The town of Ashby, incorporated in 1767, is situated forty-five miles from Boston and joins the northern border of Fitchburg. Ashby is in the northwestern extremity of the county of Middlesex. Early in the history of the area Ashby was a pat of the present towns of Townsend, Lunenburg, Ashburnham and Fitchburg. The township is a variety of hills and valleys, with rich pastures and farm land.

The first three families to settle in Ashby were those of James Coleman, James Locke, and John Fitch. John Fitch had moved to the area from Bradford, Massachusetts. Captured by the Indians on July 5, 1748 he, his wife and two children were taken to Canada. Thsi was during the French and Indian War. Mr. Fitch had traded with the Indians, and his frontier standing well known to them. The Indians knew that his friends would contribute liberally for his release from captivity. The ransom was paid by Fitch's freinds in Bradford. Six month after being captured and suffering extremely harsh treatment, they were able to return to their farm in Ashby.

The first town meeting was held at the house of Peter Lawrence in 1767 soon after the incorporation of the town. John Fitch was chosen moderator; James Locke, John Fitch and John Jones, were chosen as selectmen. They held town meetings for several years at the houses of Peter Lawrence, Jonas Barrett and Joseph Davis.

One of the reasons given for the formation of a new town, was the remotemenss of the people from any place of public worship. Therefore a house of worship was built but was not fully finished until after 1771. Persons of acknowledged rank and office had the first seats. The other members were seated according to the property they owned. Twenty five pews were assigned to the twenty-five persons whose estates stood the highest on the tax list. The names given here are th eorder in which they were rated, James Coleman, Ebenezer Stone, John Jones, Thomas Stearns, Levi Houghton, John Bates, John Locke, Jacob Puffer, Samuel Stone, James Lock, Jr., William Cox, James Barrett, Stephen Gibson, William Flagg, Caleb Nurse, Sameul Rice, Abijah Wyman, Benjamine Blanchard, Amos Wheeler, Charles Lawrence, Joseph Davis, Samuel Brown, Abram Taylor, James Bennett and Parker Dole.

Soon after the beginning of building the meeting-house, the town ordered stocks built and placed upon the common. The record adds "Mr. Joens gives the hinges, Mr. Puffer gives the locks, Mr. Davis gives the staples and hasps, Mr. James Locke gives the plan, Mr. Wyman makes them, and James Bennett brings the plank to the spot where they are to be placed." In 1809 the first meeting-house was torn down, and a new one built by the town on the same location.

Some indication of the early commercial activity of the region may be obtained from the products that were produced. In the early 1800's the manufacture of palm-leaf hats was its principal manufacturing business. In 1837 there were 59,989 hats manufactured. Occupations are listed in the vital records for many individuals.

The Ashby town center is a typical small New England village dominated by the white spire of the Congregational Church. The old burying ground is behind this church. It is unusual because of the great number of very tall old headstones. The Town Offices and Library are located across the street and very near this church.

The following records of birth, marriages and deaths includee all entries to be found in the books of record kept by the town clerks for the years 1768 through 1890. All essential information has been copied and fully presented in condensed form. Only minor secondary information has been excluded. When duplicate entries occur the most complete record has been used. Parentheses may be used to indicate the maiden name of a married woman and to show variations in the spelling of a name in the same entry.

A general guide to how to use these pages.

If you are new to this site, or haven't used the site a lot, please be sure to read the rest of this page. Even if you have used this site a lot, a refresher may be helpful due to the changes that have been introduced.

You can research the records alphabetically or chronologically within surname. Images of the pages from which the transcriptions were done, and the title pages, are available for most towns. A list of abbreviations used is available.

Alphabetic - This is the most common way that the published vital records were presented. All of the same given names were arranged chronologically with names that had middle initials or middle names followed the others. Nicknames would appear alphabeticall according to the spelling, i.e. Nabby, the nickname for Abigail, would be with the names beginning with the letter "N."

In this version, the names are sorted based on the most common spelling. Abbie, Abby, Abigail, Knabby, Nabby, etc., will all appear together and will be chronological. Middle initials and middle names have no influence on the order.

Note: There are going to be errors in the indexing of the names. A woman named Abiel may have been recorded as Abby. The indexing will have her with the Abigails. Please notify me with the Contact page about errors and they will be fixed within a couple days.

Chronologic - The chronologic sort will be most helpful with surnames having lots of entries, especially births. Records that had a missing date, or part, have had the missing portions replaced with zeros and will appear ahead of the others.

Page images - The icon at the left of each record is a link to the image of the page from which the transcription was done. The transcriptions are a tool. The image is the source. It is your responsibility to copy the image for your documentation. Also, the title page should be copied. There is a link to the title page in the navigation bar on transcription pages and image display pages.

Abbreviations - Each town had its own abbreviations used in the published records. Most of these are the same. The abbreviations for the headstones (GR), private records (PR), churches (CR), etc. are all different. There is a link to a list of all abbreviations used for the town in the navigation bar of the transcription pages.

Errors - There are two types of errors.

  • Errors in the published records - It is known that errors are in the published records. Not many, to be sure, but they are there. Where I have found them, or have been informed and provided sufficient documentation, the records have been annotated. This appears in red at the end of the line.]
  • Transcription errors - Even with the best of proofing, errors occur. If you find one, use the Contact link at the top of the page and tell me about the error. I need to have the town name, type of record, page number, what the error is and what it should be. It facilitates matters if you copy and paste the record in error into the e-mail.

Miscellaneous - As the opportunity has provided, I have tried to research names that had only initials or an initial and a surname to find the full names. Where I've been successful I've added the name in red, i.e. J.R. appears as J[ohn] R. or J[ohn] R[ussel].

The alphabetic and chronologic sort orders and many planned improvements require that towns be transcribed. If you can spare two, or more, hours per week to help with the transcribing, write me.

With the exception of the few people helping with transcribing and indexing, I am the only person working on this project. I do all of the technical work. I correct errors. I put transcriptions into final format. I design the pages. This takes a tremendous amount of time and money. If you find this site useful, please donate what you think it is worth to you by going to the donations page.