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Watertown, Massachusetts



The Watertown area was first occupied nearly six thousand years ago. The area was inhabited by two Native American tribes, the Pequossette and the Nonantum, who settled along the river banks. John Smith explored the coast of Massachusetts in the early 1600s naming the river that flows through Watertown the Massachusetts. It was later changed to the Charles River, in honor of King Charles I.

In May 1630, a party led by Roger Clap landed on the steep banks of Charles River at a point near the present site of Perkins School for the Blind. He tells of the first encounter with the Paquossette Indians when they approached Clap's landing party with a large bass for, which they were given a biscuit by the settlers. (This scene is commemorated on the official town seal.) Soon after, Clap's group left, at Governor Winthrop's order, to settle in Dorchester where it was thought the land was better for cattle.

In July of that same year, a small company of Englishmen, among those who had arrived from England on the Arabella, and now led by Sir Richard Saltonstall and his Minister George Phillips, made their way up the Charles and landed at a point near the present location of Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge. At first called Saltonstall Plantation, their settlement officially became Watertown in September 1630.

See Watertown's Official Town Page for more history



Town Clerk  149 Main Street
Watertown, MA 02472
Phone: 617-972-6486
Fax: 617-972-6595

  • Pre-1841
    Massachusetts registered vital records beginning in 1639. Pre-1841 vital records reside at the local level with the respective city and town clerks. Only one set of records exists at the municipal level.
  • 1841-1910
    Statewide collection of vital records in Massachusetts began in 1841. A new law required every city and town clerk to submit annual copies of all vital records to a central state office in Boston. Thus, two sets of records, at the local and at the state level, exist for almost every birth, marriage, and death since 1841. The Massachusetts Archives "holds the registration books of births, marriages, and deaths for all Massachusetts cities and towns" for 1841-1910. Later records are transferred to the Massachusetts Archives at 5-year intervals.
  • After 1910
    Vital records after 1910 remain in municipal clerks' offices or at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Registry of Vital Records and Statistics.



Watertown Free Public Library - Site boasts an amazing collection of online records available to view in a variety of formats, including Watertown Directories from 1869-1939 in PDF format, local documents, photographs of historical buildings, cemeteries, headstones, people, schools and much much more. Terrific web site for anyone interested in Watertown history and genealogy.

Watertown Historical Society : 28 Marshall street, Watertown, MA 02472-3408 (617)923-6067 - no web site available at this time

New England Historic Genealogical  Society

Middlesex County Massachusetts Vital Records
Registrar of Probate
208 Cambridge Street
P.O. Box 410480
Cambridge, MA 02141
Phone: (617) 768-5850


Watertown 1790 Federal Census - located on the USGenWeb site, locate census records transcribed for Watertown and surrounding areas.

Old Burial Ground, Watertown, MA - epitaphs on Jane Devlin's website

Records of Watertown's First Church - A detailed outline of the records available from First Church Collection. Includes a time line of the church.

Descendants of George Woodward, of Watertown, MA


Massachusetts USGenWeb

Middlesex County USGenWeb Project

Massachusetts Historical Society

Boston Public Library


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Last Updated February 27, 2011
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