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Massachusetts Trails to the past is requesting donations of any genealogy material that you may have such as old obituaries, death information or marriages, news clippings, births, and wills.  If you have any of this information, and would like to donate it please email it to Marie Miller , State Administrator for Massachusetts.  Please include the source of your information, if at all possible.


Massachusetts was originally inhabited by tribes of the Algonquian language family such as the Wampanoag, Narragansett, Nipmuc, Pocomtuc, Mahican, and Massachusett. While cultivation of crops like squash and corn supplemented their diets, these tribes were generally dependent on hunting, gathering and fishing for most of their food supply. Villages consisted of lodges called wigwams as well as long houses, and tribes were led by male or female elders known as sachems.
The first English settlers in Massachusetts, the Pilgrims, established their settlement at Plymouth in 1620, and developed friendly relations with the native Wampanoag. This was the second successful permanent English colony in North America, after the Jamestown Colony. The Pilgrims were soon followed by other Puritans, who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony at present-day Boston in 1630.
In 1641, Massachusetts expanded inland significantly, acquiring the Connecticut River Valley settlement of Springfield, which had recently disputed with, and defected from its original administrators, the Connecticut Colony. This established Massachusetts' southern border in the west.
Massachusetts was a center of the movement for independence from Great Britain; colonists here had long had uneasy relations with the British monarchy, including open rebellion under the Dominion of New England in the 1680s. Protests against British attempts to tax the colonies after the French and Indian War ended in 1763 led to the Boston Massacre in 1770, and the 1773 Boston Tea Party escalated tensions to the breaking point. Anti-Parliamentary activity by men such as Samuel Adams and John Hancock, followed by reprisals by the British government, were a primary reason for the unity of the Thirteen Colonies and the outbreak of the American Revolution.
The Battles of Lexington and Concord initiated the American Revolutionary War and were fought in the homonymous Massachusetts towns. Future President George Washington took over what would become the Continental Army after the battle. His first victory was the Siege of Boston in the winter of 177576, after which the British were forced to evacuate the city. The event is still celebrated in Suffolk County as Evacuation Day.

 

List of Counties

County
County seat
Established
Origin
Origin of Name
Barnstable Barnstable 1685 One of three original counties created in the Plymouth Colony After its county seat of Barnstable, which is named after the English town of Barnstaple
Berkshire Pittsfield 1761 From part of Hampshire County. Government abolished in 2000. For the English county of Berkshire
Bristol Taunton 1685 One of three original counties created in the Plymouth Colony For its original county seat of Bristol, Massachusetts, which is named for the English port city of Bristol - when the Town of Bristol joined Rhode Island, the name of the county was kept
Dukes Edgartown 1695 From Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands, which had been part of Dukes County, New York until Massachusetts gained it in 1691 Formerly a part of Dukes County, New York until 1691, the land at one time was literally the possession of the Duke of York
Essex Salem and Lawrence 1643 One of four original counties created in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Government abolished in 1999. For the English county of Essex
Franklin Greenfield 1811 From part of Hampshire County. Government abolished in 1997. For Benjamin Franklin (17061790), early American scientist, diplomat, and politician
Hampden Springfield 1812 From part of Hampshire County. Government abolished in 1998. John Hampden (15951643), the famous 17th century English parliamentarian
Hampshire Northampton 1662 From unorganized territory in the western part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Government abolished 1999. For the English county of Hampshire
Middlesex Cambridge and Lowell 1643 One of four original counties created in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Government abolished in 1997. For the English county ofMiddlesex
Nantucket Nantucket 1695 From Nantucket Island which had been part of Dukes County, New York until Massachusetts gained it in 1691. The Town of Nantucket, itself derived from a Wampanoag word meaning "place of peace"
Norfolk Dedham 1793 From part of Suffolk County. For the English county of Norfolk
Plymouth Plymouth and Brockton 1685 One of three original counties created in the Plymouth Colony. For its seat of Plymouth, which is named for the English port city of Plymouth
Suffolk Boston 1643 One of four original counties created in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Government abolished in 1999. For the English county of Suffolk
Worcester Worcester 1731 From parts of Hampshire County, Middlesex County and Suffolk County. Government abolished in 1998. For its county seat of Worcester, which is named in honor of the English city of Worcester and the English Civil War Battle of Worcester in 1651, a Parliamentarian victory

 

Adjacent States

New Hampshire

New York

Connecticut

Vermont

Rhode Island

 

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