Dukes County, Massachusetts Genealogy

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

County Facts
County seat: Edgartown[1]
Organized: June 22, 1695
Parent County(s): Non County Massachusetts Bay Colony area[2]
Neighboring Counties
Barnstable  • Bristol  • Nantucket  • Plymouth
See County Maps
Massachusetts, Dukes County Courthouse.png
Location Map

County Information[edit | edit source]

Description[edit | edit source]

The county was named for Dukes County, New York, the land at one time was literally the possession of the Duke of York.[3] It is located in the southeast area of the state.[4]

County Courthouse[edit | edit source]

Dukes County Courthouse
81 Main Street
Edgartown, MA 02539
Phone: 508-627-4668
Dukes County Website

Dukes 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[5]
Birth* Marriage Death* Court Land Probate Census
at town creation at town creation at town creation 1859 1686 1696 1779
* Statewide registration for births and deaths started in 1841. General compliance year unknown. See also Town Records

Record Loss[edit | edit source]

There is no known history of courthouse disasters in this county.

Boundary Changes[edit | edit source]

Populated Places[edit | edit source]

Dukes CountyBristol CountyPlymouth CountyBarnstable CountyFreetownAcushnetDartmouthNew BedfordFairhavenRochesterMattapoisettMarionWarehamBourneSandwichBarnstableMashpeeFalmouthGosnoldAquinnahChilmarkWest TisburyTisburyOak BluffsEdgartownNomans Land (unoccupied island) part of Chilmark
Modern town borders in Dukes County, Massachusetts.

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:[8]

Native American communities
Census-designated places

History Timeline[edit | edit source]

The region was first recorded in detail by Capt. Gosnold in 1602 who named the string of islands after his daughter Elizabeth, which later became the town of Gosnold. Fishermen were the first to occupy the islands in the early 1600s. Settlements develop in the 1640s. Town records begin in 1671. County government is established in 1683 by New York. These records are rumored to be in Albany, but as yet have not been identified. Records after 1695 are complete.

The basic data are from the historical county boundary series[9] with additions from various sources.

Dates Events
1674 The region was included in a grant to the Duke of York.
1 November 1683 Dukes County was established by the Colony of New York that included the islands of Elizabeth, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket. [N.Y. Col. Laws, Ch. 4, Sect. 1, p. 122]
7 October 1691 Dukes became part of the rechartered Massachusetts Bay Colony Genealogy without being established as a county.
22 June 1695 Dukes County re-established as Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands. [Mass. Col. Acts, Vol. 1, Ch. 7 [1695/6], p. 216]

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 Dukes 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 3,255
1800 3,118 −4.2%
1810 3,290 5.5%
1820 3,292 0.1%
1830 3,517 6.8%
1840 3,958 12.5%
1850 4,540 14.7%
1860 4,403 −3.0%
1870 3,787 −14.0%
1880 4,300 13.5%
1890 4,369 1.6%
1900 4,561 4.4%
1910 4,504 −1.2%
1920 4,372 −2.9%
1930 4,953 13.3%
1940 5,669 14.5%
1950 5,633 −0.6%
1960 5,829 3.5%
1970 6,117 4.9%
1980 8,942 46.2%
1990 11,639 30.2%
2000 14,987 28.8%
2010 16,535 10.3%
Source: "Wikipedia.org".

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.

Older records are held by:
Supreme Judicial Court Archives
(administration - records stored in several off-site facilities and the Mass. Archives)
16th Floor, Highrise Court House
3 Pemberton Square
Boston MA 02109
Phone 617-557-1082
Email Elizabeth.Bouvier@sjc.state.ma.us

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.
The records microfilmed:

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 records microfilmed:

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.
There are no records microfilmed. The original records are either in the county courthouse or at the Judicial Archives. Their location has not been researched.

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.
There are no records microfilmed. The original records are either in the county courthouse or at the Judicial Archives. Their location has not been researched.

County Commissioners
There has been no good description found for the function and authority of this court. It is referenced since records have been located.

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.

Dukes County Registry of Deeds
PO Box 5231
81 Main Street
Edgartown MA 02539
Phone 508-627-4025
Email info@dukescounty.org

Online Land Indexes and Records

Original Microfilmed Records at New England Historic Genealogical Society:

  • Deeds, 1641-1872, index, 1641-1895
  • Proprietors' records, A-D (1641-1717), 1-2 (1641-1857), index, 1641-1857

Local Histories[edit | edit source]

Maps and Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

Barnstable CountyNantucket CountyMA DUKES.PNG
Click a neighboring county
for more resources
  • Henry Francis Walling, Map of the counties of Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket, Massachusetts, based upon the trigonometrical survey of the state (1858) at FHL fiche 6079543 and the Norman B.Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public 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 Naturalization Indexes and Records - Covering Multiple Courts

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.

Dukes Probate and Family Court
Dukes County Courthouse
PO Box 237
81 Main Street
Edgartown MA 02539
Phone 508-627-4703
Email info@dukescounty.org

Online Probate Indexes and Records

Original Records on Microfilm

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 Dukes County. For state-wide library facilities, see Massachusetts Archives and Libraries.

  • Martha's Vineyard Museum
    PO Box 1310
    59 School Street
    Edgartown MA 02539
    Phone 508-627-4441
    This research facility has the most extensive genealogical services on the island.

Dukes County Historical Societies CountyOffice.orgWebsite

For information on additional archives and repositories, see

Museums[edit | edit source]

Societies[edit | edit source]

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

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. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Massachusetts. At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
  2. Massachusetts Historical Boundary Changes - list of all boundary changes by county provided by Newberry Library; accessed on 11 January 2022.
  3. Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, “Dukes County, Massachusetts, https://raogk.org/massachusetts/dukes-county/
  4. Wikipedia contributors, "Dukes, County," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dukes_County,_Massachusetts
  5. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Dukes 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.
  6. Massachusetts Historical Boundary Changes - list of all boundary changes by county provided by Newberry Library; accessed on 11 January 2022.
  7. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Massachusetts. At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
  8. Wikipedia contributors, "Dukes County, Massachusetts," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dukes_County%2C_Massachusetts, accessed 09 March 2020.
  9. Massachusetts Atlas of Historical County Boundaries