Collecting published accounts: Part Four

Alicia Crane WilliamsContinuing the series on “Collecting published accounts” that began here and continued here and here:

The next large group of records that I want to check is the published Massachusetts Bay Colony records (MBCR). I have downloaded the entire set on my computer and am creating my own hard copy as I work on each sketch. This takes paper and ink, but it eliminates having to find a place to keep the huge large-volume set in the house or to repeatedly pull up the digital version if I already have a page printed. I am collecting similar copies of other published sources (or at least of their indexes) that have a high density of the names I need.

Richard Newton appears only once in the published MBCR, when he was made a Freeman in May 1654 (MBCR, 2:294). Clearly not a public man. I had hoped MBCR would give me a clue to the estimated dates of arrival in New England for Richard Newton – “by 1639 or 1640” – given in the secondary sources without any citations or explanations. I know from a list given to me by Bob Anderson that this date comes from something in the unpublished Sudbury town records, and I know from browsing the NEHGS on-line catalog that there are several manuscripts in the collection with transcriptions of town and church records for Sudbury

However, before I pursued this further, Vita Brevis reader Howard Swain e-mailed details of his search that led him to This is my first encounter with this nice website, which has typed transcriptions of town records (possibly the same as in the NEHGS collection, I haven’t checked), plus a search engine to locate names. A search for the name Richard Newton brings up 19 hits, all of which I print (nearly 40 pages, but it is the beginning of my collection of Sudbury town records). Record #144 is a tax list dated 22 February 1639[/40], which includes the information that two acres had been laid out to Richard Newton. Thanks for the tip, Howard.

Richard Newton moved from Sudbury to Marlborough, but there are no similar on-line town records for the latter, so my next step is to take advantage of the digitized “book” repositories such as,,, and Google Books. I find the published town histories for Sudbury and Marlborough, and burial and early colonial records for Marlborough (the last being a reprint from the NEHGS Register). I could access and print only the pages specific to this search, but in this case I download the entire books for my virtual library since I know I will need them again.

Next, vital records.

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia Crane Williams, FASG, Lead Genealogist of Early Families of New England Study Project, has compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant and the Alden Family “Silver Book” Five Generations project of the Mayflower Society. Most recently, she is the author of the 2017 edition of The Babson Genealogy, 1606-2017, Descendants of Thomas and Isabel Babson who first arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637. Alicia has served as Historian of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Assistant Historian General at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and as Genealogist of the Alden Kindred of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in History from Northeastern University.

10 thoughts on “Collecting published accounts: Part Four

  1. Thanks! Howard. Boat loads, sez this former Sudbury resident. Am bookmarking it NOW.

    (Oh, wait are those my copies soft AND hard in slipcase of Sumner Chilton Powell’s Puritan Village that I can espy out of the corner of left eye? Indeed they are. SCP’s PV is what got me into NE Colonial History when I first handled it and read it. Wesleyan U Press did very nice production with the illustrations, quality of paper, binding, etc. A beautiful book in & of itself.)

    Alicia, from which site did you download ALL the MBCR volumes? I couldn’t find them all on archive. Query ditto for Plymouth Colony Records.

    1. Bob, search archives for “The records of the Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay” they are all there. Also “Records of the Colony of New Plymouth.”
      I read Puritan Village when it came out, too. Have it on my Kindle now, Newton not listed in index.

    2. Dang it, Mr Gerrity, I’ve already exceeded my book allowance for the next two months. I looked up Puritan Village and read some excerpts. I MUST have it. The library is leery of me taking out books related to historical research because I tend to overkeep them. Fortunately, we have a kindly bookshop keeper in town who has a sharp eye out for me.

      1. Cheap copies on eBay and ABE books. By cheap I mean quality copies for low prices, usually. See also, Morgan’s Puritan Family, Demos’ A Little Commonwealth, Thompson’s Sex in Middlesex & his other works on Watertown & a book through the Society; then there are several very detailed works on Essex county (which mine the published Essex Quarterly Courts, such as “In English Ways” and Greven’s “Four Generations”), etc. I’ve mentioned Gross’ Minutemen & Their World before. An inadequate summary of where to start.

        They utilize sources that many very good genealogists didn’t use to think to consult and also provide context for what individuals are doing. The source meat is in the footnotes or end notes. The Society stays pretty up to date with current publications on colonial New England history as do many local libraries. Check the “card catalog” on line under Subject to see what’s there.

        And also check the “card catalog” at Ancestry as they’ve “imaged” many an IN-COPYRIGHT volume you might want to consult. Several of Coldham’s books are there, as well as GDMNH, which is a very useful thing to know because, though it won’t let you find main surname entries(!?), it will find ALL the other occurrences of a name in the book. And those instances may have more info not in a direct sketch.

        I knew of the value of deeds and probate, as well as manuscripts at what was Essex Institute, long before I’d done any genealogy proper because I’d used them in papers for history MA. (Now THAT was a hot day at the Alfred, Maine courthouse paging through the original volumes. We went straight to a Howard Johnson’s after that.)

  2. Alicia, thank you for these detailed descriptions of your process. I am finding them invaluable. Between you and Robert Charles Anderson’s book (and Robert Gerrity’s questions that keep me from going off in the wrong direction, I am approaching the deep research ahead of me with less trepidation. Still a bit wide-eyed, but more confident I will reach some degree of success. So far I think I’ve just been lucky, but some real digging coming up, I suspect. Bless you for all the pointers. (I too like to print pages out, (with the title page and indexes). Isn’t that what the knee space underneath the desk is for– storing the big box of printer paper? I am glad to know of the alternate sources to explore for town records: they are the most interesting reading!

    1. Annie, thanks. I have the paper under my dining table next to my desk — fortunately, I don’t have a lot of company.

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