Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Historical Societies - Cape Cod and the Islands

The genealogical holdings of the historical societies of the Cape and Islands (Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard) range from biographies, genealogies, diaries and letters to captains' logs, applications to the National Historical Register and vintage photographs. Contact the individual historical society to inquire about specific holdings, family memorabilia, and to confirm hours of operation. In addition, it is possible to link to a free public website for some vital records located in Cape historical societies and town halls, in order to access particular records.

Cape Cod Historical Societies

Barnstable Historical Society
The Barnstable Historical Society is located next to the Sturgis Library in the Daniel Davis House and Museum, 3087 Main St. (Route 6A), Barnstable Village (location changed from across the street). The House is open from mid-June to mid-October, 1:00-4:00 p.m. or by appointment. Call 508-362-2982, or write to PO Box 829, Barnstable Village, MA 02630.

The genealogical collection contains family histories; documents supporting applications for the National Register of Historic Buildings (which contain lots of genealogical information); cemetery records; and a collection of manuscripts covering all the towns of Barnstable.

The Sturgis Library, located next door, also has items of historical interest, including the Hooper Genealogical Room and access to back issues of the Barnstable Patriot from 1830 to date.

Bourne Historical Society
The Bourne Historical Commission along with the Bourne Archives are housed in the Jonathan Bourne Historical Center, 30 Keene St., Bourne. It is open Mondays and Tuesdays from 9:00 a.m to 2:30 p.m and Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Visitors are welcome during these hours. Telephone 508-759-8167 or e-mail to Their website is

Materials in the Bourne Archives include retired town records, histories of five Bourne villages, family collections, photographs, maps, and oral histories.

Brewster Historical Society
The Brewster Historical Society buildings are open 1pm-4pm, Thursday, Friday & Saturday, July, August and September. The Museum, in a mid-19th century Homestead located at 3171 Main St. (Route 6A - East Brewster), houses four permanent galleries, a special exhibits gallery, and archives which are available to researchers by appointment during the winter months. The Brewster Historical Society can be contacted by phone at 508-896-9521 or by e-mail at Their mailing address is PO Box 1146, Brewster, MA 02631. Their website is

Chatham Historical Society
The collection of the Chatham Historical Society is housed in the Atwood House, 347 Stage Harbor Rd., Chatham. Telephone is 508-945-2493. Their records include real estate tax records from the early 1800s to present, Chatham newspapers from the mid-19th century through the early 20th century, old letters, photographs, ships’ logs, ledgers and similar archives, and documents relating to
the history of Chatham. These materials are being catalogued and will be listed on the Internet.

Though they recommend the Eldredge Public Library as the best source of genealogy of Chatham families, they do have complete genealogies of the Nickerson, Eldredge, and Atwood Families, as well as some other Chatham families. The museum research room has computer access to all archival files. Research is by appointment only. Their website is

Dennis Historical Society
The Dennis Historical Society's Pauline Wixon Derick Library is housed on the second floor of the West Dennis Public Library at 260 Route 28, West Dennis, MA.

The collection centers on the Dennis villages and includes books, manuscripts, old original documents (deeds, wills, diaries, ledgers, and sermons), scrapbooks, and photographs. Their photograph collection contains 2,850 photographs of Dennis and its people, also available on CDs. The old documents have been preserved and have full transcriptions. There are papers from the Isaac Chapman estate, the Obed Baker 2nd Collection, diaries of the Reverend Nathan Stone, and the Nathan Stone, Esquire Papers.

Under the direction of CCGS member and DHS Librarian Burt Derick, the Dennis Historical Society is making steady progress in digitizing much of their collection. See more about the Pauline Wixon Derick Library.

Research with these materials is available by appointment only; locations for events are announced on their website at

Contact the Dennis Historical Society at, or at PO Box 607, South Dennis, MA 02660.

Eastham Historical Society
The Eastham Historical Society is located in the Eastham Public Library, 190 Samoset Rd. Eastham. The Archives hours are Tuesdays from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. and also by appointment (  Collections include: oral history tapes and manuscripts, histories of Eastham churches and campground meetings, Eastham Town Reports 1896-2006, Assessors' maps, data from the National Seashore Archives, handwritten genealogies with some documentation, sea captains' logs, diaries of teachers, 50 indexed scrapbooks, vital records, audio-tapes of memories, and various cemetery records.

Family collections include: Atwood, Bangs, Chase, Daley, Doane, Fisk, Freeman, Gould, Harding, Hatch, Higgins, Holbrook, Hopkins, Horton, Jewell, Knowles, Lowe, Mayo, Merrick, Moore, Nickerson, Paine, Pratt, Quinn, Rogers, Smith, Sparrow, and Schwind, among others.

Their website is

Falmouth Historical Society and Falmouth Museums on the Green
The Falmouth Historical Society collections reside in the Conant House, 65 Palmer Avenue, Falmouth. They are open 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday through Friday. The archivist is available on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The mailing address is PO Box 174, Falmouth, MA 02541. Telephone: 508-548-4857; FAX: 508-540-0968. For information on Falmouth history, e-mail; for genealogy and family history, e-mail

Their collection includes genealogy and family papers, local Falmouth history and town records, maps, oral histories, church and cemetery histories, and vintage and contemporary photographs. Their website is

Harwich Historical Society and Brooks Academy Museum
The Harwich Historical Society’s genealogical and historical materials are housed in the Brooks Academy Museum, 80 Parallel St., Harwich, MA 02645. The historical society can be reached by telephone at 508-432-8089, or by e-mail at

Their collection includes historic photographs, manuscripts and genealogical records. Specific genealogical collections include the Louise Kelley Collection (which contains information on many Harwich families), the Paine Collection and the Shaw Genealogy. The genealogical research library is open by appointment year-round. There is a research charge of $10 for non-members. Their website is

Orleans Historical Society and Meetinghouse Museum
The Orleans Historical Society is located at 3 River Road, Orleans, MA 02653. Their mailing address is PO Box 353, Orleans, MA 02653. Orleans historian and CCGS member Bonnie Snow can be reached mornings at 508-240-1329 or via e-mail at The Orleans collections include oral histories, family histories, photographs, old town records, and archival records. All are in the process of being cataloged. Their website is

Provincetown is in the process of digitizing their town records. These records can be browsed online at either by collection, format, or subject. They have a historic timeline of Provincetown; birth, marriage and death records; old slides of Provincetown and its people; and cemetery records. Their website is

Truro Historical Society and Lighthouse Museum
The Truro Highland House Museum, located at 27 Highland Road, North Truro, near the famous Highland Light, houses the town records of Truro, as well as genealogical information on the families of Truro. Access to these records is by appointment only. Deborah Minsky, director and curator, can be reached by phone at 508-487-3397 or by e-mail at Mailing address: Highland House Museum, P. O. Box 486, Truro, MA 02666. Their website is

Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum
The Wellfleet Historical Society has few genealogical materials, but they do have cemetery information on all Wellfleet cemeteries and genealogical information on the Atwood and Baker families. Telephone: 508-349-9157. The mailing address is PO Box 58, Wellfleet, MA 02667, or contact them at Their website is

Woods Hole Historical Museum
The Woods Hole Historical Museum  has a collection of artifacts on exhibit, and is an adjunct to the Woods Hole Library.  Among their products is the biennial publication of the journal Spritsail, which has articles of local historical and genealogical interest; they also feature a boat-building workshop, a diorama showing Woods Hole of the past, and various nautical exhibits.  The Museum is located at 579 Woods Hole Road, just east of the Library, and is open from mid-June to September, Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10am to 4pm. Call 508-548-7270 for more information. Their website is

Yarmouth—Historical Society of Old Yarmouth
The Library and Archives of the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth (HSOY), located in the Gorham Cobbler Shop behind the Yarmouth Port Post Office on Route 6A. is open to the public Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m. The mailing address is PO Box 11, Yarmouth Port, MA 02675. Before visiting, the researcher should contact them at 508-362-3021 or e-mail to ensure that they have the needed materials and can have a volunteer on hand to assist. Be sure to check their Planning a Visit to the HSOY Library & Archives for some helpful planning advice.

Their library contains over 1,000 completed family group sheets of Yarmouth families, a vertical and pamphlet file, copies of information compiled for the National Register of Historic Houses, historic maps, and a map book containing copies of maps for each village through time. They also house correspondence, family papers and other manuscripts, old copies of the Yarmouth Register and Barnstable Patriot from the 1830s through the 1880s, and town records prior to 1860 on microfilm. Their website is

Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Historical Societies

Martha's Vineyard Historical Society
The Martha's Vineyard Historical Society operates the Gale Huntington Research Library at the Martha's Vineyard Museum campus at 59 School Street, Edgartown. This facility houses the largest collection of genealogical records and resources on the island. These include census records, Island newspapers, town records, manuscripts, whaling logbooks, Revolutionary War documents, Native American collections, maps, oral histories, and a photo archive of 50,000 images.

Museum hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 AM - 4 PM. Other times by appointment. See About The Gale Huntington Research Library and Genealogy Services at the Martha's Vineyard Museum when planning a visit. For research call 508-627-4441 ext. 122. CCGS member Catherine Mayhew, the Martha's Vineyard Museum genealogist, can be contacted by e-mail at Their website is

Nantucket Historical Association
The Nantucket Historical Association Research Library is located at 7 Fair Street and is open year-round. The Library can be reached at PO Box 1016, Nantucket, MA 02554, or by phone at 508-228-1894, ext. 4. Non-members are charged a daily usage fee of $5 as well as a fee for more than a half-hour of research services.

The Nantucket Historical Association Research Library is a repository of primary resources focusing on Nantucket history. Their collection includes 50,000 photographs, ships’ logs, family papers, and scrapbooks. Researchers can conduct a search of Eliza Starbuck Barney's (1802-1889) Record which contains vital information on more than 40,000 Nantucketers of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Much of their collection is available online at, which is the best place to start for learning more about their collections and how to access them.

For links to other historical societies and museums on Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, visit The Cape and Islands Historical Association at


  1. I am looking for a serious collector for genelogical/orginal families map... it was drawn and printed by Claretta Pope Higgins in 1948... it measures... Copyright office 1949, Library of Congress, Catalogue of Copyright entries 1949 maps
    I am interested in two things... I would like to know an approximate value of such a piece. And I would like to know if you know any reputable collector who will respect the history, craftsmanship and artistry of the piece... This is piece that was done with love of roots and I would really like it to find its way back home...
    Thank you... Margaret C Benmore

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