2003 was a good year for genealogists seeking their ancestors in
Massachusetts. New books showed us how to find our roots in Boston,
traced the genealogy of a house and its owners, and provided new
insights into significant events in the state’s history. Here’s a select
list of the latest publications.
The 1848 Boston Cultivator: Marriages, Deaths and Miscellaneous
Readings by Elaine Morrison Fitch (Heritage Books, 2003)
Includes birth, marriage, and death notices from this weekly paper as
well as abstracts of notices relating to fires, crime, and shipping.
Ages From Court Records: Essex, Middlesex, and
Suffolk Counties, Massachusetts 1636–1700 by Melinde Lutz
Sanborn (GPC, 2003)
Researchers seeking verification of their ancestor’s age and
residence in early New England should reference this book, as it may
offer evidence of both. Sanborn extracted the names and ages of
deponents and witnesses from the records of thousands of court cases.
The details of land disputes, fornication cases, depositions, wills,
deeds, and other records are useful to anyone looking for ancestors in
Essex, Middlesex and Suffolk counties. This volume, containing eleven
thousand names, includes the year and source of the court record, making
it easy for researchers to locate an original document.
The Beechwoods Confederacy, 1709–1809: The Colonial History
of Beechwoods, Middleboro, Plymouth County, Massachusetts by
Kenneth Leonard (Heritage Books, 2003)
In the eighteenth century, the community of Beechwoods grew from a
few houses to a thriving town complete with prosperous businesses and
settled families. However, the town soon secured all property along its
boundaries in an effort to keep visitors at bay. Beechwoods maintained
its isolation throughout the eighteenth century and beyond by offering
no public thoroughfare into the area. Religious disputes, landholding
speculation, and the American Revolution all affected Beechwoods, which,
to this day, preserves much of its nineteenth-century character.
Boston on Fire: A History of Fires and Firefighting in
Boston by Stephanie Schorow (Commonwealth, 2003)
Schorow pieces together dramatic details of the fires that influenced
Boston’s history from the seventeenth century to today including the
1834 Ursuline convent fire, the Great Fire of 1872, the Chelsea
conflagrations of 1908 and 1973, and the infamous Cocoanut Grove
nightclub fire. Over the years Boston’s firefighters have developed
innovative new ways to fight back the flames. For instance, Boston was
the first in the nation to have a citywide fire alarm system. Once
you’ve read the stories behind these events, follow the author’s “Fire
Trail” of the city.
Captors and Captives: The 1704 French and Indian
Raid on Deerfield by Evan Haefeli and Kevin Sweeney
(University of Massachusetts Press, 2003)
In February 1704, during the French and Indian War, Native Americans
from Canada raided Deerfield, Massachusetts, burning the town and
capturing a third of its population. Haefeli and Sweeney cover the
incident through each moment of the attack. The authors present exciting
history recreated to make the reader feel part of the action. Easy to
use reference charts document the event and background data provides an
introduction to this famous historical attack.
The Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919by Stephen Puleo (Beacon Press, 2003)
On January 15, 1919, a vat containing over two million gallons of
molasses exploded and spread a fifteen-foot wave over Boston’s North
End, killing twenty-one people and injuring one hundred fifty more.
Puleo, a regular contributor to American History magazine,
researched the social, political, and economic climate in Boston at the
time of this event. He examined United States Industrial Alcohol
lawsuits, researched the victims, and read the testimony of witnesses to
present a compelling tale. Initially believed to be a terrorist act by
Italian anarchists during World War I, the molasses flood was later
determined to be an accident.
Essex County Deeds 1639–1678, Abstracts of Volumes 1–4,
Copy Books, Essex County, Massachusetts. (Essex Society of
A useful abstraction of the first four books of the Essex County
Faces of Community: Immigrant Massachusetts, 1860–2000(Massachusetts Historical Society Studies in American History
and Culture 7)edited by Reed Ueda (Massachusetts Historical Society,
Various experts of immigrant studies in Massachusetts discuss the
history of the immigrant communities of the state and the effects of the
immigration experience on the individuals who left their homelands to
settle here. The book includes essays on Irish, French Canadian, Jewish,
Italian, Swedish, and African American populations in the state.
Gaining Ground: A History of Landmaking in Bostonby Nancy S. Seasholes (MIT Press, 2003)Throughout the
history of Boston, landmaking projects were responsible for the
development of much of Boston’s Back Bay, coverage of the tidal flats,
and most recently, the land that Logan Airport was built upon. Seasholes
provides the how, when, and why details of the areas of Boston situated
on landfill. She examined historical documents and explored findings
from archeological investigations in the city. It’s a fascinating story
of the history of these projects. Heavily illustrated with maps showing
the original shoreline and the land development projects, this book is a
joy to read. Chart the development of streets and neighborhoods and
learn more about the areas where your Boston ancestors lived and worked.
Life of a Haunted House: The Barnstable House of Barnstable,
Massachusetts: Genealogy of A Real Haunted House by Paul
J. Bunnell, FACG, UE (Heritage Books, 2003)
This intriguing study of one house in Barnstable, Massachusetts,
includes ghost stories, genealogy, and house histories. Many of the
early Cape Cod families are mentioned —Paine, Howes, Davis, Savage, and
A Researcher's Guide to Boston by Ann S. Lainhart
This research guide to Boston collections and repositories is easy to
use and small enough to fit into a researcher’s book bag for handy
reference. Lainhart includes listings for a variety of resources
including probate, land, institutional, and vital records; seamen's
papers; records of the poor; voter lists; and city censuses. This is a
must-have for anyone doing Boston research.
The Wampanoag: Genealogical History of Martha’s Vineyard,
Massachusetts by Dr Jerome D. Segel and R. Andrew Pierce (GPC,
Years of research went into the preparation of this volume and it
shows. It is the first publication that covers the complete historical
record of the Wampanoag families of Martha’s Vineyard.
The Records of Oxford, Massachusetts: Including
chapters of Nipmuck, Huguenot and English History, Accompanied with
Biographical Sketches and Notes, 1630–1890. With Manners and Fashions of
the Time by Mary DeWitt Freeland (o.p. 1894, repr. Heritage
Vital Records of the Towns of Barnstable and Sandwich:
An Authorized Facsimile Reproduction of Records Published Serially
1901–1937 in The Mayflower Descendant With an Added Index of Personsby Leonard H. Smith Jr. and Norma H. Smith (o.p. 1900–37, repr.
Heritage Books, 2003)
Nantucket Genealogies: Excerpted from The History of Nantucket
County, Island, and Town, Including Genealogies of First Settlers by
Alexander Starbuck (o.p. 1924, repr. Clearfield 2003)
Keeping current with new publications is easy once you know where to
look. The following publishers all regularly offer either new books on
Massachusetts or reprints of older volumes.
You can search amazon.com or
other online booksellers by using an advance search feature that allows
you to search topics and the date of publication. Many of the books
listed in this article are available from the NEHGS Book Store,
individual companies, or online vendors.