Skip to main content
map of Massachusetts via Library of Congress

Massachusetts Research: Four Centuries of History and Genealogy

July 15, 2023 2:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. ET
Course materials available starting July 7
Hallie Kirchner
Danielle Cournoyer
Lindsay Fulton
David Allen Lambert
Melanie McComb

Whether your family connection to Massachusetts is 400 years old or 40, there is a treasure trove of genealogical resources waiting for you: vital records have been kept by towns since the early seventeenth century; newspapers have existed since colonial times; and there are thousands of published genealogies, local histories, study projects, and other references that exist for Massachusetts research. This online course will provide a century-by-century look at the records, resources, repositories, and research strategies that are essential to exploring your Massachusetts roots. We will also look at the historical context, settlement patterns, and migrations into—and out of—the state; from colony to Commonwealth. Participants will have access to pre-recorded lectures and materials, starting July 7. We encourage to students to view these prior to the Q&A session on July 15.

Program includes:

  • Access to 5+ hours’ worth of pre-recorded instructional video, handouts, and other materials
  • Special discounts and virtual door prizes
  • 90-minute live Q&A with instructors
  • Access to materials, recordings, and other materials for the foreseeable future

Class 1: 17th-Century Massachusetts Research

Presented by David Allen Lambert

17th-century Massachusetts colonists are some of the most researched and written-about group of people on the planet, but there remain research challenges: distinguishing people with the same name, understanding unique record sets, and more. This first class will look at the beginnings of Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth Colony and the people who inhabited the lands prior to colonization, provide an overview of the many published genealogical resources and record transcriptions available, demonstrate how to locate and utilize primary sources, and discuss how to overcome common research challenges.

Class 2: 18th-Century Massachusetts Research

Presented by Melanie McComb

The 18th century was a transformative and foundational period for Massachusetts: continued colonial conflicts, movement westward, revolution, the abolition of slavery, and ultimately statehood. This session will look at just some of the many records of the era—pre and post American independence—including military records, tax lists, census records, newspapers, city directories, and more.

Class 3: 19th-Century Massachusetts Research

Presented by Hallie Kirchner

Massachusetts experienced even more transformation in the 19th century, from the industrial revolution to the Civil War to an increase of immigration from Canada, the British Isles, Germany, Italy, Eastern Europe, and beyond. This class will look at the start of the state census, the age of the passenger list, pension files, expanded vital records, published genealogies and local histories, and less commonly used records.

Class 4: 20th-Century Massachusetts Research

Presented by Danielle Cournoyer

Continued urbanization and industrialization characterized much of 20th-century Massachusetts. This final session will look at records that emerge in the 20th century—and the changes in records and record keeping that persisted since the 17th century, with particular attention to the topic of “access.”

Class 5: Planning Your Personal Research Tour to Massachusetts

Presented by Lindsay Fulton

Massachusetts is teeming with historical societies, archives, libraries, and genealogical societies, such as American Ancestors/New England Historic Genealogical Society. Learn how to prepare for and make the most of your time researching in The Bay State.

Research and Library Services
Hallie Kirchner
New York
19th-Century United States
Areas of expertise: 19th-century America, Germany, New York, New York City, Norway, Italy, westward migration, immigration history, and descendancy research.
Research and Library Services
Danielle Cournoyer
Urban Development
Migration Patterns
Lineage Societies
Areas of Expertise: urban development and preservation, transit and westward migration in the United States, the lineage society application process and Mayflower descendant research.
Research and Library Services
Lindsay Fulton
Research Methodology
State and Federal Censuses
10 Million Names
Area of Expertise: State and Federal Censuses, New England, Ireland, and New York research, with a focus on research methodology and organization. Lindsay also oversees the research team working on the 10 Million Names project.
Education and Programming
David Allen Lambert
Military Records
New England
Eastern Canada
Areas of expertise: New England and Atlantic Canadian records of the 17th through 21st century; American and international military records; DNA research; and Native American and African American genealogical research in New England. 
Education and Programming
Melanie McComb
Eastern Canada
Areas of expertise: Irish genealogy, DNA, Atlantic Canada, Jewish genealogy, and military records.