A Guide to Published
Probate Records and Indices
For the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

By Dale H. Cook

 

     Probate records are among the most valuable of all genealogical records. It is not always convenient for researchers (especially those outside of New England) to journey to a court house to consult the probate indices, files and record books when looking for a probate file. Although the Family History Library has films of indices, some researchers find it inconvenient to go to a Family History Center to rent those films.

     Many Massachusetts probate records have been published as abstracts or transcriptions, and probate indices have been published for several counties. This guide to probate records and indices is a work in progress, and will be revised as new sources are published or put online, and as I discover published or online sources of which I was not previously aware. It is organized by county, and for each county indices are listed first, followed by abstracts and transcriptions. Note that there are some Massachusetts counties for which I know of no published or online probate resources, and so there are no headings for those counties. Note also that there is a section for New Plymouth Colony (aka the Old Colony), another section for the Massachusetts Bay Colony (aka the Bay Colony), and a section at the end for works that span multiple counties.

     I have listed books, articles in genealogical journals, CD-ROMs and online databases. Some of the books, journals and CD-ROMs have a broader scope (such as quarterly court records), but include probate information as an important component. Many of the sources are available online, either as downloads of scanned books or journals or as databases. Many of the books, journals and CD-ROMs are out-of-print, but are occasionally available through sources including used book dealers, online auction sites, and vendors who specialize in copies of works from the public domain.

     When available online or on CD-ROM an entry will be followed by a notation in square brackets as a guide to its location online or CD publication. Note that for multi-volume works where scans are shown online from multiple sources, it is sometimes the case that not every site has all of the volumes available, and that you may have to visit multiple sites to access all of the volumes. Note also that online scans vary in quality, and that some sites have multiple scans of a volume from different sources, so it often pays to look at each scan of a volume. Note further that the name of a scanned volume as given online may not accurately reflect the published title of the volume, so I suggest that researchers use a combination of scans, employing authors, partial titles, and subjects. The abbreviations used in the notations are:

  • CD - Available on CD-ROM
  • DB - Available as a database
  • SC - Available as scans of a book or genealogical journal
  • ANC - Ancestry.com (subscription service, available at some libraries)
  • FHB - Family History Books
  • FTM - Family Tree Maker CD-ROM
  • GB - Google Books
  • HQ - Heritage Quest Online (subscription service, available at some libraries)
  • IATA - Internet Archive Text Archive (Note that some scans are originally from Google Books)
  • NEHGR - The New England Historical and Genealogical Register - 9 CD-ROM disks with index, Volumes 1 (1847) to 148 (1994)
  • NEHGS - The New England Historic Genealogical Society (available to members through their web site)
  • S&R - Search & ReSearch Publishing CD-ROM

     The preceding listing is not intended to be exhaustive, because there are far more vendors for these works than I can list here, and judicious use of a search engine will reveal many of them. Note also that many individual probate records have been published in a large number of genealogical journals outside of probate series, and it is far beyond the scope of this article to list those.

 

Barnstable County

Barnstable County Probate Index, 1686 to 1850
Scott Andrew Bartley
Published in installments in Mayflower Descendant in 2004 and 2005, not yet completed

Abstracts of Barnstable County, Mass., Probate Records
George Ernest Bowman
Published in installments in Mayflower Descendant from 1900 to 1937
[CD: FTM #203 - The Complete Mayflower Descendant, Vols. 1-46 & Other Sources, 1600s-1800s (2 Disks, MD volumes from 1899 to 1996; all 5 volumes of PN&Q)]
[CD: S&R - Mayflower Descendant Legacy (MD volumes from 1899 to 1937; all 5 volumes of PN&Q)]

Barnstable, Massachusetts, Probate Records 16851789
Probate records of Barnstable County 1685-1723 and the Town of Barnstable 1723-1789, included on the CD-ROM:
   Records of Barnstable, Massachusetts
   Gustavus Adolphus Hinckley, Compiler; Robert J. Dunkle, CD-ROM Transcriber
   Boston: The New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001
[CD: NEHGS - Records of Barnstable, Massachusetts]
[DB: NEHGS]

 

Bay Colony - See Massachusetts Bay Colony

 

Berkshire County

Index to Probate Records, 1761-1900
Pittsfield, MA: Typescript, s.a.
(The county was established in 1761 and the first probate file is from that year)
[Page images online from the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants]

 

Bristol County

Abstracts of Bristol County, Massachusetts Probate Records, 2 Volumes
Harold Lewis Peter Rounds
Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987; reprinted Baltimore: Clearfield Co., 1993
Vol. 1: 1687-1745; Vol. 2: 1745-1762
[CD: FTM #502 - Massachusetts Town, Probate & Vital Records, 1600s-1900s]

Bristol County Probate Abstracts
Harold Lewis Peter Rounds
Almost-completed third volume of the above (1762 to early 1768), published in installments in Mayflower Descendant from 1995 to 2000
[CD: (1995 and 1996 installments) FTM #203 - The Complete Mayflower Descendant, Volumes. 1-46 & Other Sources, 1600s-1800s (2 Disks, MD volumes from 1899 to 1996; all 5 volumes of PN&Q)]

Abstracts from the First Book of Bristol County Probate Records
Lucy Hall Greenlaw
Published in installments in The Genealogical Advertiser in 1900 and 1901
[CD: FTM #526 - Massachusetts Genealogical Records, 1600s-1800s]

Abstracts from the First Book of Bristol County Probate Records
Lucy Hall Greenlaw
Published in installments in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register from 1908 to 1910
[CD: NEHGR - The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (9 disks with index, Volumes 1 (1847) to 148 (1994)]
[SC: NEHGS - The New England Historic and Genealogical Society, Register Volumes 1 (1847) to 164 (2010)]

Extracts from the Early Probate Records of Bristol County, with Notes from the Registry of Deeds and Town Records
Ebenezer W. Peirce
Published in installments in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register in 1865
[CD: NEHGR - The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (9 disks with index, Volumes 1 (1847) to 148 (1994)]
[SC: NEHGS - The New England Historic and Genealogical Society, Register Volumes 1 (1847) to 164 (2010)]

 

Essex County

Essex County, Massachusetts Probate Index 1638-1840, 2 Volumes
Melinde Lutz Sanborn
Boston: The Author, 1987
[SC: ANC]

The Probate Records of Essex County Massachusetts, 3 Volumes
George Francis Dow
Salem, MA: The Essex Institute, 1916, 1920
Vol. 1 (1916): 1635-1664; Vol. 2 (1916): 1665-1674; Vol. 3 (1920): 1674-1681
[CD: S&R - Early Vital Records of Essex County, Massachusetts to About 1850]
[SC: IATA, GB]

Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County Massachusetts, 8 Volumes
Salem, MA: The Essex Institute, 1911-1921
Vol. I (1911): 1636-1656; Vol. II (1912): 1656-1662; Vol. III (1913): 1662-1667; Vol. IV (1914): 1667-1671;
   Vol. V (1916): 1672-1674; Vol. VI (1917): 1675-1678; Vol. VII (1919): 1678-1680; Vol. VIII (1921): 1680-1683
[SC: IATA, GB]

 

Franklin County

Index to Dockets and Files of the Probate Court of the County of Franklin Prior to January 1, 1926
Greenfield, MA: Typescript, s.a.
(The county was established in late 1811 and the first probate file is from early 1812)
[Page images online from the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants]

 

Massachusetts Bay Colony

Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay In New England, 1628-1686, 5 Volumes in 6
Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, Editor
Boston: The Commonwealth, 1853-1854; reprinted New York: AMS Press, 1968
Vol. I (1853): 1628—1641; Vol. II (1853): 1642—1649; Vol. III (1854): 1644—1657;
   Vol. IV, Part I (1854): 1650—1660; Vol. IV, Part II (1854): 1661—1674; Vol. V (1854): 1674—1686
(Note that there is no consolidated index, so to find the probate records scattered through the volumes the indices of the individual volumes must be consulted.)
[SC: IATA, GB, NEHGS]

 

Middlesex County

Index to the Probate Records of the County of Middlesex, Massachusetts from 1648 to 1871: First Series
Samuel Hilliard Folsom, Editor
Cambridge, MA: H. O. Houghton & Co., 1914
[SC: ANC] [DB: NEHGS]

Index to the Probate Records of the County of Middlesex, Massachusetts from December 31, 1870 to January 1, 1910: Second Series, 2 Volumes
William Everett Rogers, Editor
Cambridge, MA: H. O. Houghton & Co., 1912
Vol. I: A-K; Vol. II: L-Z
[SC: IATA (Both volumes)] [SC: ANC (Volume I)]

Middlesex County in the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay in New England: Records of Probate and Administration, October, 1649-December, 1660
Robert Howard Rodgers, Editor
Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1999

Middlesex County in the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay in New England: Records of Probate and Administration, March, 1660/61-December, 1670
Robert Howard Rodgers, Editor
Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001

Middlesex County in the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay in New England: Records of Probate and Administration, February, 1670/71-June, 1676
Robert Howard Rodgers, Editor
Rockport, ME : Picton Press, 2005

 

New Plymouth Colony

Plymouth Colony Probate Guide: Where to Find Wills and Related Data for 800 people of Plymouth Colony, 1620-1691
Ruth Wilder Sherman and Robert S. Wakefield
Warwick, RI: Plymouth Colony Research Group, 1983

Records of the Colony of New Plymouth In New England, 12 Vols. (issued bound as 9 or 10)
Nathaniel B. Shurtleff (Vols. 1-8) and David Pulsifer (Vols. 9-12), Editors
Boston: The Press of William White, Printer to the Commonwealth, 1855-1861; repr. in 6 Vols. New York: AMS Press, 1968
Vol. I (1855): Court Orders, 1633—1640; Vol. II (1855): Court Orders, 1641—1651; Vol. III (1855): Court Orders, 1651—1661;
   Vol. IV (1855): Court Orders, 1661—1668; Vol. V (1856): Court Orders, 1668—1678; Vol. VI (1856): Court Orders, 1678—1691;
   Vol. VII (1857): Judicial Acts, 1636—1692; Vol. VIII (1857): Miscellaneous Records, 1633—1689;
   Vol. IX (1859): Acts of the Commissioners of the United Colonies of New England, Vol. I, 1643—1651;
   Vol. X (1859): Acts of the Commissioners of the United Colonies of New England, Vol. II, 1653—1678-9;
   Vol. XI (1861): Laws, 1623—1682; Vol. XII (1861): Deeds &c. Vol. 1, 1620—1651; Book of Indian Records for Their Lands
(Note that scattered probate records are found among the court orders in the first six volumes, to find them consult my Consolidated Index to Plymouth Colony Records.)
[SC: IATA, GB, FHA]

Plymouth Colony Records
Charles H. Simmons, Jr.
Camden, ME: Picton Press, 1996
Vol. 1: Wills and Inventories, 1633—1669, 2 ms. volumes in 1 (Contains the first half of the Old Colony probate records - the second volume has not been published). An index to the names in this volume is contained in my Consolidated Index to Plymouth Colony Records, indicated as volume 13.

Plymouth Colony Wills and Inventories
George Ernest Bowman
Published in installments in Mayflower Descendant from 1899 to 1935
(Contains portions of all four manuscript volumes of the Old Colony probate records. See my Consolidated Contents of Mayflower Descendant for a listing of the installments.)
[CD: FTM #203 - The Complete Mayflower Descendant, Vols. 1-46 & Other Sources, 1600s-1800s (2 Disks, MD volumes from 1899 to 1996; all 5 volumes of PN&Q)]
[CD: S&R - Mayflower Descendant Legacy (MD volumes from 1899 to 1937; all 5 volumes of PN&Q)]

 

Norfolk County

Probate Index, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, 1793-1900, 2 Volumes
Dedham, MA: Transcript Press, 1910
Vol.I: A-K; Vol. II: L-Z
[SC: IATA (Both volumes)] [SC: ANC (Volume II)]

Deeds, Wills, Inventories, etc. 1647-1714: Records of the County of Norfolk, in the Colony of Massachusetts
David Pulsifer, Editor
Salem, MA: No date

Stoughton, Massachusetts Probate Index: Including Probates from Suffolk and Norfolk County, 1727-1900
David Allen Lambert, Editor
Stoughton, MA : The Author, 2009

 

Plymouth Colony - See New Plymouth Colony

 

Plymouth County

Plymouth County Massachusetts Probate Index 1686-1881
Ralph V. Wood, Jr.
Camden, ME: Picton Press, 1988

George Ernest Bowman and Barbara Lambert Merrick
Abstracts of the Plymouth County Probate Records and Files
Published in installments in Pilgrim Notes and Queries in 1916 and 1917, and continued in Mayflower Descendant from 1932 to 2000
(Title varies. See my Consolidated Contents of Mayflower Descendant for a listing of the installments.)
[CD: FTM #203 - The Complete Mayflower Descendant, Vols. 1-46 & Other Sources, 1600s-1800s (2 Disks, MD volumes from 1899 to 1996; all 5 volumes of PN&Q)]
[CD: S&R - Mayflower Descendant Legacy (MD volumes from 1899 to 1937; all 5 volumes of PN&Q)]

Abstracts from the First Book of Plymouth County Probate Records
Lucy Hall Greenlaw
Published in installments in The Genealogical Advertiser from 1898 to 1901
[CD: FTM #526 - Massachusetts Genealogical Records, 1600s-1800s]

 

Suffolk County

Index to the Probate Records of the County of Suffolk, Massachusetts from the Year 1636 to and Including the Year 1893, 3 Volumes
Elijah George, Editor
Boston: Rockwell and Churchill, 1895

Index to the Probate Records of the County of Suffolk, Massachusetts from the Year 1894 to and Including the Year 1909
Arthur W. Dolan, Editor
Boston: City of Boston Printing Dept., 1911

Index to the Probate Records of the County of Suffolk, Massachusetts from the Year 1910 to and Including the Year 1922
Arthur W. Sullivan, Editor
Boston: City of Boston Printing Dept., 1927

Index to the Probate Records of the County of Suffolk, Massachusetts from the Year 1923 to and Including the Year 1935
Arthur W. Sullivan, Editor
Boston: City of Boston Printing Dept., 1941

Index to the Probate Records of the County of Suffolk, Massachusetts from the Year 1936 to and Including the Year 1947
Arthur W. Sullivan, Editor
Boston: City of Boston Printing Dept., 1951

Index to the Probate Records of the County of Suffolk, Massachusetts from the Year 1948 to and Including the Year 1958
Louis F. Musco, Editor
Boston: City of Boston Printing Dept., 1961

Index to the Probate Records of the County of Suffolk, Massachusetts from the Year 1959 to and Including the Year 1968
Louis F. Musco, Editor
Boston: City of Boston Printing Dept., 1969

Abstracts from the Earliest Wills On Record and On the Files in the County of Suffolk, Mass.
Samuel G. Drake, William B. Trask and Walter K. Watkins
Published in installments in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register from 1848 to 1894
(Contains wills through mid-1670, title varies. See my Partial Contents of The New England Historical and Genealogical Register for a listing of the installments.)
[CD: NEHGR - The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (9 disks with index, Volumes 1 (1847) to 148 (1994)]
[SC: NEHGS - The New England Historic and Genealogical Society, Register Volumes 1 (1847) to 164 (2010)]

Suffolk County Wills: Abstracts of the Earliest Wills On Record in the County of Suffolk, Massachusetts
Samuel G. Drake, William B. Trask and Walter K. Watkins, Index by Judith McGhan
Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1984
Reprint of the NEHGR series
[CD: FTM #502 - Massachusetts Town, Probate & Vital Records, 1600s-1900s]

Winifred Lovering Holman and Mary Lovering Holman
Suffolk County Probate (1686-1692)
Published in installments in The American Genealogist from 1935 to 1938
[SC: NEHGS]

G. A. Taylor
Stray Wills at Suffolk County (Mass.) Probate Registry
Published in installments in The American Genealogist from 1937 to 1956
[SC: NEHGS]

 

Worcester County

Index to the Probate Records of the County of Worcester, Massachusetts, from July 12, 1731, to July 1, 1881: Series A, 2 Volumes
George H. Harlow, Editor
Worcester, MA: Oliver B. Wood, 1898
Vol. I: A-Kingsbury; Vol. II: Kingsbury-Z
[SC: IATA (Both volumes)]
[SC: ANC (Volume I)] [DB: NEHGS]

Index to the Probate Records of the County of Worcester, Massachusetts, from July 1, 1881, to July 1, 1897: Series B, Volume 1
George H. Harlow, Editor
Worcester, MA: Oliver B. Wood, 1898
[SC: IATA]
[DB: NEHGS]

Index to the Probate Records of the County of Worcester, Massachusetts, from July 1, 1897, to January 1, 1910: Series B, Volume 2
John W. Mawbey, Editor
Worcester, MA: Oliver B. Wood, 1910
[SC: IATA]
[DB: NEHGS]

Index to the Probate Records of the County of Worcester, Massachusetts, from January 1, 1900, to January 1, 1904: Series B, Volume 3
George H. Harlow, Editor
Worcester, MA: Oliver B. Wood, 1904
[SC: IATA]

Index to the Probate Records of the County of Worcester, Massachusetts, from January 1, 1910, to January 1, 1920: Series B, Volume 4
Harry H. Atwood, Editor
Worcester, MA: Oliver B. Wood, 1920
[SC: IATA]

Worcester County, Massachusetts Probate Abstracts 1748-1751
Janet K. Pease
Typescript, 1979
[CD: S&R - Early Vital Records of Worcester County, Massachusetts to About 1850]

 

Multiple Counties

Mayflower Deeds & Probates from the Files of George Ernest Bowman at the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants
Susan E. Roser, Editor
Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994
[CD: FTM #167 - Mayflower Vital Records, Deeds & Wills, 1600s-1900s]

 

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