Wareham Vital Records from Town Books 1 and 2

as transcribed by
Richard W. Griffith CG, 1996

The early vital records for the town of Wareham Massachusetts are recorded in two books along with other records of the town. The first book contains records beginning in 1739 when the town was incorporated from parts of Plymouth and Rochester, and continuing to approximately the year 1805. Vital records in the second book continue up to the year 1843 when the keeping of vital records began to be regulated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. After 1843, marriage intentions continued to be recorded in this second book, while births, marriages, and deaths were recorded in a new book specifically for that purpose. These later records were reported to the Commonwealth annually, and the original state copies up to the year 1910 are available at the Massachusetts State Archives, while microfilm copies can be found at various libraries. The New England Historic Genealogical Society has the index on their website, newenglandancestors.org, and is in the process of linking the indexes to actual images of the records (for members of NEHGS only).
Vital records in the oldest book began to be published in The Mayflower Descendant (Volume 33), transcribed by George Ernest Bowman. Bowman's introductory notes are worth repeating, and are taken from The Mayflower Descendant 33:125 as follows:

"On 10 July, 1739, a part of Rochester, Mass., and a part of Plymouth called Agawam were incorporated as the town of Wareham.
The earliest vital records of the new town are found in a book now labeled 'Town of Wareham, Town Records 1739-1805'; but this book contains many vital records later than 1805.
Pages 1-208 contain records of town proceedings, and page 209 is the first on which vital records were entered. Town proceedings are also found on various later pages. In some cases proceedings and vital records were entered on the same page.
The vital records are scattered through the book, beginning as stated with page 209, with little regard for chronological order. Pages 209 and 210 contain records dated 1826 and 1739, respectively. The present series of transcripts, therefore, begins with page 209 and will continue page by page to the end of the book."

Unfortunately, only a small portion of the records was actually published. Records up through page 255 appeared in three installments in Volume 33, but were not continued in Volume 34, which was the last volume in the series to be published.

In 1879 the Rev. Noble Warren Everett was commissioned by the Board of Selectmen to transcribe the vital records from the old books to a new volume. This project was completed in 1880, and the resulting volume is presently used by the Town Clerk's Office as the primary source of vital records for the period 1739 - 1843. Everett modernized the spelling of names in many cases, and rearranged the births and deaths in approximate alphabetical order by families.

In the early 1900s, James Minor Lincoln transcribed both the two original town books and the Everett book. His work is now held by the Wareham Free Public Library. He copied the town books 1 and 2 between 6 August and 14 September 1904. In his preface, Lincoln states that the books were rebound in canvas in 1902 by Emery Book Preserving Co. of Taunton. He observes that "The Records have been kept in a very slack manner...", which puts into words that which is implied by Bowman. Examination of some of the town proceedings reveals that in the town meeting warrant of 16 February 1759 (1:80) there was an article "... to take some method to regulate ye Ancient Records in Town that are in ye old book or loose Papers that they be Registered in a Propper Volume." At the meeting on 5 March, "Ye Town voted to Rectifie all mistakes in the Town Book & to take all off ye old Book & Registered in the New Book." (1:81) At a meeting on 24 September, 10 shillings was voted for Benjamin Briggs "for Regulating the Town Books." (1:84) Thus no records before 1759 are "primary" in the strictest sense. Many of the other birth and death records were recorded by families at a time considerably distant from the actual event(s). Apparently there was a concerted effort to register such data in 1801 when Andrew Mackie was town clerk, as many families were recorded at that time.

Because of the availability to this writer of Lincoln's works, the approach for the present work has been to transcribe the information from the Lincoln transcription of the town books into a computer data base, including page references to the original records. Please NOTE that this should be regarded as a manuscript and it is strongly recommended that the original record at the Town Clerk's Office be consulted to verify the accuracy of the information.

The present work complements “Records of the First Church of Wareham, Mass. 1739 – 1891” by Leonard H. Smith Jr. (Owl Books, Clearwater, FL, 1974). Together, these works provide virtually all of the available vital records for Wareham for the period 1739 - 1843 (with the exception of gravestone inscriptions). Because of the disappearance of Church Book 2, the town records provide the only information on the period from 1800 - 1843 (again, with the exception of gravestone inscriptions).

Although every effort has been made to preserve the accuracy of the original records, it is inevitable that errors in transcription will occur. Lincoln found errors in the Everett transcription; I have found errors in Lincoln's work; and I have no doubt that I have inadvertently introduced errors of my own. For these I apologize, and stress, as Leonard H. Smith Jr. does in his work, that if there is any doubt, the final source of information should be the original records at the Town Clerk's Office in Wareham. In many instances, errors become apparent which cannot be resolved without consulting the originals. For example, the Lincoln copy of the original books sometimes has data that is at variance with the Lincoln transcription of the Everett copy. I have noted any discrepancies in the "Remarks" field. For a listing of the abbreviations used in this field, consult the
Table of Abbreviations.

In formatting the present work, I realize I have gone against the current trend to present the records in their original form, thereby making the contents of this work "abstracts" as indicated in the title. The value of the "original form" approach cannot be disputed. However, as Lee D. van Antwerp states in “Vital Records of Plymouth, Massachusetts to the year 1850” (Picton Press, Camden, ME, 1993) p. 1, "... there is no way to transfer all the nuances to the printed page. Examination of the original will, therefore, continue to be rewarding in cases where there are discrepancies in the record..." Thus, the value of publishing in "original form" was weighed against the advantages of (a) capturing the data in a form compatible with computer processing, and (b) eliminating the error-prone step of creating an index to access the "original form" records. Weighing together the facts that (c) the original records were, in the present case, kept in a somewhat haphazard fashion, (d) in many cases even these records are not "primary" in the strict sense, and (e) page references to the originals have been preserved, I decided upon the adoption of the present approach.

Go to Vital Records:

Wareham Births and Deaths from Town Books 1 and 2

Wareham Marriages and Intentions from Town Books 1 and 2

Table of Abbreviations

Return to Wareham Home Page

This page was last changed: 2-Jan-2005
Copyright © 1996, 2005 by Richard W. Griffith. All rights reserved.
This site may be freely linked to but not duplicated in any fashion
without my consent.