Please contact Massachusetts Archives staff for additional information about this microfilm. The Massachusetts Archives does not hold the originals of these records, and all questions about judicial records and the Massachusetts judicial system should be directed to the Judicial Archivist. This was the result of the circuit nature of several of the courts and the fact that most of the action brought before the upper courts had been appealed from lower courts throughout the region. Extensive indices of every person, place, and subject, as well as date and calendar indices were prepared.
The Judicial Archives holds naturalization records, which document the process of becoming a citizen, for those persons who were naturalized in the state Superior Courts and local District Courts. The records usually include the declaration of intent and petition for naturalization.
Declarations filed after January generally contain a photograph of the applicant. Information found in the declaration of intent and the petition for naturalization may include the name, address, occupation, and date and place of birth of the applicant and information regarding arrival in the United States; marital status and the names of children, along with their dates and places of birth.
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Prior to , married women are included on their husband's petition. Minor children derived citizenship from their parents. There is no statewide index to the naturalization records at the Judicial Archives, since each court was responsible for indexing its own records.
In order to locate the proper court and date of naturalization for records between and , researchers should consult the Soundex index to New England naturalizations, available at the Northeast regional branch of the National Archives in Waltham. Indices of naturalization records for specific Massachusetts courts, especially post Superior Courts, may be accessible on microfilm or by contacting the Judicial Archives. The Massachusetts Archives holds abstracts of naturalizations from state and local courts, , filed with the Secretary of the Commonwealth pursuant to Chapter of the Acts of These records have been microfilmed; they are arranged chronologically by year, and each volume is indexed separately, making them awkward to use.
The abstracts provide the following information about the naturalized person: name, age, occupation and residence; also the name of the court and the date of naturalization. Although they do not provide much genealogical information, the abstracts are useful in directing the researcher to the location of the original records.
Additional information on Massachusetts naturalizations is available from the Northeast regional branch of the National Archives in Waltham. Its holdings include photostatic copies of state and local court records , which are indexed through Soundex index cards; U.
District Court naturalization records ; and U. Circuit Court naturalization records In the colonial period , divorce petitions could filed in a variety of courts, including the Court of Assistants, the General Court, and the county courts. Records of the General Court and the Court of Assistants have been published.
Original records are located in the Suffolk Files, the Massachusetts Archives Collection, and the records of the county courts. During the provincial period , primary jurisdiction for divorces rested with the Governor and Council, although six petitions dating to were heard by the General Court.
Again, the original records will be found in the Massachusetts Archives Collection, the Suffolk Files, Council records, and county courts. From the Council had jurisdiction; records are located in the Massachusetts Archives Collection and the Council records. In , the Supreme Judicial Court was given jurisdiction over divorce cases. Records dating are located in the Suffolk Files collection and recorded in the SJC record books. After , summary information regarding divorces is included in the SJC record books, which are indexed and arranged by county.
Case papers are also generally available. Jurisdiction over divorce cases changed in , when the Superior Courts were authorized to handle divorces. Records from this period are indexed in separate divorce docket books for the Superior Courts in the various counties. In , the county probate courts were granted concurrent jurisdiction with the Superior Courts, but since that date most divorces have been heard in county probate and family courts. Probate records, including the administration of estates, probate of wills, and the appointment of guardians, have been under the jurisdiction of the courts since the s.
County courts and later, county judges of probate, were responsible for these functions until , when the probate courts were established. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, probate and family courts were given jurisdiction over adoptions, divorces, name changes, and domestic relations. These records are indexed by county; there is no statewide index available.
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Indices will provide docket numbers, and the docket books will provide access to the record books, which are contemporary copies of the file papers. Not all of the counties have both file papers and record books available through the Judicial Archives; Massachusetts Archives Reference staff has information on the specific records available for research on microfilm. Prior to , name changes were administered by the General Court. Anyone interested in a legal change of name submitted a petition to the legislature requesting the change.
The petition and resulting legislation are held by the Massachusetts Archives.
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Petitions that did not receive legislative approval for name changes are also maintained by the Archives. Chapter , Acts of , transferred jurisdiction over name changes to the county probate courts. Annual returns of name changes were sent by the probate courts to the state secretary's office until The returns were also published annually in the printed volumes of Acts and Resolves, Name changes dating between and , including both those enacted by the legislature and those decreed by the probate judges, were published in the volume List of Persons Whose Names Have Been Changed in Massachusetts.
The book, which is thoroughly indexed, provides the following information: original name; new name; date of change; and the chapter number of the legislative statute or location of probate court. It is important to note that the information provided above concerns only those name changes that were authorized by the General Court or probate courts. Many people changed their names informally, and did not record the change with the state government.
The names of immigrants may have been anglicized upon arrival in the United States, or the spelling altered significantly, but these changes are not usually documented. Genealogists should remember that many adoptions were never recorded legally. Children were frequently sent out of their families to live with other people, including relatives. Other children went to live with neighbors, but were never adopted as part of the family. As with name changes, some adoptions prior to were enacted through the General Court.
The petition requesting the adoption and any accompanying legislative papers are available through the Massachusetts Archives. Chapter , Acts of , transferred responsibility for adoptions to the probate courts. Records after are either held by the Judicial Archives, or are maintained in the courts.
The returns of name changes, and the List of Persons Whose Names Have Been Changed in Massachusetts note when names were changed as a result of adoptions. Access to adoption records may be restricted, so researchers will need to contact the Judicial Archives guidance to obtain such access. Deeds for property in Suffolk County are held by the Archives.
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Typically the records include the grantor and grantee, and the location and description of the property being transferred. The deeds are arranged in volumes chronologically, according to the date and time they were filed. The Massachusetts Archives holds the grantor and grantee indices for these deeds only. Suffolk County deeds dating Feb. Indices for these deeds Feb. Suffolk County deeds from to the present are held by the Registry at their New Chardon Street location. Many collections in the Massachusetts Archives are appropriate for genealogical research, regardless of the ethnic background of the family being researched.
It is important to note that terms of ethnicity and color were recorded inconsistently in federal and state records. In addition to the collections noted in this booklet, there are additional archival records that would be particularly useful to people researching African-American and Native American families.
These include the slave census, early nineteenth-century applications and registers of state-issued passports, and applications for southern travel , The records of the Guardians of Indian Plantations provide detailed financial records of land sales and poor relief for Native Americans living in Massachusetts. A census of the Mashpee Indians, taken in , is also included in the records of the Guardians. Additional census information is located in the Report Concerning the Indians of the Commonwealth, written by J.
The report on the census of Mashpee, written by Richard L. Pease, is not held at the Archives, but can be accessed at the Massachusetts State Library. A truce agreed upon the 21st day of July at Pimaquid between the English and the Indians, taken from the Massachusetts Archives Collection, volume Other collections held by the Archives, not usually associated with genealogical research, may also provide information on families or individuals. These include collections such as maps and plans, legislative papers, and photographs relating to the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir.
Many maps, especially those of towns in Maine, include settlers' names with their residences or lots.
These maps are often associated with legislative action or material in the Eastern Lands papers. Legislative records, available for passed and unpassed bills, may include petitions, remonstrances, and copies of local records, in addition to the proposed bill. This documentation may provide information about specific individuals, especially if the legislation concerned a land grant, or the incorporation of a town, religious society, social organization, or business. Records of the Metropolitan District Water Supply Commission include photographs of real estate in the "drowned towns"of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott that were taken during the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir.
The collection also includes photographs of gravestones in the town cemeteries that were moved away from the reservoir site.
Prince Hall's petition, resulting in an act abolishing the slave trade in Massachusetts, Acts of ch. Terms and Conditions. Accessibility Statement.