Welcome to the History of Massachusetts Blog! This site is dedicated to the history of the Bay state.

Massachusetts is a truly historic state. Indigenous people lived in Massachusetts for over ten thousand years before it was colonized by the English in the 17th century.

The 17th century brought a mass migration of Puritan immigrants into the area while the preceding centuries brought new waves of immigrants.

Each century brought more and more change to Massachusetts until it finally evolved into the state that you see today.

The following is an overview of the History of Massachusetts, categorized by century. Each section includes numerous articles about the Massachusetts people, places and events of that century:

17th Century Massachusetts:

Massachusetts was colonized in the 17th century. The beginning phase of this colonization was very difficult for the colonists and they suffered many hardships such as disease epidemics, starvation, war, political struggles and a massive witch hunt brought on by mass hysteria.

Although the New England colonies began as separate, privately-run colonies, by the end of the century the British government took them over and turned them into one large royal colony heavily regulated and ruled by the crown.

This section includes articles on the early explorers to Massachusetts, the Great Puritan Migration,  the Mayflower, Plymouth Colony, the First Thanksgiving, Massachusetts Bay Colony, the New England Confederation, the Dominion of New England, King Philip’s War and the Salem Witch Trials.

18th Century Massachusetts:

In the 18th century, Massachusetts was still plagued by war, disease epidemics and political strife. The colonies in Massachusetts had become very successful but the colonists continued to struggle with the British government over control of them. This struggle came to a head in the late 18th century and turned into an outright war with Britain.

This section contains articles on the French and Indian War, Salutary Neglect and the American Revolution.

19th Century Massachusetts:

The 19th century was a century of growth and change for Massachusetts. Wars raged on in various parts of the country and many Massachusetts citizens fought and died in these conflicts.

The industrial revolution began in Massachusetts and brought many factories and manufacturing jobs to the state. As a result, Massachusetts quickly became the manufacturing hub of the country.

State of the art hospitals and medical facilities were established in the state and it soon became the medical mecca of the country as well.

With the abundance of ivy league universities and an emphasis on education and literacy, the state also became home to an impressive literary scene which produced a number of notable authors.

Various public works projects during this time period also changed the shape, size and the infrastructure of the state permanently. New waves of immigrant also began to pour into Massachusetts during this century, which helped shape the culture.

This section includes articles on the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, Massachusetts writers, immigration history and Massachusetts public works projects.

In addition, the site also features reviews of popular historical attractions in Massachusetts and product recommendations for history books, games, costumes etc. in each related section.

Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you can get all the latest posts delivered right to your inbox!

History of Massachusetts

Thank you for visiting!

27 thoughts on “

  1. Virginia

    Was anyone living in Massachusetts in 1577? I have some genealogy here that says one of my ancestors was born in 1577 in Scituate, MA. Is that possible???

    Reply
  2. MA DJ Kellogg

    Virginia, did you try ancestry.com? I’ve used them and I was able to trace my family back to the 1700s here in Massachusetts.

    Reply
  3. Geoff

    Many years ago, i found a website that showed two brothers having my surname were recorded as signing an Oath of Allegiance to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts I think in the 18th century. Can anyone suggest a web site that might allow me find this information again?

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks Post author

      Perhaps it was J.L. Bell’s blog: Boston 1775. Or maybe it was a site belonging to one of the local historical organizations like the Massachusetts Historical Society.

      Reply
  4. Janet Turner

    This is not a comment. It’s an inquiry:

    My grandfather was born in Northampton,Ma. in 1884. I was trying to find the schools he might have gone to. He later beame a pharmacist and had a rug store in Springfield,Ma. I wondered where he might have gotten his education.

    Reply
  5. Martha

    I would like to determine which of the Browns who have been present in Massachusetts since Peter on the Mayflower, are my ancestors. How do I begin to ascertain this? Thanks for any suggestions.

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks Post author

      Hi Martha, the best way to do that is to check out one of the genealogy sites like ancestry.com. Start by looking up your parents and grandparents and then go from there.

      Reply
  6. Jack M. Baskin

    I came across this site while looking for information about early Massachusetts and the Minutemen. My ancestor, Col William Brown was among the first settlers in Hatfield and built the first house there in the late 1600’s. His Grandson, my 5th Great Grandfather, Benjamin Brown, son of John Brown, joined the Minutemen Feb. 18,1775 as the quartermaster, Sgt. Benjamin Brown, along with 2 of his brothers, answered the Lexington Alarm but because of the distance. they did not make it to North Bridge in time to participate there. They did make it in time to help chase the British back to Boston where they stayed during the Siege of Boston,. Sgt Brown was promoted to Lieutenant before the Battle of Bunker (Breed’s) Hill and all three were at the Battle. Lt Brown was among the group that removed the cattle from Noodles Island and engaged the British Packet Diana which they burned after the tide went out grounding the ship and after relieving it of ammunition, powder and guns. He later joined the 8th Regiment Massachusetts Line of the Continental Army and was promoted to Captain I traveled to Ma. in 2015 but was unable to see, visit and research everything I wanted. I do know the family was involved in the town of Leicester. After the War Capt Brown went to Ames Ohio and the family became involved in the area of Athens etc I can find very little about Capt Brown and his exploits during the War but I have read that because of his exploits he was offered the position of Aid de Camp to Baron Von Stuben which he turned down because of his limited military knowledge. If some of your research contains anything about the Brown Family I would appreciate the information

    Reply
    1. Hal from East Boston

      A couple of corrections to your text: cattle were removed not from NOODLES Island but NODDLE’S Island.
      And the DIANA was not a “packet” but “His Majesty’s Armed Vessel” (HMAV) DIANA. A six-gun schooner, to be exact. I live not far from the site of that engagement, the so-called Battle of Chelsea Creek, otherwise known as the Battle of Noddle’s Island. Which was a very important but lesser-known engagement that took place after the Concord and Lexington fights in April and before the Battle of Bunker Hill in June. A cracking good story, with important implications for the Bunker Hill fight. You should look up the whole story (if you haven’t already) if you had an ancestor in it.

      Reply
  7. Joyce Slattery

    Is there any records of

    the death’s in Danvers Hosptial for December 25 th 1939? How do I get them?

    Are there records available for Danvers State Hosptial from 1939?
    Thank You,
    Joyce

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks Post author

      There are annual reports and such online but a lot of the records were left behind in the building when it was closed and were either stolen by vandals (some of them even ended up for sale on ebay) or were just left to decay with the rest of the building. Also, the names of patients are supposed to be kept confidential for privacy reasons so I don’t know if or how you could find them if they do still exist.

      Reply
  8. Rebecca Snider

    Rebecca, I am looking for the names of the sea ports and dates used during the 1600s so I can figure out which Pilgrim ships came into Massachusetts and when. So many of the ancestry sites give names of cities as if Salem, Ipswich, Plymouth Colony, are all the same or “just cities” in Massachusetts. As you know, they are NOT all the same. Can you give me any help? The ship lists aren’t very accurate and some simply don’t say where they landed. Also I sure would like to know the actual NAMES used (and when) for the state of Massachusetts so I can accurately document my ancestry. Obviously, while working on my family tree and have many ancestors who were immigrants, I plan to spend a lot of time on your website.. Thank you so much in advanced.

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks Post author

      Well, when Massachusetts was first colonized people just referred to it as New England or they referenced whatever specific colony the person was living in at the time, which was either Massachusetts Bay Colony or Plymouth colony. In 1691, the two colonies were merged and in 1692 they were renamed the Province of Massachusetts Bay. In 1788, it officially became the state of Massachusetts.
      I believe each town only had one port, so the name of the port would be the name of the town. John Winthrop’s journal and William Bradford’s journal both mention the arrival of ships in both colonies during their lifetimes so you could start there but most of the time they just mention the name of the town because that was where the port was.

      Reply
  9. Pauline Olivia Head

    Hello,
    Happy Easter and a Happy Passover
    I am hoping you can help me with something. This Halloween I wish to dress up as a Puritan. I found out recently that I have relations to the Salem Witch Trials and I’ve ordered a pattern from Simplicity. I was hoping you could tell me what colours the dresses were made from? I don’t mind black, but something with a little oomph would be nice.

    Take care,
    Pauline

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks Post author

      I’m not really sure what was fashionable by the time of the Salem Witch Trials. In the early 17th century, earth tones and various colors were fashionable but by the 1650s black became fashionable. I don’t know how much that changed by the 1690s.

      Reply
      1. Christopher Childs

        “The 1789 Boston City Directory”, on the website of the New England Historic and Genealogical Society (subscription required), shows a William Dawes, Jun., apparently living at that time in Market Square; it also shows that as of March 6, 1766, he had been living on Sudbury St. (In today’s Boston, that’s near the JFK Federal Building; it’s roughly a quarter-mile from the Paul Revere House, and a bit more from Old North Church.) Whether the William Dawes (b. 1745) who rode out with Revere and Prescott is the same fellow, I can’t be absolutely sure, but it’s a reasonable conjecture; the rider’s WikiTree profile shows him to have been the son of William Dawes, so he was indeed a “Jun.” (That profile can be found at wikitree (dot) com/wiki/Dawes-296.) I wonder if there might be any sort of historical marker at the exact Sudbury St. location.

        The profile also shows that Dawes’s final residence was in Marlborough, where he died in 1799. WikiTree profiles of well-known historical figures tend to be fairy carefully researched (I volunteer on the site), so the information in the profile is probably reliable.

        Reply
        1. Christopher Childs

          … Well, now I find that there is in fact a plaque at the site of William Dawes’s “early home” at 64 Ann St.: see photo at wmdawes (dot) org/daweshouseplaque. However, this is much farther away from the area around the Paul Revere House and the Old North Church. My guess (but it is a guess) is that this may be the house where William Dawes was born and/or grew up. I’d still lean to the 1766 Sudbury St. location, or possibly the 1789 home at Market Square, as his likely place of residence in 1775.

          Reply
          1. Christopher Childs

            … And, after an exchange this afternoon with the genealogist of the Dawes website, the 64 Ann (or Anne) Street address would appear to be the correct one for William in 1775. His family does seem to have owned the Sudbury St. house, so perhaps he was indeed there in 1766 as the 1789 Directory indicates. The genealogist says the Anne St. house was across the street from his father’s place.

  10. Chris

    Can you tell me why almost none of the records of those who lost their lives in the Salem Witch Trials refer to the newborn of Sarah Good who was born and died in prison before she was hanged? I can’t imagine the anguish she must have went through to lose a newborn while seeing her four year old imprisoned.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *