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Local History Guides: Overview


This guide includes such topics as: how to do local history and local history of places mainly within Westwood, MA and surrounding areas.


A vertical file is a collection of material such as news clippings, booklets, maps, pictures, pamphlets, brochures, and other grey literature. The materials are typically loose, separate pieces organized in folders and arranged by subject.

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Researching the history of your house often includes learning who lived in the house at a given point in time. City Directories include a street directory with listings of both houses and businesses. The listings will usually include the male and female heads of the household, or owner. The Federal Census offers the ability to locate a person by State and Town. The Census listing will be street and house number. You will also find other information that might be useful.

In addition to these links, the library offers two digital resources that offer both City Directory and Federal Census records; Ancestry Library, and HeritageQuest. You can access both of them from the "Other Genealogy Resources" box located on the far right of this page. In all cases, you may not find complete listings for city directories for all years.

Norfolk County Registry of Deeds

Find everything you need to know about the requirements for preparing, filing and researching deeds and other registry documents. You can search all documents from your office, the comfort of your home, or anywhere with computer access. Easy to understand user-friendly tutorials are provided that help you navigate the system.

Massachusetts Land Records

Access Registries of Deeds across the state. Massachusetts is divided into 21 registry districts with an elected Register of Deeds responsible for each office. Documents related to the ownership of real estate within the district are recorded at the Registry of Deeds. Recorded documents are assigned a sequential identifying number (known as the book and page number) and are then scanned into the registry's computer system.

U.S. Bureau of Interior Land Records

Provides online access to federal land conveyance records for the Public Land States, which are states that were created out of the public domain. The website offers access to images of more than five million federal land title records issued since 1820. The site also has images related to survey plats and field notes dating back to 1810.

Historic US Geological Survey Maps

In 1879, the USGS began to map the Nation's topography. This mapping was done at different levels of detail, to support various land use and other purposes. As the years passed, the USGS produced new map versions of each area. TopoView shows the many and varied topographic maps of each of these areas through history. This can be particularly useful for historical purposes, such as finding the names of natural and cultural features that have changed over time.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

The Library of Congress feature a digital collection of Sanborn maps that are large-scale maps, dating from 1867 to the present and depict the commercial, industrial, and residential sections of some twelve thousand cities and towns in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The maps show the size, shape, and construction of residential dwellings, commercial buildings, and factories. The maps also indicate widths and names of streets, property boundaries, building use, and house and block numbers

David Rumsey Historical Map Collection

This digital collection of over 100,000 items, focuses on 16th through 21st century maps of North and South America, as well as maps of the World, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. The collection includes atlases, wall maps, globes, school geographies, pocket maps, books of exploration, maritime charts, and a variety of cartographic materials including pocket, wall, children's, and manuscript maps. Items range in date from about 1550 to the present. The site is free and open to the public.

Research Historic Properties in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS) allows you to search the Massachusetts Historical Commission database for information on historic properties and areas in the Commonwealth. ** This resource does not include information on all historic properties and areas in Massachusetts, nor does it reflect all the information on file on historic properties and areas at the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

How to Uncover the History of Your Home

Every house has a history and a story to tell. Unless your home is brand-new construction, each home carries its unique background and may have some fascinating tales to tell. You might wonder how to trace the history of your home to learn more about it. Each home has a unique set of information attached, from stories of American folklore and people who lived there in decades past to architectural history. Read on to discover how you can find out more about the history of your house, what makes it a historic home, and interesting facts you might uncover along the way.

9 Ways to Find the History of a Property Online

This article provides details for researching your property's history online. From interviewing professional experts to researching sources, it identifies all the different ways you can find the history of a property online.

Tracing the History & Genealogy of Your Home

Have you ever wondered about the history of your house, apartment, church or other building? This article will help you identify ways to discover that history!

Vital records include many types of documents such as birth, marriage, and death certificates. These records offer dates and other information that can be some of the best things to add, and begin your family history. This guide will provide you with websites to help you understand all the things vital records can be, and where they can be found. Additionally, you will find a section for locating cemetery information. Finally, the Library has several great, genealogy, and newspaper databases that you can use to search for vital records and other information that may be useful to your family research. 

What are Vital Records & How Can I Find Them?

Where to Obtain Vital Records: Official Copies & Other Resources

International Vital Records

Westwood Cemeteries & Finding Cemeteries in Other Areas

The Public Works Department handles all activities pertaining to cemetery management.  The Town of Westwood does not have a separate cemetery department.  For more information, click here.  

If you have the date of death but don't know the location of a grave, or which cemetery the grave is located in, checking is one of the best places to start. Started in 1995, information for is made possible by thousands of volunteers who new listings, updates, corrections, photographs, every hour. Additionally, people ass information about cemeteries to the site to help identify the final disposition information of the people buried there. Site management is done by the FindAGrave administrative team, and are not associated with the cemetery and don't have any information beyond what volunteers add. For more information about a specific cemetery, contact that cemetery.


8 Steps to Find A Loved One's Grave in a Cemetery

If you haven’t taken the time to find the gravesites for your ancestors, you might feel like a piece of your genealogy puzzle is missing. Visiting the grave of an ancestor is often a powerful experience. It puts your lineage and mortality in perspective, and it’s also an opportunity to respect those who died before you. Also included is a section for helping you find a unmarked grave.


Find a Grave is the best place on the internet to look for burial and other final disposition information for your family, friends and famous people. At Find a Grave you’ll find details about cemeteries and individual memorials for many people buried in those cemeteries. Memorials generally include birth, death and burial information and may include pictures, biographies, family information and more.


BillionGraves is the world's largest resource for searchable GPS cemetery data, and is growing bigger and better every day. Search our free index for family and link records to your favorite familytree resource. We've partnered with great companies like FamilySearch, MyHeritage and Findmypast. Whatever you find on BillionGraves is copied onto our partner sites!

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery's ANC Explorer, enables families, visitors and the public to locate gravesites, events or other points of interest throughout the cemetery; view front-and-back headstone photos and points of interest; and receive directions to these locations. The latest version also includes self-guided tours, easy access to general information, and provides the ability to save searched burial records to a mobile device.

This website contains 25+ million cemetery records, transcripts, and burial registers, from tens of thousands of cemeteries across the world, all contributed by genealogists, cemeteries, government agencies, and private organizations.

Enter the first and last name of your ancestor, the city or county you think they may be buried in, and the word, “cemetery” and click search.

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Westwood Public Library

Main Library

660 High Street
Westwood, MA 02090
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Islington Branch

273 Washington Street
Westwood, MA 02090
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