Studying your family history can be extremely rewarding and personally fulfilling. It can also be an incredibly frustrating task, fraught with dead-end research and fruitless hours spent searching for someone who (eventually you discover) you are not actually descended from. Thankfully, there are tremendous resources for looking into your family history, many of them right here in Newton.
Recently, the City of Newton made researching family history much easier by scanning and uploading a great deal of archival documents onto their website. Located on the Genealogical Research page of the city’s website are historical vital records, which include records of births, deaths and marriages. These records, which go all the way back to 1635, are now only a few keystrokes away.
In addition to the vital records, the Genealogical Research page also includes the City Directories. In Newton, the first directory was published in 1868; a second directory was not produced until 1871, but after that a directory was published every two years. These books list every property in Newton, who lived there (sometimes the owner, sometimes tenants or boarders), their occupation and the location of their workplace. Providing these details on past residents of Newton, the directories can help genealogists pinpoint the location of their ancestors. Currently, directories from 1868 through 1934 are available online, and more are being uploaded all the time.
The Newton Free Library also has numerous resources for learning about ancestors who lived locally or those from far-off places. At the library, members can access American Ancestors, the database of the New England Historical Genealogical Society, as well as records from Ancestry.com, one of the world’s most comprehensive web-based genealogical resources. Or, drop by a meeting of the Newton Genealogy Club, which meets at the library on the second Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m.
As always, Historic Newton’s Jackson Homestead and Museum has a wealth of resources for genealogists. Those in need of research assistance are welcome to make an appointment with Curator Sara Goldberg, who can help you find out more about your predecessors. You can also visit the three historic burying grounds in the city to find the graves of Newton’s earliest residents. Ongoing restoration efforts at the burying grounds have been overseen by Historic Newton, and with this work the final resting places of many Newtonians are being restored and preserved for years to come.
For many, family history is the key to understanding more about where they come from. Thankfully, Newton boasts bountiful historical records that can help us to reach back into the past to see pictures, read stories, and trace the lives of those who made us who we are today.