He taught in various places, and was a merchant in Concord, Massachusetts, from 1823 until 1833. He was afterward a bookseller and publisher in Boston, a member of the Boston City Council, and for several years a representative in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. In 1844 he was one of the founders of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and he was its vice president for five years. He was also a member of various similar societies.
When he was 46, he retired from business to devote himself to his other interests. His research for his 1835 book on Concord history pointed up to him the neglect of vital records. This was one of his motivations in joining others to found the American Statistical Association in 1839. He also promoted legislation which required a better system for the registration of vital information. This law was passed in 1842. His work on a Boston census in 1845 resulted in him being summoned as a consultant for the 1850 United States Census. His 1850 report on a sanitary survey of Massachusetts was later praised as amazingly far-sighted.
In 1825, he married Clarissa Baxter, and he was survived by three children.
- History of Concord, Mass. (Boston, 1835)
- Vital Statistics of Boston (1841)
- The Census of Boston (1845)
- Report on the Sanitary Condition of Massachusetts (1850)
- Memorials of the Descendants of William Shattuck (1855)