Wednesday, October 21, 2015

HAVE EARLY MASSACHUSETTS ANCESTORS? This might be your lucky day

Cover of book

I hit the jackpot today

How did I come upon this gem of information about the Pioneers of Massachusetts?  In a kind of roundabout way.

Randy Seaver in his Genea-Musings blog told us that the Worcester County, Massachusetts Probate File Papers, 1731-1881, are now on

I don’t have a current subscription to the NEHGS website (AmericanAncestors).  I checked my database for any ancestor connections to Worcester County, Massachusetts and didn’t find any.

HOWEVER, as I was checking my Legacy database, I was reminded of the extensive list of ancestors with links to Massachusetts.  That led me to go to and check for probate records there.  When I entered one of my Massachusetts names, I saw a link to The Pioneers of Massachusetts, 1620-1650 database.  That isn’t a record of probate files, but what does it contain?  Let's find out..............


Massachusetts the pioneers-1

As you can see, you can search by name, keyword, page number etc. 

When you search by name, you will see this screen:

Massachusetts Fisher

In this case I entered the name Cornelius Fisher, one of my husband’s ancestors.  The “hit” shows his name, but more importantly it names his wife, Leah, which matches what I have in my database.

When I click on that item here is the page that comes up:

HEATON_Nathaniel_page 225

There it is.  A section about the HEATON family.  Again, a match to my database info, as I have Nathaniel Heaton and Elizabeth Wight as Leah’s parents.
In reading the forward in this book, it is stated that the records come from various town and church records.

Here is how the book is described on Google books

“Attempts to identify all the men who came to Massachusetts between 1620 and 1650, a period of enormous influx, and to follow them down to the time of their death with a genealogical sketch.”

This book can be purchased in both print & ebook format.  Or you can go to this site Internet Archive and download a version for free, or read it directly from the site.  This book is copyrighted before 1923, making it public domain.

Here is how Ancestry describes this collection.

About The Pioneers of Massachusetts, 1620-1650

“This descriptive list of pioneers of Massachusetts was taken from colonial, town, church and other contemporary documents. It lists over 5000 persons who settled the colony and were instrumental in its growth. Including settlers from as far back as the Mayflower, researchers will find birth, occupation, marriage and death information along with a list of known descendants. For those seeking ancestors from the colonies of Massachusetts and Plymouth, this can be a helpful source of information.”

What I found as I entered some names was that the list of hits was quite extensive.  So I decided to search another way.  By using that list on the right hand side of the page and browsing by surname.
Massachusetts the pioneers-3

In doing my search this way I was able to easily find the sections of the book that talk about the surnames I am interested in.  On these pages I found Clark and Morse, two names in my husband’s ancestry.

CLARK_Joseph_page 102 MORSE_Samuel_page 320


As an example I will look at the section for Samuel Morse.  See the page above, on the right, lower right corner of the page.
  • Name & age
  • Wife’s name and age
  • Son, Joseph’s name & age
  • When Samuel settled in Dedham, Mass.
  • His occupation, Husbandman
  • That he was a proprietor and a town officer
  • That he removed to Medfield
  • His date of death and when his will was probated
  • References to who was named in his will
  • When the inventory of his will was taken
  • When his widow died
WOW!  That’s a LOT of information.
Can we just take this information as the truth and be done?  NO! 
We need to find other evidence to verify what is stated.  But, boy, it sure gives us a great start.

I will continue to search through this database.  As I do, I download each page that I find, name it and save it to my computer.  Make sure you download the Title & publisher page so you can cite it when you create your source citation.

NOTE:  When I find a source such as this, with many pages I will be referring to and connecting to my data, I first create a special folder to save all the images to.  In this case I created a subfolder under my BOOKS folder, titled Pioneers of Massachusetts.  Later these images will be more thoroughly named and placed in the proper surname folders.
Here’s a screen shot of what I have right now.  You can see the pages I have saved so far.

screen shot of pion of mass folder

I’m anxious to get back to this site and do some more exploring.  Then I will be evaluating each item one by one and determining what records I need to look for.


WHAT CAN YOU LEARN FROM A PROBATE RECORD?  Here's one from 1884 for my 3rd great grandmother
TOMBSTONE TUESDAY - Dorcas Morse Clark - 1645-1725

Happy hunting,
Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2015   Diane Gould Hall


  1. Diane - I love the idea of saving the pages for each of the ancestors. Great job!

    1. Thanks Cyndi. I love having images to go with my sources. I think it really adds a lot to reports and completes the story. At least for me.
      Thanks for stopping by :)

  2. Diane,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  3. Thank you so much for this information. My Galloway ancestors in MA have been impossible to find any reference to until now!

    1. Ellie - WooHoo! That is awesome. I'm always thrilled when I've shared something that has helped me, and then also helps others. I've found several other previously untapped databases on Ancestry this week. It's a little mini gold mine.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  4. I have not traced any of my ancestors to MA (yet...maybe someday there will be some there) but I love all of the tricks you used in your search and love the way your save and organize your finds.

    1. Michelle,
      Those New England states can be gold mines. Except of course New York, which has very few records online, compared to other states. Glad you enjoyed my post.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Small world. I found your site when searching Milne surname and we are not a match. However, Nathaniel and Elizabeth Wight Heaton are my ninth great grandparents, with my line descending through Nathaniel, born in Boston, then Samuel, then Jabez and so on.

    1. Hi Sarah - sorry for the delay in answering - it's been an odd time, as you know, and I haven't been on my blog as much. Nathaniel Heaton and Elizabeth Wight are my husband's 8th great grandparents. So, that makes you two cousins. He descends from Leah who married Cornelius Fisher, Sr. and from their son Cornelius, Jr to Anna Fisher to Achsah Clark etc. If you'd like to exchange notes or information, please get in touch.
      Thanks for stopping by.


I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.