Barnstable County, Massachusetts Genealogy

From FamilySearch Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Guide to Barnstable County, Massachusetts ancestry, genealogy and family history, birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, and military records.

County Facts
County seat: Barnstable
Organized: 02 Jun 1685[1]
Parent County(s): One of three original counties in New Plymouth Colony
Neighboring Counties
Bristol  • Dukes  • Nantucket  • Plymouth
See County Maps
Massachusetts, Barnstable County Courthouse.png
Location Map

County Information[edit | edit source]

Description[edit | edit source]

Barnstable County is often called Cape Cod and both refer to the same region. This is area where the Mayflower first landed at what is now called Provincetown. The area was a frequent stop for early fishermen before the arrival of the Pilgrims, and settlements started here not long after the founding of Plymouth Colony Genealogy. The earliest records will be found in the Colony's records and those of the individual towns. Plymouth Colony Genealogy did not establish a county system until 1685. This county became part of Massachusetts Bay Colony Genealogy in 1691. Since settlers generally used the water for transportation, it is not uncommon to find Cape Codders on the coast of Maine, New Jersey, Barbados, and places in between. There was a fire in 1827 that destroyed almost all the deeds to that point. Fortunately, the probate records survive.

The county was named for Barnstable, England.[2] It is located in the southeast area of the state.[3]

County Courthouse[edit | edit source]

Barnstable County Courthouse
3195 Main St.
Barnstable, MA 02630
Phone: 508-375-6684
Barnstable County Website

Barnstable County, Massachusetts Record Dates[edit | edit source]

Information for this chart was taken from various sources, often containing conflicting dates. This information should be taken as a guide and should be verified by contacting the county and/or the state government agency.

Known Beginning Dates for Major County Records[4]
Birth* Marriage Death* Court Land Probate Census
at town creation at town creation at town creation 1828 1827 1686 1779
* Statewide registration for births and deaths started in 1841. General compliance year unknown. See also Town Records

Record Loss[edit | edit source]

Fire destroyed nearly all the early deed books and probate files, but probate books survived. Although the official deed books only begin in 1827, many deeds were pre-recorded back to about 1783, though these are far from complete.

For suggestions about research in places that suffered historic record losses, see:

Boundary Changes[edit | edit source]

Populated Places[edit | edit source]

For a complete list of populated places, including small neighborhoods and suburbs, visit HomeTown Locator. The following are the most historically and genealogically relevant populated places in this county:[7]

Plymouth CountyBarnstable CountyDukes CountyMarshfieldDuxburyKingstonPlymouthCarverWarehamBourneFalmouthGosnoldTisburySandwichMashpeeBarnstableYarmouthDennisBrewsterHarwichChathamOrleansEasthamWellfleetTruroProvincetown
Modern towns and cities in Barnstable County, Massachusetts.
Unincorporated communities
  • South Chatham
  • South Sandwich
  • Waquoit
  • Wood End
Census-designated places

History Timeline[edit | edit source]

The basic data are from the historical county boundary series[8] with additions from various sources.

Dates Events
2 June 1685 Barnstable was one of three original counties created by New Plymouth Colony. [Ply. Laws, Ch. 6, p. 19]
7 Oct. 1691 Barnstable became a county in the rechartered Massachusetts Bay Colony with no change to its borders. [Mass. Col. Acts, Vol. 1, Ch. 27 [1692/3], Sec. 1, p. 63]
19 Nov. 1707 Lost the town of Rochester when it was moved into the jurisdiction of Plymouth County. [Mass. Col. Acts, Vol. 21, Ch. 60 [1707], p. 755]
14 Apr. 1897 Border between Bourne and Wareham, Plymouth Co., clarified - no change. [Mass. Acts, 1897, Ch. 281, Sec. 1, p. 258]

Resources[edit | edit source]

Bible Records[edit | edit source]

Biographies[edit | edit source]

Business, Commerce, and Occupations[edit | edit source]

Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

Cemeteries of Barnstable County, Massachusetts online and in print
Tombstone Transcriptions Online
Tombstone Transcriptions in Print (Often more complete)
List of Cemeteries in the County
See Massachusetts Cemeteries for more information.

Census Records[edit | edit source]

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1790 17,342
1800 19,293 11.3%
1810 22,211 15.1%
1820 24,026 8.2%
1830 28,514 18.7%
1840 32,548 14.1%
1850 35,276 8.4%
1860 35,990 2.0%
1870 32,774 −8.9%
1880 31,897 −2.7%
1890 29,172 −8.5%
1900 27,826 −4.6%
1910 27,542 −1.0%
1920 26,670 −3.2%
1930 32,305 21.1%
1940 37,295 15.4%
1950 46,805 25.5%
1960 70,286 50.2%
1970 96,656 37.5%
1980 147,925 53.0%
1990 186,605 26.1%
2000 222,230 19.1%
2010 215,888 −2.9%
Source: "".

Church Records[edit | edit source]

List of Churches and Church Parishes

Court Records[edit | edit source]

The court system can appear to be complex. The system was reorganized in 1686/1692, 1859, and 1978. Described below are the most commonly used records for history and genealogy, but realize that this list is incomplete. For more detailed information regarding court structure, see Understanding the Massachusetts Court System.

Quarterly Court of General Sessions of the Peace
This court was active from 1692 to 1827. The court heard criminal cases and had authority over county affairs that included levying taxes, reviewing town bylaws, highways, licensed liquor, regulated jails, supervised the administration of the poor laws, and appointed some county officials.
No microfilmed records found at the Family History Library or Massachusetts Archives. See the Supreme Judicial Court Archives above for the original records. These records are likely all lost in the fire of 1827.

Inferior Court of Common Pleas
This court was active from 1692 to 1859. The court heard all civil cases over 40s unless a case involved freehold or was appealed from a justice of the peace. The record up to 1827 were likely lost in the fire of 1827, but this needs to be verified.

Online Court Index and Records:

Superior Court
The Quarterly Court of General Sessions was merged into the Inferior Court of Common Pleas in 1827, and that court was reorganized in 1859 to created the Superior Court as the new lower (i.e. trial) court. It covers both criminal and civil matters.

Online Court Index and Records:

Supreme Judicial Court
The Supreme Judicial Court was established by the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 that combined the former Governor and Council with the Superior Court of Judicature creating the highest state court. This court hears appeals, writ of error, capital offenses, and crimes against the public good. That included divorces until that action was moved to the lower court in 1887.
No microfilmed records found at the Family History Library or Massachusetts Archives. See the Supreme Judicial Court Archives above for the original records. The records before 1827 are likely all lost in the fire of 1827.

Directories[edit | edit source]

Emigration and Immigration[edit | edit source]

Ethnic, Political, and Religious Groups[edit | edit source]

Funeral Homes[edit | edit source]

Genealogies[edit | edit source]

Guardianship[edit | edit source]

Land and Property Records[edit | edit source]

Land transfers, commonly called deeds, are recorded on the county level in Massachusetts. Not all deeds were recorded as is common practice today. The earliest transactions were charters or grants from the English Crown. Once local government was established, the colony would grant land to settlers directly or to towns to dole out. Some towns first start out as proprietorship and records were recorded there. Once towns were established, deeds were recorded on the county level.

The Registry burned in 1827 and almost all records were lost before that point. Indexes go back to 1703, so it can be seen what is missing. Land owners were asked to re-record their deeds going back to 1783. Volume 61 (1804-1808) survived. Many unrecorded deeds are located at Sturgis Library. The FamilySearch Catalog has these individual deeds cataloged.

Online Land Indexes and Records

Local Histories[edit | edit source]

Manuscripts digitized online:

  • Lydia B. Brownson, Grace W. Held, and Doris V. Norton, "Genealogical Notes of Cape Cod Families" (Duxbury, Mass., typ., 1966), 50v.
    This manuscript is part of the Special Collections at the Sturis Library in Barnstable. It is alphabetically by surname and then by given name below that. It is a culmination of research in published histories and genealogies, and from the vital records of the various towns.
    Digital version of the 50 volumes is at Internet Archive. To go directly to an individual volume, use this guide below:
Vol. 01 (Adams to Arnold) Vol. 02 (Athearn to Bailey) Vol. 03 (Baker)
Vol. 04 (Bang to Bassett) Vol. 05 (Bates to Besse) Vol. 06 (Bickford to Borden)
Vol. 07 (Bourne to Briggs) Vol. 08 (Brooks to Busbey) Vol. 09 (Bush to Charter)
Vol. 10 (Chase to Chipman) Vol. 11 (Christie to Coan) Vol. 12 (Cobb to Coleman)
Vol. 13 (Collins to Creed) Vol. 14 (Crispe to Crosby) Vol. 15 (Crowell to Curtiss)
Vol. 16 (Cushman to Dill) Vol. 17 (Dillingham to Dunham) Vol. 18 (Dunster to Eldredge)
Vol. 19 (Ellis to Farris) Vol. 20 (Faunce to Foster) Vol. 21 (Fowell to Fuller)
Vol. 22 (Gage to Gibbs) Vol. 23 (Gifford to Gorham) Vol. 24 (Gould to Hall)
Vol. 25 (Hallett to Handy) Vol. 26 (Harding to Hathaway) Vol. 27 (Hawes to Hillman)
Vol. 28 (Hinckley to Homer) Vol. 29 (Hopkins to Howes) Vol. 30 (Howland to Jenney)
Vol. 31 (Jennings to Kinney) Vol. 32 (Kendrick to Leonard) Vol. 33 (Lewis to Loring)
Vol. 34 (Lothrop to Marsh) Vol. 35 (Marchant to Merrick) Vol. 36 (Merry to Nichols)
Vol. 37 (Nickerson to Norton) Vol. 38 (Nye to Paine) Vol. 39 (Palmer to Perry)
Vol. 40 (Phillips to Purrington) Vol. 41 (Redding to Robinson) Vol. 42 (Rogers to Seabury)
Vol. 43 (Sears to Smalley) Vol. 44 (Smith to Soper) Vol. 45 (Soule to Sweat)
Vol. 46 (Swift to Thayer) Vol. 47 (Thaxter to Twining) Vol. 48 (Underwood to West)
Vol. 49 (Weston to Wilson) Vol. 50 (Wing to Young)

Maps and Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

Plymouth CountyDukes CountyNantucket CountyMA BARNSTABLE.PNG
Click a neighboring county
for more resources

There are so many published maps of interest to genealogists and historians that this list will not be recreated here. The focus is with resources you can access online and in the Family History Library.

Migration[edit | edit source]

Military Records[edit | edit source]

Revolutionary War

Naturalization and Citizenship[edit | edit source]

Naturalization records were created on a variety of governmental levels from the Federal down to the city at the same time. The county records for all levels are outlines below. For more information, see the Massachusetts state page for more on naturalization.

Online Naturalizations - Covering Multiple Courts
Indexes and Images

Online Naturalizations - by Court
Supreme Judicial Court: Federal - Originals Available at NARA


Superior Court: Barnstable County - Originals Avaliable at Barnstable County Courthouse, Hyannis
Declarations of Intention - Indexes and Records

Petitions - Indexes and Records

Newspapers[edit | edit source]

Obituaries[edit | edit source]

Other Records[edit | edit source]

Periodicals[edit | edit source]

Probate Records[edit | edit source]

Probate and Family Court is organized on a county level in Massachusetts since the creation of the counties. The main records genealogists seek are testate (wills), intestate (administrations), guardianships, and divorces (since 1922), though there are many more that are valuable to any researcher, too. See a further discussion of the topic in general on the Massachusetts Genealogy Guide.

Online Probate Indexes and Records

Original Records on Microfilm

Microfilmed Records Found at the Massachusetts Archive (16 mm film):

  • General index, 1686-1950, 5 v.
  • General index, 1951-1955, 1956-1960, 1961-1965, 1966-1970.
  • Divorce index, 1922-1965, 1966-1970, 1971-1975.
  • Docket books, v. 25-43.
  • Record books, v. 1-403 (v. 396-399 do not exist).
  • File papers, reels 1-64 - missing, no film for #1-22744.
  • File papers, reels 65-299, #22745-48415.

Original Records Published

  • Scott Andrew Bartley, "Barnstable County Probate Index, 1686 to 1850" in the Mayflower Descendant:
    • Abraham to Avery, 53 [2004]: 29-45.
    • Backus to Butler, 53 [2004]: 149-170; 54 [2005]: 31-47, 152-164.
    • Series never finished as the plan was to place it the society website, but they never got to Barnstable County.

School Records[edit | edit source]

Social Security Records[edit | edit source]

Tax Records[edit | edit source]

Town Records[edit | edit source]

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

It is easiest to start with the state vital records indexes (listed below) for births, marriages, and deaths since 1841. Massachusetts was the first to require a consistent recording of these events statewide. Original vital records (starting as early as 1639) are found with the clerk of the town or city where the event occurred. See the Massachusetts Genealogy Guide and Massachusetts Vital Records pages for more details.

Birth[edit | edit source]

Marriage[edit | edit source]

Death[edit | edit source]

Divorce[edit | edit source]

Research Facilities[edit | edit source]

Archives[edit | edit source]

For state-wide and regional facilities, see Massachusetts Archives and Libraries.

Family History Centers[edit | edit source]

Family History Center and Affiliate Library Locator map - search for local Family History Centers or Affiliate Libraries

  • Family History Centers provide one-on-one assistance, free access to center-only databases, and to premium genealogical websites.
  • FamilySearch Affiliate Libraries have access to most center-only databases, but may not always have full services normally provided by a family history center.

Local Centers and Affiliate Libraries

Libraries[edit | edit source]

Listed below are libraries in Barnstable County. For state-wide library facilities, see Massachusetts Archives and Libraries.

Sturgis Library
PO Box 606
3090 Main Street
Barnstable MA 02630
Phone 508-362-6636
This is the best genealogical library on the Cape with newspaper archive for the Barnstable Patriot, 1830-1930, with links ot other Cape archives; and Lothrop Genealogy and Local History Collection.

For information on additional archives and repositories, see

Museums[edit | edit source]

Societies[edit | edit source]

Listed below are societies in Barnstable County. For state-wide genealogical and historical societies, see Massachusetts Societies.

The Barnstable Historical Society
3084 Main St., P.O. Box 829
Barnstable, MA 02630
Website Facdebook
Cape Cod Genealogical Society
PO Box 1394
Harwich MA 02645
This Society maintains a Genealogy Room at the Dennis Public Library, 5 Hall Street, Dennisport.
Website Facebook
The Falmouth Genealogical Society
PO Box 2107
East Falmouth MA 02536
Barnstable County Historical Societies CountyOffice.orgWebsite

Websites[edit | edit source]

  • FamilySearch Catalog – The FamilySearch catalog contains descriptions and access information for all genealogical materials (including books, online materials, microfilm, microfiche, and publications) in their collection.  Use Historical Records to search for specific individuals in genealogical records.

Research Guides[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Individual County Chronologies by John H Long; online by Newberry Library
  2. Britannica, “Barnstable County, Massachusetts,
  3. Wikipedia contributors, "Barnstable County," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia,
  4. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Barnstable County, Massachusetts . Page 329-331 At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002; Alice Eichholz, ed. Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources, Third ed. (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004), 322-323.
  5. Individual County Chronologies by John H Long online by Newberry Library
  6. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Massachusetts. At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
  7. Wikipedia contributors, "Barnstable County, Massachusetts," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia,, accessed 06 March 2020.
  8. Massachusetts Atlas of Historical County Boundaries