Collections of Distinction

Local and Family History

Location: Microtext Department and Social Sciences Department


Title page As long as there has been a Boston Public Library, works on local and family history have been collected. While many libraries have family and local history collections for the town in which they are located, Boston Public Library’s collection is unique in that it includes all of Massachusetts and most of New England. The Local and Family History Collection includes more than 30,000 wide-ranging materials from the 17th–21st centuries. Close to 6,000 items relate to individual families, and nearly 2,000 more in the local and family history field are available for circulation.

Some family histories in the collection trace families back many generations while others trace as far back as necessary to prove a family connection to an individual, to participation in an event, or to an original immigrant. In the case of Sir William Besham’s 1785 Genealogical Tables of the Sovereigns of the World, the genealogies trace back to Adam.

The local histories include histories of cities and towns, counties, and states. The collection also includes histories of local industries, institutions, transportation, schools, and more. Materials in this collection include biographical resources; Boston School Committee and School Department material; city, town, county, and state histories; early Boston city documents; family histories and genealogies; heraldry resources; and vital records.

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