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Researching Your Family's History

Quick Link to City Directories 1868 - 1934

This link will take you directly to the Newton City Directories that were digitized by the City of Newton. They re located on the City website and are listed chronologically by year.  Click on a date to access a directory.

Printable Instructions for Searching and Printing Newton City Directories 1868 - 1934

Quick Link to Newton City Directories 1936 - 1985 from Internet Archive

This link will take you to the City Directories listed on Digital Newton. Note that all directories after 1934 were not digitized by the City of Newton, but by the Internet Archive. These require a different set of searching and printing instructions which you will find in the next box, directly below this one.

Searching and Printing Instructions for Newton City Directories from 1936 - 1985

Historic Newton

Jackson Homestead

Centered around the Jackson Homestead, Historic Newton provides a wealth of information relating to the City of Newton.  Take a look at the links below and you will quickly see what I mean.  It is both a museum and an archive of Newton historic materials.  They have provided a rich resource online.  If you have the time and are within driving distance, a visit to the Homestead, either to see its exhibits or to do research, will be time well spent.

Special Collections at the Newton Free Library

Note that the Special Collections Room is currently closed to the public due to Covid-19 restrictions. Throughout its existence, the Newton Free Library has brought together a superb collection of Newton materials.  With the opening of the new library building in 1991, the material was housed in a single location, the library's Special Collections. Here you will find books, maps, photographs, atlases, oral history on tape, even the shovel that was used in the ground breaking of the new library. A number of the resources housed here may help you with your genealogical searches for past Newton residents.  To get a better sense of the topics covered and material housed here, you may want to take a look at the Newtoniana, a guide to the collections compiled and edited by Georgina J. Flannery, M.S.  It has gone through a number of editions over the years and is now available online as a LibGuide. Just click on Newtoniana: A Guide to the Historical Collection to take a look. To get to the various sections, do not click on the title page, but navigate using the seven blue tabs in the left column.  If you live a distance from the library, you might want to look at Digital Newton below.  This digitized collection of Newton materials may have what you need.

Using Materials in Newton's Special Collections

When the Special Collections Room reopens, patrons will be asked to sign into Special Collections at the Periodicals Reference Desk on the first floor at the back of the library.

We ask that you look at this material online or on microform when either option is available.  To the left, above my profile,  you will see a number of online resources that contain Newton material.

Special Collections materials do not circulate. Material on open shelving should be used in the Special Collections Room.  Material retrieved from Compact Shelving must be used at a table near the reference librarian at the periodicals desk. Material from Compact Shelving may be viewed one item or one box at a time. You will be asked to leave a library card or license with the librarian while you look at these items. You may be asked to wear cotton gloves that will be provided to you, depending on the material you are using. Items from Compact Shelving can be unique, irreplaceable, and fragile.

Copying material:  Much of the material in Special Collections is both old and fragile and should not be subjected to a copier. Even if an item is in good shape, it will quickly deteriorate being photocopied.  It can be photographed using a digital camera or cell phone camera.  For best results, do not use a flash.  It bleeds out your picture and doesn’t do the original any good either.

There are no drinks or food allowed in Special Collections. To repeat, the material is irreplaceable.

Finding Special Collections' Material Online

A number of items in Special Collections can be viewed online.  Check out your options below.

Digital Newton

Massachusetts Collection

Part of the Massachusetts CollectionA number of years ago, the Massachusetts Collection was moved from the third floor into Special Collections.  Patrons researching Newton often found that they had to expand their research into other cities and towns, as well as consulting state wide sources. When researching family members and ancestors, you will often find yourself doing the same.  Below I list just a few of the items in the Massachusetts Collection that you may find of particular use.  There is still so much more to explore.  Come on in and take a look.

Broadening Your House Search

Books That Help You Find Your Home's History