Dukes County, Massachusetts Genealogy

From FamilySearch Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This is a historical and genealogical guide to the county of Dukes. You will find help with town histories, vital records, deeds and land records, city directories, cemetery records and cemeteries, churches, town records, newspapers, maps, and libraries.

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.[1] It is located in the southeast area of the state.[2]

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

Known Beginning Dates for Major County Records[3]
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.

Dukes County Massachusetts History[edit | edit source]

Brief History[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.

Historical Data[edit | edit source]

The basic data are from the historical county boundary series[4] with additions from various sources.

Dates Events
in 1674 The region was included in a grant to the Duke of York.
1 Nov. 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 Oct. 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]

Record Loss[edit | edit source]

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

Top of Page

County Histories[edit | edit source]

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

Works written on the county include:

Top of Page

Dukes County Massachusetts Genealogy Resources[edit | edit source]

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

In Massachusetts, the original vital records (of births, marriages, and deaths) have been created and maintained by the town or city in which the event occurred. In very early colonial times, copies of these records were submitted to the county, but that practice died out long before 1700. There were marriage intentions commonly recorded in the bride's home town and additional recordings maybe found in the groom's home town and their current residence.

Massachusetts was the first state to bring a unified state-level recording of these events (but not marriage intentions) in 1841 (Boston excluded until 1850). The associated records of divorce and adoption are handled by the courts. The state has maintained a state-wide index to divorces since 1952, but adoption records will require more researching to discover.

It is easiest to start with the state vital records for events since 1841, though realize the original record is with the town or city. More details can be found on the Massachusetts Genealogy Guide page.

Online Vital Records

Birth[edit | edit source]

Marriage[edit | edit source]

Death[edit | edit source]

Top of Page

Cemetery[edit | edit source]

Tombstone Transcriptions Online Tombstone Transcriptions in Print List of Cemeteries in the county
Findagrave.com Family History Library Findagrave.com
USGenWeb WorldCat Billion Graves
Tombstone Project FamilySearch Places
Billion Graves
See Massachusetts Cemeteries for more information.

Census[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".

- Massachusetts State Census, 1865 at FamilySearch - How to Use this Collection

Church Records[edit | edit source]

List of Churches and Church Parishes

Emigration and Immigration[edit | edit source]

Land 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

Original records

Records are available at the Registry. Their records ONLINE are:

  • Recorded Land [i.e. deeds], 1982-present.
    Note: There is an unindexed property search, but what is available is not stated and it does not go back to the earliest records.
  • Recorded Plans, 1900-present.
  • Registered Land [i.e. land court], 1979-present.
  • Registered Land Plans, 1899-present.
Original records on microfilm
Top of Page

Town Records[edit | edit source]

Maps and Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

Barnstable CountyNantucket CountyMA DUKES.PNG
Click a neighboring county
for more resources

Newspapers[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

The original records are either at the courthouse or at the Judicial Archives in Boston. Their located has not been researched.

Online Probate Indexes and Records

Original records on microfilm

Top of Page

Other 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

Top of Page | Top of Court

Quarterly Court of General Sessions of the Peace[edit | edit source]

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:

Top of Page | Top of Court

Inferior Court of Common Pleas[edit | edit source]

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:

Top of Page | Top of Court

Superior Court[edit | edit source]

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.

Top of Page | Top of Court

Supreme Judicial Court[edit | edit source]

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.

Top of Page | Top of Court

County Commissioners' Court[edit | edit source]

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

Top of Page | Top of Court

Naturalization Records[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.

There are no records microfilmed for the Federal or State County courts.

Top of Page | Top of Court

Maps[edit | edit source]

  • 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.
Top of Page

Military Records[edit | edit source]

Revolutionary War[edit | edit source]

Top of Page

Dukes County Massachusetts Libraries and Genealogy Societies[edit | edit source]

  • 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.

For information on additional archives and repositories, see

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

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:[5]

Native American communities
Census-designated places

Dukes County Massachusetts Genealogy References[edit | edit source]

  1. Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, “Dukes County, Massachusetts, https://raogk.org/massachusetts/dukes-county/
  2. Wikipedia contributors, "Dukes, County," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dukes_County,_Massachusetts
  3. 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.
  4. Massachusetts Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
  5. Wikipedia contributors, "Dukes County, Massachusetts," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dukes_County%2C_Massachusetts, accessed 09 March 2020.
Adjacent counties: Massachusetts: Barnstable | Nantucket | Plymouth
New York: Suffolk County