Massachusetts County records vary widely from county to county in both quality and quantity. Some have been carefully preserved while others have been much abused and neglected. Some Massachusetts records have simply disappeared.
For genealogists doing research in Massachusetts there is no effective replace for an on-site search of county courthouse records.
Generally, the vital records for a given Massachusetts town go back to whenever that town was founded.
However, some towns broke off from other towns. So, records in the original, or parent, towns may need to be consulted.
Most county clerks have vital record indexes available, but some important town records have not been indexed and must be searched at the town office or on microfilm.
Those may include poor account overseers records, voting lists, hog and cattle marks, freeman’s lists, tax lists, town officer lists, school records, and warnings out. See also a list of links to county and county seat government run websites.
List of Massachusetts Counties with Burned Courthouses
The damage to courthouses greatly has a bearing on genealogists in every way.
Not only are these historic structures torn from our lifetimes, so are the records they housed: marriage, wills, probate, land records, and others.
Once destroyed they’re lost forever. Although they have been placed on mircofilm, computers and film burn too.
However, not all records were damaged or lost in some counties.
Barnstable County – Fire destroyed nearly all the early deed books and probate files, but probate books survived. Although the official deed books only begin in 1827, many deeds were pre-recorded back to about 1783, though these are far from complete.