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Genealogy

Resources for researching your ancestors and your family history

Introduction

In 2016, popular genealogy blogger Dick Eastman surmised that perhaps ninety percent of the resources you may need to fill out your family tree are not yet available on the Internet. This means that at some point you will probably need to consult print or microform records in libraries, city and town halls, other government offices, historical societies, and other places, in order to find that elusive ancestor.

The Boston Public Library has a stellar collection of local and family history materials in print and on microform, from published genealogies, town histories, immigration records, passenger lists, newspapers, and many other resources to help you find the history of your family. While many libraries have family and local history collections for the town in which they are located, Boston Public Library’s collection is unique in that it includes all of Massachusetts and most of New England. Take a look at our brochure here.

Please check the BPL calendar or the Programs, Classes and Events tab on this guide for genealogy-related talks and learning opportunities, which are offered regularly.

The Local and Family History Collection includes more than 30,000 wide-ranging materials from the 17th–21st centuries.  Read more about the Local and Family History Collection of Distinction here (link opens a pdf file.) 

Throughout this guide, you will find relevant information by subtopic, including both what is freely available online or through subscription databases, as well as print and microform sources at the BPL that do not yet exist in digital format. 

Click on the Research Services tab in this guide for more information on how to access resources available at the BPL.

The Beyond the BPL tab in this guide briefly lists other records repositories in Massachusetts and New England that you may wish to consult. 

 

Getting Started

Getting Started: Tips to Help You on Your Way-  The New England Historic Genealogical Society's concise guide has useful pointers for getting started. Includes a ten-minute video, basic advice on how to gather and record, analyze, and organize information. It also includes commonly used forms, important abbreviations, and a glossary of useful terms.

Getting Organized- Includes many tips for organizing each of the types of information you'll be gathering during your research.‚Äč

Principles of Family History Research- Published by FamilySearch,org, a free website containing millions of genealogical records. The guide is extremely helpful in breaking down the research process into five discrete steps, including determining what you want to find out, selecting which records to search, and the critical steps of evaluating, verifying, and citing your sources and information.

The Family History Guide- A free website that offers detailed lessons and projects designed to help beginners do family history research.

10 Places to Find the Free Genealogy Printables You Need- An annotated list of links to various sites offering free templates, charts, and blank forms.

What Does That Mean? 300+ Family History Abbreviations Explained- A list of abbreviations you may see while researching your family history, and what they mean.

Genealogy e-books at the BPL

You can instantly borrow e-books on a variety of genealogy topics through the Hoopla digital platform. Check out this list of some of the best ones or look through everything that's available.

For more information on getting started reading Hoopla e-books, see this guide and video tutorial.

Genealogy Magazines at the BPL

The BPL carries many current and older genealogy magazines and journals, some of which are listed here. They are available upon request at the Research Services desk located on the second floor of the Central Library in Copley Square.

There are also several genealogy magazines that are available online, you can see a listing of them in our online catalog.