20th century pamphlets also of middling quality); Martha's Vineyard (Banks--very good, and NEHGS owns part of his notes, which include another generation of all Vineyard families); Nantucket (A. Starbuck--use in conjunction with Nantucket VRs; the two works together authoritatively cover the island).
    4. Essex County--Salem (Perley--very fine, but with no will or deed abstraction); Rowley (Blodgette and Jewett--good, but not as fine as Perley); Salisbury and Amesbury (Hoyt, also very fine but with no will or deed abstraction).
    5. Central and western Mass--Springfield (Warren, typescript [available at NEHGS and elsewhere] --good; Northampton and Pittsfield (Judd and Cooke in Corbin Collection at NEHGS and on microfilm elsewhere--good, Pittsfield families treated in somewhat more detail); Hadley (Judd, fair); Hatfield (Wells, fair); Deerfield (Sheldon, good); Northfield (Temple and Sheldon); Amherst (by the contemporary J.A. Smith--very good); Sunderland (J.M. Smith); Whately (Crafts).
    6. Connecticut-- Hartford (Barbour--good); Windsor and Wethersfield (Stiles, often superseded); Farmington (Hart and Gay manuscripts at NEHGS; the original of the Gay collection is at the Connecticut Historical Society--very good, but again no will or deed abstraction); Woodstock (Bowen--8 vols., 6 covering A-H, very good); New London (Parkhurst, on microfilm and NEHGS, original at Conn. State Library--very good); New Haven (Jacobus, authoritative); Milford (Abbott--very good); Guilford (Talcott--good); Fairfield (Jacobus, even better than his New Haven work); East Haddam (Patterson, mss. at Connecticut Historical Society).
    7. Rhode Island--Little Compton (Wilbour--very good); Bristol (Dorothy C. Saunders, founders' families only).
    8. New Hampshire--Hampton (Dow--very good); Portsmouth (Agnes Bartlett, mss. at NEHGS, original at New Hampshire Historical Society, covering mostly major mercantile families).
    9. Maine--Kittery (Stackpole--fair); Berwicks (Weeden, mss. collection at NEHGS, often of middling quality).

    I hope the above list proves useful. If readers have many ancestors from one of these towns, you might wish to buy any available reprints of these volumes (we have many on sale, and all except the manuscripts are in the NEHGS Circulating Library).

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