Massachusetts Genealogy

Pilgrims landing at Plymouth rock

Massachusetts History

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Colonial Massachusetts - Various Algonquiantribes inhabited the area prior to European settlement. Massachusetts became a single colony in 1692, the largestin New England, and one where many American institutions and traditions were formed. Unlike southern colonies,it was built around small towns rather than scattered farms. The Pilgrims settled the Plymouth Colony, and Puritansettlers traveled to Salem and later to Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. As the Puritans gradually secularizedand became known as Yankees, the Congregational Church they founded continued to dominate most small towns. Latein the colonial period Baptist and other dissenting churches emerged, and the elites in Boston and other largetowns turned to the Anglican and Unitarian religions. The colony, usually including present-day Maine, defeatedsome Indian tribes in King Philip's War in the 1670s and fought with Britain a series of French and Indian Warsthat were characterized by brutal border raids and successful attacks on Canada.

Pre-revolutionary events - Massachusettswas a center of the American Revolution, with actions by the patriots and counter-actions by the Crown (includingthe Intolerable Acts) a main reason for the unity of the Thirteen Colonies and the outbreak of war, starting withbattles in and around Boston in 1775-76. Also see Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party.

Battles of the American Revolution- Battles of Lexington and Concord, Siege of Boston, Battle of Bunker Hill.

First Governor of the Commonwealth- John Hancock was the first governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Shays' Rebellion - Western Massachusettsuprising after the Revolution.

U.S. Constitution
- On February 6, 1788, Massachusetts became the sixthstate to ratify the United States Constitution.

Slavery - Massachusetts was thefirst U.S. state to abolish slavery, in a 1783 judicial interpretation of its 1780 constitution. A 1790 censusshowed a slave population of zero.

District of Maine - On March 15,1820, Maine was separated from Massachusetts, of which it had been a non-contiguous part, and entered the Unionas the 23rd State. (See Missouri Compromise)

U.S. Civil War - The 54th MassachusettsVolunteer Infantry was one of the first African-American regiments in the U.S. military.

The Central Artery/Tunnel Project (CA/T)- Known as the "Big Dig" to locals, it is the most expensive single highway construction project in theUnited States. The project began 1991, with final construction occurring in 2006.

Massachusetts County Information

Most Massachusetts counties currently exist only as geographic regions, and have no countygovernment. All former county functions were assumed by state agencies in the late 1990's-early 2000. Sheriffsand some other regional officials with specific duties are still elected locally to perform duties within the countyregion, but there is no county council or commissioner.

The following county governments have been abolished, though still existing as geographicalentities: Berkshire County, Essex County, Franklin County, Hampden County, Hampshire County, Middlesex County,Suffolk County, Nantucket County and Worcester County [source:]


Date of Incorporation or First Mention
 in the Names of Counties Records


June 2, 1685


April 21, 1761(1)


June 2, 1685


June 22, 1695(2)


May 10, 1643


June 24, 1811(3)


February 25, 1812(4)


May 7, 1662


May 10, 1643


June 22, 1695

Norfolk (Extinct)

May 10, 1643(5)


March 26, 1793(6)


June 2, 1685


May 10, 1643


April 2, 1731(7)

Oldest, Newest, Largest and Smallest Communities:

  • Geographic center of Massachusetts is the Town of Rutland in Worcester County.
  • Oldest town: Plymouth incorporated 1620
  • Oldest city: Boston incorporated 1820
  • Newest Town: East Brookfield, 1920
  • Newest City: Greenfield, 2003
  • Smallest by population: Town of Gosnold, 86 / City of North Adams, 14,681
  • Smallest by square miles: Town of Nahant, 1.04   / City of Chelsea, 1.86
  • Largest by population: Town of Framingham, 66,910 / City of Boston, 589,141
  • Largest by square miles: Town of Plymouth, 97.57 / City of Taunton, 47.2

[Source: the Secretary of State of Massachusetts]


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