Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Genealogy

Resources for researching your ancestors and your family history

Introduction

Records produced by courts and the government can be very useful in researching your family history. This section will provide a brief overview of what kinds of records are available, how they can be useful, and how to access them. Some government records have been covered elsewhere in this guide and links will be provided to those sections for further information.

Important Note: court records in Massachusetts are held by either the State Archives or the court that produced them.

Court & Misc. Government Records

Court records are any records produced, maintained, and held by a municipal, county, state, or federal court system as a result of any matter being handled by the court. They can include an ancestor named as a juror, witness, plaintiff, or defendant in a civil or criminal case.

The types of issues that can come before a court include:

  • Adoption (covered here)
  • Appointment to public offices
  • Criminal
  • Debt
  • Divorce (covered here)
  • Guardianship
  • Probate (covered in next tab)
  • Lawsuits
  • Licenses
  • Naturalization (covered here)
  • Paternity claims
  • Property disputes

Probate records, also called Estate records, are created to deal with settling the estate of a person with property after they have died. They can include the following information about an ancestor:

  • Date and location of death
  • Occupation
  • Religion
  • Military service
  • The most recent as well as any previous residence
  • Property, including land
  • The adoption and/or guardianship of children
  • The name and residences of people they were closely associated with
  • their spouse their former spouse(s)
  • children
  • parents
  • siblings
  • in-laws
  • other relatives
  • other acquaintances

Government records are any records produced, maintained, and held by a municipal, county, state, or federal government including:

  • Military Records (covered here)
  • Public school records (covered here)
  • Immigration & naturalization records (covered here)
  • Land & Tax records (see next tab)

Land records, including deeds, land grants, land patents, and mortgages, can contain the following information about an ancestor:

  • age
  • citizenship status
  • country of origin
  • names of any relatives/friends living with them
  • names of their neighbors
  • occupation
  • previous residence

Tax records can include the following information about an ancestor:

  • address
  • description and valuation of their property
  • names of anyone residing with them
  • occupation

Resources @ the BPL

To see more probate records available at the BPL, check out this listing on our online catalog.

To see more land records available at the BPL, check out this listing on our online catalog.