The Museum of Old Newbury’s archival collections contain a variety of resources for researching family genealogy. The collection is particularly strong in genealogies of Newbury’s “first settlers,” who arrived in the mid-17th century. The Mary Adams Rolfe Collection, outlined below, includes volumes on many of these families.

Other resources in our collection include published genealogy books, manuscript genealogies by a variety of researchers, 19th and 20th century city directories, correspondence, and diaries.

Our resources are available to researchers year-round by appointment, Tuesdays-Fridays from 10am-4pm. Research appointments are free for museum members and incur a $30 fee for non-members. Download a research form, and contact us at info@newburyhistory.org or 978-462-2681 to make an appointment.

Remote research services are also available for those who cannot come to the museum in person. Visit our research services page to learn more.

Mary Adams Rolfe Collection

The Mary Adams Rolfe collection consists of dozens of volumes pertaining to the founding families of Newbury. The collection’s namesake worked tirelessly throughout her life to document each family using official data found in resources like town, church, and probate records.

The depth of information available varies by surname, with some volumes comprising less than 20 pages and some more than 200.  Though each volume is different, you can expect to find information such as: vital records (birth, marriage, death dates), transcriptions of wills and deeds, court records, occupation information, military and civil service records, and estate inventories.

The Museum of Old Newbury is pleased to offer the Mary Adams Rolfe collection for purchase and digital download. Each volume is priced according to size, and pricing ranges from $15-$50. Browse below to learn more about a particular volume and to make a purchase.

About Mary Adams Rolfe

Rolfe at work in the Newburyport Public Library, 1943.

Rolfe at work in the Newburyport Public Library, 1943.

Mary Adams Rolfe was born in Newbury, Massachusetts, March 27, 1874, daughter of Moses H. and Abbie (Hale) Rolfe.  Rolfe’s ancestors were among the first settlers of Newbury, and she devoted her life to studying and documenting her forebearers and their contemporaries.  Her prolific research notes include information about dozens of local families spanning three centuries. 

Rolfe’s interest in genealogical research began when her uncle’s injury in a Harvard football game gave him time to investigate his family background.  At the age of thirteen, Rolfe did his active research, which began a lifetime of patient digging in an orderly manner.

According to James Barriskill, librarian of the Museum of Old Newbury at the time of Rolfe's death, she used only official data from sources like town records, church records, and wills, sometimes traveling considerable distances to get those of New England families who advanced with the westward frontiers.  She was assisted in her work by her cousin, Marcia Emery Little, who copied the wills.

Rolfe was a highly respected genealogist known for the accuracy and depth of her research.  Additionally, she served as the historian of the Sons and Daughters of the First Settlers of Newbury for many years.  A work on the first settlers of Newbury was interrupted by her death in 1958, after which her niece Rachael Rolfe Feighny gave the Museum of Old Newbury some 100 volumes of her aunt’s genealogical research.  This collection totals over 20,000 handwritten and typed papers.

In 2003, Audrey Ladd, past president and board member of the Museum of Old Newbury, and Nancy Thurlow, administrative assistant, began the task of transcribing these notes in order save wear and tear on the original papers and to make them more accessible to researchers. The project took several years to complete, and the finished product has made Rolfe’s research an indispensable resource for genealogical researchers around the world.