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The library and archives of the DHS is an independent research facility. It collects, preserves, and provides access to genealogical records as well as materials related to the history of Dedham from the 1600s to the present.

Admission for Research: Admission is free for DHS members.

A DHS staff member will provide 15 minutes of free research time on the first visit by non-members. At the conclusion of this time, non-member researchers will be charged at the rates listed below.

  • Non-members $5 for 4 hours/$10 for one day.
  • Spouses or guests who accompany the researcher are admitted for $5, regardless of their involvement in the research process.
  • Youth under the age of 18 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.

Research Services Provided by the DHS Staff

  • New society members who have joined within the calendar year receive one hour of free research by the staff. Additional research is billed at $15 per hour during the first year.
  • Non-members are billed at $25 per hour.


The library contains over 10,000 volumes including standard genealogical and historical reference materials. Other resources include:

  • Town of Dedham records
  • Dedham street directories
  • Files on the history of Dedham buildings
  • Local genealogies and genealogical files
  • Dedham High School yearbooks
  • Massachusetts history: state, county, cities and towns
  • Vital records of cities and towns
  • Boston city directories

Additionally, there are biographies of significant national and local men and women as well as volumes on the Revolutionary and Civil War.

The Archives includes extensive Dedham related materials:

  • Church and civil records from 1635
  • Newspapers from 1796
  • 18th – 20th century maps
  • Journals, diaries, scrapbooks, photographs, postcards, and ephemera
  • Social organizations and business collections including banks and turnpikes
  • Military collection, particularly strong material from the Civil War and World War II

Listed below are samples of Dedham families and some of the related archival materials held by the DHS.



On January 1, 1650 William Avery arrived in Dedham with his family including his wife Margaret and three children, Mary, William and Robert, from the parish of Barkham, England. Other children were born in Dedham, including, Jonathan, Rachel, Hannah, and Ebenezer. William was admitted as a townsman of Dedham and to the First Parish Church in 1650. He was granted land on East Street for his blacksmith shop. Commencement of the date of his medical practice is unknown. After Margaret’s death in 1678, Dr. Avery remained in Dedham until 1680 when he moved to Boston. In that same year, he remembered the Town of Dedham with a gift of sixty pounds for establishment of a Latin School. Avery family members continued to live in Dedham for many years.


  • William Avery

Account book 1708 1891

  • Jonathan Avery

Account book 1784 1827

Copy book 1759

  • Lucy Avery

Diary 1823

Letters received 1722

  • Walter Avery

Genealogical papers, bound 1873, 56 collections including extracts from records, wills, correspondence

  • Jane G. Avery

“Dedham Branch of the Avery Family” by Jane G. Avery Carter & Jessie P. Holmes, 1893 [2 c., annotated]

  • Myron Haliburton Avery

“Notes on the Genealogy of the Averys (Dedham Branch) of Lubec and Machias, Washington County, Maine” [copy of typescript]



  • Benjamin Bussey (1757-1842)

Estate papers: account books of his executors 184201861

  • Elizabeth Bussey Davis Steward

Letters 1808-1840 to her mother, Judith Bussey, (Mrs. Benjamin Bussey)


The letters received by Martha (Chaloner) Church Cunningham and receipts for business transactions constitute the majority of the collection. Martha Church was the daughter of Benjamin Church. She was married to an apothecary, John Chaloner, and after his death to Major James Cunningham with whom she moved to Medfield and then Dedham. The correspondence, mostly between family members, centers on religion, family life, bankruptcy, illness, business transactions, and military service. The Chaloner Family Papers date from 1718-1791, the bulk from 1746-1774.


  • Benjamin Church1728-1794
  • Martha (Church) Chaloner Cunningham 1728-1794
  • John Chaloner1726-1765
  • John Chaloner 1748-1793
  • William (Billy) Chaloner1749-1802
  • Edward Chaloner 1751-1785


Jonathan Holmes Cobb attended Harvard College and entered the law profession in Dedham in 1819. His other occupations included: editor of The Village Register, secretary and treasurer of the Dedham Institution for Savings, superintendent and central proprietor of a factory of sewing-silk; Register of Probate for Norfolk County from 1833 until 1879; and town clerk of Dedham from 1845-1875. He purchased the house and land at 18 Norfolk Street across from the Court House in 1821. John, Isabel and Abigail and were three of his children. Abigail Cobb married George Austin Guild, a jeweler in Dedham. John Doggett Cobb attended Harvard College and enlisted in 1862 with the 35th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers. He wrote “History of Thirty-fifth Massachusetts Regiment.” Upon finishing Harvard Law School, he became a lawyer, later a representative to the General Court in 1876 and 1877 and succeeded his father as Register of Probate for Norfolk County. In addition, he was a founder and president of the Dedham Boat Club. Isabel (Cobb) French married Frederick Halverson French. They had seven children. There are personal papers, business papers, military papers and journals from circa 1850. There are some records from the silk company. The collection ranges from 1830-1870.


  • Jonathan Holmes Cobb (1799-1882)
  • Abigail (Cobb) Guild (1837-1861)
  • John Doggett Cobb (1840-1930)
  • Isabel (Cobb) French (1835- 1924)


David Guild Dethlefs was born to Louis Claus Dethlefs and Elsie Philbrick Guild, daughter of Henry Gardner Guild. He married Susan Swaim with whom there were 2 children, Susan and David, Jr. He later married Elizabeth Lynn Emerick. Dethlefs lived on Franklin Square for over 70 years.

After spending two years at Harvard University and graduating from the Boston Architectural School, Dethlefs worked at the firm of Royal Barry Wills of Boston and later started his own business. He served in the Navy during WWII and after the war returned to Dedham to serve as Building Commissioner, a member of the Historic Districts Commission, as well as a board member of the Dedham Historical Society.

Dethlefs worked on local projects including the Dedham Community House playbarn and remodeling several buildings in Dedham’s historic districts. Dethlefs was a skilled artist and the Society is fortunate to have a number of his drawings of historic houses in the collection. He drew many of the sketches for the Dedham Historical Society house tour program books in the early 1990s.

A Guild descendant, Dethlefs sought to preserve his family’s history. The DHS collection contains the 1930s will of Emma Guild, the widow of a Civil War veteran Amasa Guild, as well as the papers of Henry Gardner Guild. There are also documents on the reuse of the Norfolk County Jail, photographs from his time as building commissioner, and of the Guild family. The Dethlefs’ archival collection also includes the sermons and diaries of his father, the Reverend Louis C. Dethlefs, a Universalist Pastor in various parishes in Massachusetts, including Walpole, Norwood, and Medford.

Related family files include:

  • Reverend Louis C. Dethlefs (1912-1948)
  • Elsie Guild Dethlefs (1885-1980)
  • Arthur Wilder Thayer (1857-1934) and Annie Fisher Thayer (1858-1947)
  • Emma Guild (1846-1933) and Amasa Guild (1840-1907)
  • Henry Gardner Guild (1846-1912)


John Guild signed the covenant in 1637, was admitted to the church in Dedham in 1640, becoming a freeman in 1643. As an original proprietor of land, he owned property

In Medfield, Wrentham, and Natick. The Guilds have played various roles in the town, including as selectmen and town clerks. They were also distinguished for their military service. Aaron Guild from South Dedham, served in Lexington during the Revolutionary War, and Nathaniel Guild rose to the rank of brigadier general and was a town collector and treasurer in the early 1800s. Captain Joseph Guild served in the Revolutionary War. Amasa Guild participated in the Civil War. This collection details military service, including a copy of the journal of Captain Joseph Guild from March 9, 1776. There is a copy of Aaron Guild muster roll and a Day Book for 1799 from the blacksmith shop of Amasa Guild. The Calvin Guild papers contain ledgers from 1822-1841, and an auction sale sign. In the Joel and Hannah Guild Papers is a Currier and Ives mourning lithograph. The Reuben Guild III folder includes his appointment as a captain in 1825.Miranda Guild’s contribution is a booklet of poems with wallpaper cover. These documents span circa 1775-1841.


  • Amasa Guild (1768-1802)
  • Calvin Guild (1775-1858)
  • Joel and Hannah Guild (1765-1842)
  • Reuben Guild III (1793- 1882)
  • Miranda Guild (1799 – 1873
  • Olive (Cheney) Guild (1800-1858)
  • Abigail Elizabeth Guild (1833-1927)
  • Aaron Guild (1728-1818)


Amasa Guild served in the Civil War in the Union Army in Company F. of the 18th Massachusetts Regiment of Volunteers, attaining the rank of first lieutenant. There are military records pertaining to the quartermaster corps from 1864. Guild kept a diary in 1861 which is in this collection as well as correspondence concerning the return of the state flag. He was a charter member of the Charles W. Carroll Post 144, G. A. R.

The collection spans the years from 1864 to 1905.


  • Amasa Guild (1840 –1907)


Guild was a successful photographer who did portraits, views and groups and documented Dedham. He framed items to order and did custom outdoor photography work at a studio at 575 High Street. He lived with his wife, Emma Beach at 47 School Street. A prolific photographer, the Dedham Historical Society owns many of his glass plate negatives. This collection holds his scrapbooks. Some are of Dedham, especially the houses, family and inhabitants. Other images are from his travels in Europe, New England and Canada. Many of the photographs are in the collection of his glass plate negatives, reprinted by the Society.

There are photographic postcards, calling cards, and trade cards. They range in date from 1880s through 1920s.


  • Jonathan Guild (1871-1940)


Holden was born in Dedham on 3/10/1728. From 3/31/1759 to 4/22/1760 he served 55 weeks and 4 days as a lieutenant at Fort Cumberland, Nova Scotia, under Captain Simon Slocomb. The DHS holds a typewritten ledger book of 117 pages copied from the original. It spans the years 1759-1760. Serving in the military was his career. Benjamin Holden was the officer who wrote the orderly book that details the orders issued at the fort. Some of the orders include: provisioning; discipline; relations with the Indians; rules regarding “spirituous liquors”; and mutiny.


  • Captain Simon Slocomb
  • Benjamin Holden


Michael Metcalf (1586-1654)

Michael Metcalf was born on July 8, 1586 in, England. In 1636, due to religious unrest, he decided to leave with his family. A dornock weaver (a specialized weaving technique) by trade, Metcalf sailed with his wife, Sarah Ellwyn, nine children, and an indentured servant, Thomas Comberbach in 1637. In that same year he appeared on the town lists in Dedham, where Metcalf worked as an owner of clay pits on Dedham Island used for brick making. He is also listed as a selectman for one term, and at the end of his life as a schoolmaster from 1657-1661. After the death of his wife Sarah, he married Mary Pidge, and produced a total of 11 children. Metcalf died in 1654 at the age of 68. The Metcalf chair dated 1652, owned by Michael Metcalf, and created in Dedham, possibly by Houghton, is on display in the DHS Museum, as well as the Flanders chest that he transported from England.


  • Michael Metcalf documents of the 1600’s including copy of 1618 Freedom of the City of Norwich, 1637, land grant
  • Michael Metcalf Arithmetic book 1630
  • William Metcalf surveying text, 1636
  • Michael Metcalf memorandum book 1732
  • Joseph Metcalf physics book later owned by Samuel Dexter dated 1787
  • William Metcalf Latin grammar 1714