Records Project: Examples

The Seventeenth-Century Town Records of Scituate, Massachusetts

Scituate Records

Scituate's Town Records. In 1997, 1999, and 2001, my three volumes of The Seventeenth-Century Town Records of Scituate, Massachusetts, were published (by NEHGS). These town records total about 1870 pages (printed), compared to 285 from Plymouth and 92 from Duxbury.

The extensive, detailed information about the town and its relation to the colony corrects not only previous histories of Scituate, but also earlier views of the development of the colony as a whole that had practically ignored what grew to be the colony’s largest town.

Besides topics of local political, social, and church history, the archival material justifies a broader, comparative assessment of opinions based on the records of other New England towns, on such subjects as suffrage, agriculture and craft production, King Philip’s War, material culture, and patterns of land distribution. My introductions to these volumes provide that analysis. Scituate becomes a touchstone for studies of New England town history.

Indian Deeds: Land Transactions in Plymouth Colony, 1620-1691

Indian Deeds

The importance of new archival material became clearly apparent with the publication of my book Indian Deeds: Land Transactions in Plymouth Colony, 1620-1691 (NEHGS, 2002, revised paperback ed. 2008). Indian Deeds publishes for the first time all the deeds that transferred ownership from Indian sachems to the colony court, and from the court to the initial colonial private owners. The previously unknown documents require a new view of the colony's history, while providing a necessary background for understanding the tensions leading up to King Philip's War. The structure of Native society in transition is illumined by the ancient records.

These transactions form an essential aspect of the expansion of colonial land use and the contraction of open forest and agricultural land retained for use by Indians. The documents support the claim that, before King Philip’s War, Plymouth Colony attempted to obtain land not by fraud and deception but by what was considered by both sellers and buyers to be fair exchange. (That is not to say that either side clearly understood the negative effects on Native society of the piecemeal loss of land as it proceeded, until the agregate result was unavoidably confronted.) The book gives insight into Indian society not found in previous histories of Plymouth Colony – for example, demonstrating that Indians in this region did not have communal land but that instead individual Indians possessed specific, bounded parcels of land by personal inheritance (extending historically to pre-contact times). Any history of the colony will need to pay attention to this, which contradicts the sentimental romanticism put forth since the 1970s by people enchanted by neo-Noble Savage myths.

Eastham Records

Sandwich and Marshfield Records

Eastham Records, Sandwich Records, and Marshfield Records

The Town Records of Eastham during the time of Plymouth Colony, 1620-1692 transcribed and edited by Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs.

The records of Eastham, founded by the Pilgrims at Nauset on Cape Cod in 1645, are published here for the first time. A calendar of summaries of the documents includes Eastham records from the Plymouth Colony Records series, thus giving a unified chronological overview of the town's documented development. Eastham's commerical horse breeding and early whaling regulations bring peaceful relations with the Nauset Indians into focus and contribute to understanding why the Nauset Indians did not rebel against Plymouth Colony in King Philip's War in 1675.

This publication from the Foundation (December, 2012) is available, case-bound, directly from the printer in America.


Also available - just published (2014) and (2015):

The Town Records of Sandwich during the time of Plymouth Colony, 1620-1692 transcribed and edited by Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs.


The Town Records of Marshfield during the time of Plymouth Colony, 1620-1692 transcribed and edited by Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs.


Other Town Records


Excerpts from the manuscript records of Marshfield, Duxbury, Bridgewater, and Dartmouth were published in the 19th century. For complete understanding of those towns' histories, the omitted pages needed to be transcribed and presented, together with corrections to inaccurate published transcriptions. I have completed the work for these towns. Although the additions and corrections appeared in the journal The Mayflower Descendant, for convenience it will be better to combine the new material with what had been done earlier. A final volume in the series of town records will be published in 2017, including not only the fragments from these towns but also a new edition of the town records of Plymouth in the time of the colony.