New Database Boston, MA: Provident Institution for Savings, 1817-1882

Picture of a three-story brick building.
Former house of Thomas Handasyd Perkins, Temple Place, Boston, occupied by Provident Savings beginning in 1856. Public Domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

We are very happy to announce a new database today that comes through a partnership with the Boston Athenaeum; Boston, MA: Provident Institution for Savings, 1817-1882 .

This database currently contains a single volume; Signature Book 10, 1854-1858. When complete, the database will contain 6 Signature books and 6 “Waste” books. This volume contains 380 pages and over 54,000 new searchable names. The additional books are actively being indexed, and new volunteers are welcome. Email for more information.

The Provident Institution for Savings in the Town of Boston was the first savings bank to be incorporated in the United States. In 1817 the bank was founded by James Savage, and other prominent Bostonians including William Elery Channing, Josiah Quincy, Elisha Ticknor, Thomas Dawes, Samuel Elliot, and Thomas Handasyd Perkins among others.

The institution was predicated on the idea that savings banks would encourage thrift and self-improvement of the poor of Boston without subjecting them to the so-called moral corruption associated with outright charity. By offering their customers dividends on savings, the Provident would encourage them to keep their money in the bank for longer periods of time, rather than spend as they earned it.

Over the course of the 19th century, the Provident expanded, investing in industries such as textiles, as well as real estate. The Provident became a subsidiary of Hartford National Corporation in 1986 and continued to operate as the Provident Institution until it was merged with Shawmut Bank in 1992, which subsequently donated the Provident’s records to the Boston Athenaeum.

About 80% of the records are for immigrants to Boston. This is particularly valuable for Irish immigrants as the native county is provided which is critical information for additional research in Ireland. All records will be of type residence and will be for the location of Boston, Massachusetts.
This database is the result of partnership with the Boston Athenaeum. The Boston Athenaeum has the original books for Provident and performed the digitization of all the images. The full collection at the Boston Athenaeum is Provident Institution for Savings in the Town of Boston Records( They have partnered with NEHGS to index these books and make them available online.

This update is made possible by the efforts of our volunteers; Dan Breen, Loretta Brown-Aldrich, George Carter, Susan Dickinson, Barbara Macken, Katie McCarver, Liz Odell, Blaine Parker, Julie Roffo, Wendy Sheppard, Gayle Smalley, Chris Soohoo, Gale Stevenson, Sam Sturgis, and Judy Welna. If you would like to become part of the team working on this or other rewarding genealogical projects, please contact Rachel Adams, Database Services Volunteer Coordinator via email at

Please note: This database is available to Individual-level and above NEHGS members only. Consider membership.