Navigate / search

Cape Ann Genealogy

Collections at the Sawyer Free Library

A selective guide to the collections and resources available at the Sawyer Free Library.  This list details the newspapers, magazines, vital records, maps, yearbooks, biographies, and genealogies in the library’s collection along with date ranges of the collection. It also includes links to State archives and other repositories that you might find useful.

  • Gloucester Vital Records to 1849

The library retains print copies of Gloucester Vital Records to 1849. You can find these books, scanned, in full-text below. You can find vital records from other Massachusetts towns that were part of the same print series HERE.

* Vital Records of Gloucester to the End of  1849: Volume 1: Births

* Vital Records of Gloucester to the End of 1849: Volume 2: Marriages

* Vital Records of Gloucester to the End of 1849: Volume 3: Deaths

Ancestry Library Edition makes family research easy for beginners while still providing in-depth tools for even the most advanced genealogists. NOTE: this database is only available on the library’s public access computers. Please see a Reference Librarian for assistance or call us for more information at (978) 281-9763 or fill out a contact form.

Includes the complete U.S. Federal Census from 1790-1940. More than 20,000 book titles, including nearly 8,000 family histories and over 12,000 local histories. Includes more than 250 primary-source documents such as tax lists, city directories, probate records, and more. You will need your Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library 14-digit barcode to login to this database.

Use this collection for full-text articles from 50 magazines and local newspapers for coverage of Massachusetts people, places and historical events.

The Library also retains these volumes in hard-copy format.

  • City Directories

Gloucester City Directories dating from 1860 – 1999 are available for use at the Reference Desk. These directories provide a listing of residents, streets, businesses, and organizations, and give their location in Gloucester at the time of publication.

Copies of Gloucester High School’s yearbook, Flicker, are located at the Reference Desk. The collection covers yearbooks from 1923 to the present.

  • City Records on Microfilm

The below is available on microfilm in the Reference Department:

* List of passengers arriving in Gloucester 1820-1870. Copies of passenger lists for arrivals at 11 Eastern ports including Gloucester, Marblehead and Hingham 1820-1973

* Babson Papers (Gloucester in the Civil War). Articles published in Cape Ann Advertiser concerning Gloucester’s role in the Civil War. Compiled by John J. Babson for Massachusetts Historical Society

* Early Massachusetts Records Vol 1-35 (beginning in 1642): Minutes to town meetings and miscellany of town items including lists of inhabitants, copies of contracts, impounded animals, etc.

* Sanborn Fire Insurance maps (Gloucester) (no dates given)

* Massachusetts Census information from 1790 – 1930

* Gloucester City Engineers’ Maps (Engineering and Topographical Surveys), 1956?

* Gloucester Vital Records from 1851-1911

  • Cemetery Data

The Gloucester City Historical Commission has inventoried several of the city’s historic cemeteries. For each person buried in the cemetery, these listings provide the following information: name, spouse, date of birth, date of death, parentage, stone condition, stone location and salient comments taken from the inscriptions. The Cemetery Inventory spreadsheet includes Bray Cemetery, Cove Hill Cemetery, Langsford Street Cemetery, Magnolia Point Cemetery, Proctor Cemetery, Prospect (High) Street Cemetery, Second Parish Cemetery, Sumner Street Cemetery, and the Universalist Burial Yard Cemetery.

Print inventories for Beechbrook Cemetery  (401 Essex Avenue) and Washington Cemetery (108 Western Avenue) are located at the Reference Desk.

  • Newspaper Holdings on Microfilm

The Gloucester Daily Times from 1888 to the present is available in the Reference Department. Dates from 1888 are available on microfilm and the most recent few months are in paper form. Older Gloucester newspapers dating from 1827 are also available on microfilm. Microfilm copies are $.15 a page, payable at the Reference Desk.

Other Cape Ann Resources

Gloucester Archives is the repository of the town and city municipal records. Located in City Hall, the department contains one of the most complete collections of municipal records in the U.S., beginning before the town’s 1642 incorporation. Visits to the archives may be arranged and/or requests may be submitted by email. To submit a research request: The collection cover many different areas, including but not limited to:

* Engineers’ maps

* Military records dating from the Revolution

* Overseers of the poor records, including children’s indentures

* Property records and maps

* Gloucester vital records search

Down to the Sea in Ships chronicles the loss of life that is ever present in making a livelihood from fishing. Included are the family stories, history of the industry and a yearly index of lost ships and men from 1830 to the present.

The City Archives Department has compiled a list of fishermen lost at sea and other drownings based on the work done by Roberta Sheedy for the Memorial Plaques at the Fisherman’s Statue on the Boulevard at Gloucester Harbor. This list has been expanded and updated, and no longer is restricted only to fishermen from Gloucester or on a Gloucester boat. It now includes not only those Gloucester people lost at sea while fishing, but any death by drowning, whether at sea, in the Harbor, or rivers or lakes, and also deaths of fishermen on shore if their death was caused at sea. Therefore, while there were no women on the original list, there are some on this list. There are also children and vacationers, engineers and dockworkers. A cross-hatch # after the name indicates that the person had no connection at all with a death by fishing or drowning in the sea.

FamilySearch, historically known as the Genealogical Society of Utah, was founded in 1894 and is dedicated to preserving the records of the family of mankind. The records span billions of names across hundreds of collections—including birth, marriage, death, probate, land, military, and other data.

African American Geneaology

Genealogy research can be especially frustrating for African Americans and offers unique challenges and roadblocks. Below are some additional sources that might help.

AfriGeneas is a site devoted to African American genealogy, to researching African Ancestry in the Americas in particular and to genealogical research and resources in general. It is also an African Ancestry research community featuring the AfriGeneas mail list, the AfriGeneas message boards and daily and weekly genealogy chats.

A work in progress to help bring thousands of records to light, the Freedmen’s Bureau Project was created as a set of partnerships between FamilySearch International and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Afro­-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS), and the California African American Museum.