Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Middlesex County, Massachusetts Probate Records, 1648-1871, Now Available on

There is major genealogical GOOD news for New England researchers this morning from the New England Historic Genealogical Society - the Middlesex County, Massachusetts Probate Records, 1648-1871, have been digitized and made available on the NEHGS website!  I am a happy camper...

The announcement in the weekly NEHGS newsletter, The Weekly Genealogist, noted:

"This database was created from digital images and an index contributed to NEHGS by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Archives. The collection contains the records of 45,383 Middlesex County probate cases filed between 1648 and 1871. The probate cases include wills, guardianships, administrations, and various other types of probate records. The cases range in length from one to more than 1,500 pages, with a total of more than 668,000 individual file papers. This database is freely accessible to the general public."

Note the last sentence - "This database is freely accessible to the general public."

I have an NEHGS subscription, so I can see it.  I hope that everyone can - the link is 

If you are accessing it through the NEHGS website, here is the process:

1)  On the home page, click on the "Advanced Search" link above the search box:

2)  That opens the "Advanced Criteria" search form, where the user can enter the person's name.  Note that wild cards can be used for this name search.  Year ranges and specific place names can also be entered to limit the search.  I entered Joseph Seaver in the name search fields.

The user can search all of the databases available, or limit themselves to one "Category" (record type) or even one database.  I clicked the down arrow to the right of the "Database" field and scrolled down to the "Middlesex County, MA, Probate File Papers, 1648-1871" and selected that database:

3)  I clicked the "Search" button at the bottom of the screen above, and the search results show two matches:

4)  I want to see the first match (circled above), so I clicked on the "View" link to see:

The screen opened to the first image of the probate file papers for Case 20066 for Joseph Seaver, filed in 1754.  The user can advance to the next page in the set by clicking on the "Next" link above or below the page image.

5)  I clicked on "Next" and saw the next page in the file - it's a page from Joseph Seaver's will.  Down at the bottom of the page are icons so that the user can:

*  Print the current view
*  Saves the image - either the original image or the current view
*  Rotate the image left
*  Rotate the image right
*  Zoom in the image
*  Zoom out the image
*  Go full-screen image
*  Return image to go to default zoom and location.

To download the record image, click on the "Saves the image" icon and select the "Save Original" link:

6)  To go back to the Search field, click on the "Refine Search" button at the top right of the web page.

7)  This is an absolutely excellent addition to a very long list of New England and New York databases of digitized records.

There are other Massachusetts probate and court record databases on the website, including:

*  Barnstable [town] Probate Records, 1685-1789
*  Bristol County, Extracts from Court of General Sessions of the Peace, 1687-1801
*  Essex County, Probate File Papers, 1638-1881
*  Middlesex County, Abstracts of Court Records, 1643-1674
*  Middlesex County, Index to Probate Records, 1648-1871
*  Middlesex County, Probate File Papers, 1648-1871
*  Plymouth Court Records, 1686-1859
*  Worcester County, Index to Probate Records, 1731-1881

I may have missed some of them...and there are court and probate records from other states on the database list.

This will be an excellent help for me.  I had captured many (probably over one hundred) probate files from Middlesex County Probate Records from FHL microfilm over the years, but had only printed them out on paper, most on 11 x 17 sheets which I folded and put into notebooks.  I tried scanning them in parts with unsatisfactory results.  Now I can capture the images with excellent resolution.

The URL to this post is:

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


Diane B said...

Randy when I saw this in the NEHGS newsletter today I was so happy. I actually have some rented films right now at the local Family History Center, which have been hard to capture digitally on their equipment - this will be much easier. There are so many more records I want to look at. Now I can do so at my leisure from home. Yay!!

SearchShack said...

Randy - Thanks for this great blog which helped me find probate records for Amaziah G Shackford. I wrote about your blog (and your wonderful blogging style on a Follow Friday Blog at

Thanks so much for the work you do to not only share important genealogy research tips and hints but for the fabulous screenshots that help us maximize our use those tips to further our own research.

Joanne Shackford Parkes