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Five Free Massachusetts Databases to Jump Start Your Research

The "Discovering Your Massachusetts Ancestors" webinar in January provided Legacy webinar viewers with a broad overview of Massachusetts genealogy resources to help you with your New England research. The resources for online Massachusetts research are superb but there are some hidden databases that most people aren't familiar with. Here are five lesser known database that will jump start your research.

The Farber Gravestone Collection (American Antiquarian Society)

Looking for photographs of your ancestors' gravestones? Your first thought might be to check But there is another little-known gravestone database with superior quality photos from the American Antiquarian Society. These photographs were taken in the early 20th century and therefore the gravestones may be more readable than current gravestones photos. Search the database by town or your ancestor's name.

Obituary Index (Boston Public Library)

Twentieth-century records can be some of the hardest to locate but they can be crucial in helping you make a connection with difficult families. The Boston Public Library Obituary Index makes your search a little easier. The index covers the years 1953 - 2010 and extracts obituary information from both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald. If you get a hit on a relative or ancestor you can contact the library staff to arrange for a copy of the full obituary.

Port of Boston Passenger Manifests (1848-1891) (Massachusetts State Archives)

If your immigrant ancestors landed in Massachusetts there's a good chance they may have come through the Port of Boston. To find out, search the Port of Boston Passenger Manifests at the Massachusetts State Archives website. This is only an index but you can view un-indexed images on by using the date of arrival.

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center (Boston Public Library)

One of the best kept online secrets in Massachusetts is the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library. Maps from their extensive collection are available online for free. The maps cover a broad range of dates from earliest colonial times to the 21st century. The maps will help you see changing jurisdictions or give you a snapshot in time. The types of maps vary greatly so you will want to do some exploring. Search for maps by date, subject and location. You can even download a digital copy to your computer.

Panoramic Maps (1847-1929) (Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division)

Step into your ancestors' shoes and view the towns they lived in at the time they lived there. Panoramic maps from the Library of Congress give you a bird's eye view of your ancestor's home town. If you know which street your ancestors lived on you may even be able to pick out their house. Unfortunately no homeowner names are provided on the maps but they will give you a good feel for the area in which your ancestors lived. Search the database for keyword (try the name of the town) or drill down by geographic location. The maps include the entire United States not just Massachusetts.


Guest blogger, Marian Pierre-Louis, is a historical researcher who loves to share, encourage and inspire others on their genealogy research journey. You can see her upcoming webinars on Legacy Family Tree and read her blog, Marian's Roots and Rambles. She is the author of Discovering Your Massachusetts AncestorsBrick Walls: Cracking the Case of Nathan Brown's Parents and Researching Your Connecticut Ancestors.


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I was interested in the books she presented and have not been able to locate copies in GOOGLE books, ABE books or AMAZON...why??

Farber Collection is terrific!!
i'm @C's and have found 2 - Cook&Cooley

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