Library and Archive hours are Tuesday and Thursday 9:00 AM-4:00 PM and even dated Saturdays from 1:00 PM-4:00 PM. Admission is free for DHS members and $5 per visit for non-members. In order to serve our researchers in the best way possible please call and speak to our archivist prior to your visit at 781-326-1385.
Send specific questions and related background information such as family charts, historical dates, book titles used, etc., so our researchers can provide you with the best possible answer.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or mail hard copies to:
Dedham Historical Society Research Request
PO Box 215
Dedham MA 02027
Our library staff is made up of professionals and volunteers. They can provide research for a prepaid fee of $25 for the first hour ($20 for each additional hour) and $5.00 for 8 ½ x 11″ photocopies plus USPS postage and handling costs. The fee is nonrefundable, and research results cannot be guaranteed. The time needed to respond to research inquiries is based on the availability of the researchers and the number of inquiries being handled.
RESEARCH FACILITIES AND RESOURCES
The library and archives of the Dedham Historical Society collects and preserves materials on the history of the Town of Dedham. As an independent research facility, and an archive for the society and for the history of Dedham, the DHS holds extensive resources for the study of history and genealogy from the 1600’s to the present.
The library contains over 10,000 volumes including standard genealogical and historical reference materials. Resources also include:
- Massachusetts history: state, county, cities, & towns
- Town records of Dedham and other Massachusetts cities & towns
- Genealogies and genealogical files
- Vital records of Dedham & other Massachusetts cities & towns
- Yearbooks of Dedham High School
- Street directories of Dedham
- Building files of Dedham
Additionally, there are biographies, genealogies, histories and vital records of other towns, and counties in Massachusetts and New England, as well as volumes on the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
The archives includes extensive manuscripts:
- Dedham church and civic records from 1635
- Dedham newspapers dating from 1796
- 18th to 20th century map collection
- Journals, diaries, scrapbooks, photographs, postcards, and ephemera
- Social organization and business collections
- A military collection particularly strong in the area of the Civil War
The DHS Archives is a wealth of information for anyone researching their family genealogy. Here is a sample of two Dedham families and some of the archival materials held by the Society.
CHALONER FAMILY PAPERS
The Chaloner Family Papers date from 1718-1791, the bulk from 1746-1774. The letters received by Martha (Chaloner) Church Cunningham and receipts for business transactions constitute the majority of the collection. The correspondence, mostly between family members, centers on religion, family life, bankruptcy, illness, business transactions, and military service.
BENJAMIN HOLDEN’S PAPERS
A typewritten ledger book of 117 pages copied from the original. It spans the years 1759-1760. Serving in the military was Holden’s career. He was the officer who wrote the orderly book that details the orders issued at Fort Cumberland in Nova Scotia. The ledger contains: lists of the officers and soldiers; instructions to the sentries at Fort Cumberland in 1759; rules and orders of the Spur Guard; orders against pillaging; “irregularities”; care of the sick “providentials”; breaches of order concerning ammunition; details for guards; instructions for liberty; guarding against misuse of ammunition; provisioning; disposition of molasses; discipline, including prohibition against gaming; courts martial; Kings’ work; comments on John Morse’s character; relations with the Indians; rules regarding “spirituous liquors”; mutiny.
Note: In the mid 1700’s there was universal, compulsory service from ages 16 – 60 where individuals trained or served a part of active duty every year. The royal governor was the commander-in-chief of the militia forces. Only clergy, public officials, Harvard College students or faculty, blacks, Native Americans and those of questionable loyalty were exempt.
COBB FAMILY PAPERS
Jonathan Holmes Cobb, a lawyer, was appointed Register of Probate for Norfolk County and held the position for 46 years, until 1879. Mr. Cobb was also the town clerk of Dedham from 1845-1875. He set up a factory of sewing-silk and became its superintendent and central proprietor in 1837.
Jonathan married Sophia Doggett and had three children: Abigail, Isabelle and John Doggett Cobb. Abigail married George Austin Guild, a jeweler and Isabel married Frederick Halverson French. John Doggett Cobb graduated from Harvard in 1861, and served in the Civil War. He became a lawyer, later a representative to the General Court in 1876 and 1877, and for many years, register of probate.
The Cobb Family papers include information on Jonathan Holmes Cobb and the New England Silk Company circa 1835; Isabelle Cobb’s Diary, 1851; Abby Cobb’s Diaries , 1845-1879, not inclusive; John Doggett Cobb’s Personal Papers and Civil War Papers, including information about Harvard Class of 1861, and History of the 35th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers, 1862-1865
CAPTAIN JOSEPH GUILD FAMILY PAPERS
The Guild Family papers are arranged by series, according to family members. Includes but is not limited to the following.
Captain Joseph Guild (May 11, 1735-December 28, 1794) a Minute Man who served in the Revolutionary War. Papers include a handwritten copy of an original diary that details an expedition from Cambridge passing through Dedham, Medway, and New London Ct, New York, Albany, Saratoga and Fort Edward.
Amasa Guild (May 8, 1840-November, 1907) papers from the Civil War containing information about the 18th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers. Including a 1905 scrapbook of correspondence concerning the return of the 18th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry State Flag.
Jonathan F. Guild (September 24, 1871-July 6, 1940) scrapbooks on Dedham from the late 1800’s in to the early 1900’s.
Miranda Guild (September 10, 1799 – March 20, 1873) booklet of poems.
1799 Day Book from the blacksmith shop of an earlier Amasa Guild.
JONATHAN FRANCIS GUILD PAPERS
Jonathan Guild (September 24, 1871-July 6, 1940) graduated from Dedham High School in 1886. He became a successful photographer and is listed in the town directories as having a studio at 575 High Street. His work included portraits, views, groups, as well as framing to order and custom outdoor photography.
The collection contains: scrapbooks of his photographs, especially images of his family, a bicycle trip to New Hampshire and Vermont with H.A. Towle in 1896; 1876 photographs of Dedham, Foxboro, Medfield, Medway, West Dedham, South Framingham, South Natick, Readville, and Wollaston. Numerous other photographs include: a trip to Nova Scotia in 1897; Europe; Wellesley College; members of the French Dean, Nichols, Fisher, and Batchelor, Taft, and Cobb families.
ERASTUS WORTHINGTON SENIOR; ERASTUS JR.; ERASTUS
Erastus Worthington was a prominent name in Dedham history. In fact there were three Erastus Worthington: Erastus Senior, Erastus Junior and Erastus. The surname Worthington is derived from places in Lancashire and Leicestershire, England and possibly from the old English word Wuroingtun, meaning settlement.
Erastus Worthington was born in Belchertown, Massachusetts October 8, 1779. His father David was born in Colchester, Connecticut and his mother, Affa Gilbert, was born in Sherburne, Massachusetts. Erastus attended Williams College where he obtained a law degree in 1804. After his graduation, Erastus worked as a teacher and then began the study of law with John Heard Esq. of Boston. He became an Attorney of Law in Boston and moved to Dedham in 1809. He was admitted as a Counselor of the Supreme Judicial Court in 1813. After working as an attorney until 1825, he helped to organize the Norfolk Mutual Fire Insurance Company.
Worthington always had a keen interest in politics and history. At the Norfolk County Convention of the Republican Party on August 17, 1812, he was chosen as Secretary of the Convention. In 1827 Worthington wrote and published “The History of Dedham from the Beginning of its Settlement in 1635 to May, 1827”. He was the first to write a history of Dedham and carefully studied the records of the churches and the town in search of materials for the history. Worthington married Sally Ellis of Dedham, the daughter of Abner Ellis and Martha May, on May 2, 1815. The couple resided in Dedham where they raised three sons: Ellis born February 11, 1816, Albert born July 5, 1820, and Erastus Jr. born November 25, 1828. Erastus Sr. died of consumption June 29, 1842 and Sally died, also of consumption, June 29, 1856.
Erastus Worthington Jr. was born in Dedham November 25, 1828. He received an A.B. at Brown University in 1850 and a Law Degree from Harvard University in 1853. He married Elizabeth Foster Briggs, the daughter of Robert Briggs and Caroline Morton Briggs of West Roxbury, November 25, 1861. Their children, all born in Dedham, were Caroline Morton, Erastus, Robert Briggs, Alvan Fisher, Arthur Morton and John Winthrop Worthington. Erastus Jr. entered into the practice of Law in Dedham, and in 1866 he was the first person elected to the position of Clerk of Courts for Norfolk County. He was a prolific writer and wrote many papers, some of which were presented to the Dedham Historical Society and were also published in the Dedham Transcript Newspaper. Erastus had an interest in politics and in 1886 supported the Prime Minister of Great Britain, William Ewart Gladstone, in his stand on the Irish Question. Erastus, Jr. died in Dedham on January 20 1898 and his wife Elizabeth died on November 8, 1918. Elizabeth had been a longtime member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Erastus Worthington was born December 12, 1863 and died October 16, 1953. He graduated from Dedham High School in 1877 and went on to study at MIT where he received a degree in Civil Engineering in 1885. Erastus partnered with other people before establishing his own engineering firm. He eventually opened his own engineering company in Dedham located at 4 Pearl Street. In 1938, he moved his offices to 26 Norfolk Street in Dedham in the building built by his great grandfather Abner Ellis in 1788. One of Mr. Worthington’s specialties was designing water supply systems and sewer systems. He also designed many of the street railways in western Norfolk County. He married Annie Brooks Fales of Dedham, daughter of William and Mary Fales on August 25, 1898. They were married in the Episcopal Church by Rev. William F. Cheney and had no children. Annie died in Dedham June 13, 1956. Both Erastus and Annie are buried at Brookdale Cemetery.