Massachusetts, United States - Birth - 1841-1899Edit This Page

From FamilySearch Wiki

'1.'The Basics on How to Search for Ancestors in the United States
While there is no set way to do research in the United States, this guide gives basic research steps and an explanation of the records.

The following list of suggested records is given in an order likely to help many people.

What you are looking for
An understanding of the research process and how to use the suggested list of records to search.

2.'United States Previous Research, Part 1'
Previous research is the work other people have done. By searching what others have already done, you may save hours. However, previous research is only as good as the skills of the person doing the research. Therefore, you should double check the information in previous research.

What you are looking for
Information about your ancestors compiled by other people.

Why go to the next record
Any of the following records may:

  • Have the information you are looking for.
  • Add information to what you have found.
  • Clear up differences found in previous searches.

If you find new information, you may want to again look at the records you searched before.

Population schedules give a "snapshot" of your ancestor's family on the census day and indicate where they were living.

'3.'Census Population Schedule: Census
Census population schedules are useful in finding the town and county where an ancestor lived. They list people who lived in each house in every town and county when the federal census was taken (every 10 years, starting in 1790). Censuses from 1850 to 1920 give at least the name, age, and state (or country) of birth for every person in the house. Earlier censuses (1790 to 1840) give the name of the head of household, plus age categories for all the males and females in that house. Censuses show neighbors, who often are relatives.

Federal census records are available for states and for the country.

What you are looking for
Your ancestor's name on a population schedule.

'4.'Birth Record: Vital records
Birth and death records contain information given by family members to hospitals, physicians, midwives, or coroners, who filed the records with town or county clerks. The record usually gives the person's name, date and place of birth or death, parent's names, and may give the place of birth of the parents. Death records may give name of spouse, age, place of death and burial, and name of undertaker.

Birth and death records may be from towns, counties, or states.

What you are looking for
Your ancestor's birth record recorded by the government.

Why go to the next record
Baptisms are alternatives to birth records. In many religions, children were generally baptized within a few days of birth and usually near the place they were born.

'5.'Church Baptisms, Marriages, Burials, Minutes, etc.: Church records
Church records usually include baptisms, marriages, burials, and minutes. Baptism records usually give the name of the child, parents' names, and date and place of baptism. Marriage records usually give the names of the bride and groom, witnesses, and the date and place of the marriage. Burial records usually give the name and age of the deceased person, with the date and place of burial or death. The name of the spouse may be listed, and for young children, the names of the parents may be given. Church minutes have a variety of information, including lists of members in various years.

Church records were kept in towns or counties by the minister or clerk of a congregation.

What you are looking for
A church record of your ancestor's baptism.

Why go to the next record
Tombstone and sexton records often have birth information.

'6.'Tombstone and Sexton Records: Cemeteries
Tombstone and sexton records contain information from tombstones or from records kept by the sexton of the cemetery. They usually give the ancestor's name, birth date, and death date. They may include the birthplace and date, name of spouse, names of children, and names of other relatives.

There are tombstone and sexton records for towns, counties, states, and the country.

What you are looking for

  • Your ancestor's tombstone inscription.
  • Your ancestor's name in the sexton records.

Why go to the next record
Death records often give birth information, which may not be recorded elsewhere.

'7.'Death Record: Vital records
Birth and death records contain information given by family members to hospitals, physicians, midwives, or coroners, who filed the records with town or county clerks. The record usually gives the person's name, date and place of birth or death, parent's names, and may give the place of birth of the parents. Death records may give name of spouse, age, place of death and burial, and name of undertaker.

Birth and death records may be from towns, counties, or states.

What you are looking for

  • Your ancestor's death record kept by the government.
  • Death records of your ancestor's children.

Why go to the next record
Mortality schedules give birth information for those who died during the time described below.

'8.'Mortality Schedule: Census
Mortality schedules list the people who died during the twelve months before 1 June of the federal census years of 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880. The records usually give the name, age, sex, state of birth, month and year of death, and cause of death. The 1880 mortality schedule also gives the birthplaces of the person's parents. Children who were born and died between censuses may be listed in mortality schedules.

Mortality schedules were taken by census officials in local towns and counties. You may find the records in county, state, and country collections.

What you are looking for
The name of your ancestor in a mortality schedule.

Why go to the next record
Obituaries often give a short biography of a person's life, including birth date, birthplace, and parents.

'9.'Obituary: Obituaries
Obituaries (death notices with some biographical information) are written by family members and published in local newspapers. They usually give the name of the deceased; residence; age; dates and places of birth, marriage, and death; name of spouse; and maiden and married surnames of women. Obituaries may give the names of parents, names of children with their residences, names of children's spouses, place of burial, name of undertaker, cause of death, previous residences, occupation, military service, immigration information, religion, membership in organizations, and a photograph.

Obituaries are found in newspapers for towns and cities.

What you are looking for

  • An obituary for your ancestor in a book of obituaries.
  • An obituary in a newspaper where and when your ancestor died.

Why go to the next record
The Social Security Death Index is a fast, easy-to-use source of birth and death information.

'10.'United States Social Security Death Index and Application Files
The Social Security Death Index contains information about people who died from about 1962 through the present. The index provides birth and death dates, the person's last place of residence, the place where the death payment was sent, the state where the person lived when issued a social security number, and the social security number. The files for Social Security started in 1937 and give more information than the index, including parents' names and dates and places of birth and death.

What you are looking for

  • Your ancestor's name in the Social Security Death Index.
  • Your ancestor's Social Security file.

Why go to the next record
Funeral home records are often good sources of biographical and family information.

'11.'Funeral Home Records: Funeral homes
Funeral homes (mortuaries) assist family members with funeral services, burials, obituaries, and other needs. The records usually give the full name of the deceased (including maiden names of women), date and place of death, place of last residence, name of spouse, and name and location of the cemetery where the person is buried. They may also give names of parents, and surviving family members with their residences, and the date and place of the birth and marriage of the deceased. Obituaries, biographies, and the death certificate may also be included in mortuary records.

A funeral home is a business in a town, and each keeps its own records. When a funeral home changes ownership, the old records usually stay with the business.

What you are looking for
Records from a funeral home about your ancestor.

Why go to the next record
If your ancestor was a child when his or her father died, check guardianship records. Guardianship records usually give names of parents and the age of the child. With the age, you can calculate the birth date.

'12.'Guardianship: Guardianship
A guardian was appointed by a court to oversee the affairs of another person, called a "ward." Guardianship proceedings occurred when minor children were orphaned by the death of both parents or when the father (or "bread winner") died. In some cases guardians or administrators were appointed when adults were declared incompetent to handle their own affairs.

Guardianship records usually give the name and age of the ward, the name of the deceased parent(s), name and residence of the guardian (which might be the mother), and the dates of court decisions. The records may also give the death date of the parent(s).

Guardianship records were kept by towns, counties, or states.

What you are looking for
Guardianship records for the area where your ancestor lived around the time his or her father died.

Why go to the next record
Town and county histories often give short biographies of the first settlers and people in the area when the histories were written. State histories often give biographies of prominent men.

'13.'History: History
Histories tell of the events in a community or larger area. Effective family research requires some understanding of the historical events that may have affected your family and the records dealing with them. Learning about governments, laws, wars, migrations, and religious trends may help you understand political boundaries, family movements, and settlement patterns. These events may have led to the creation of records in which your family was listed, such as land and military documents.

Histories often contain biographical sketches about individuals and their families. They may include birth, marriage, and death information.

There are histories for towns, counties, regions, and states.

What you are looking for
A history of the town or county where your ancestor lived.

Why go to the next record
Wills, administrations, and inventories often give a link from your ancestor to his parents and siblings.

'14.'Wills, Administrations, and Inventories: Probate records
Wills, administrations, and inventories (probate records) show a court's decisions regarding the distribution of the estate of a deceased person to his heirs or creditors. They may give the person's death date, names of family members, family relationships, and residences. They may also give information about the adoption or guardianship of minor children and dependents.

There are probate records for towns, counties, states, and the country.

What you are looking for

  • Your ancestor's will, the list (inventory) of what he or she owned when he or she died, or records of what was done to settle the estate.
  • Similar records of people who are or might be your ancestor's parents or relatives, who might have included him or her in their wills.

Why go to the next record
A magazine may have an article about your family or copies of the records you need, such as church and cemetery records.

'15.'Genealogical and Historical Magazines: Periodicals
Genealogical and historical magazines often publish such information as: family histories, obituaries, newspaper notices, church, cemetery, land, probate, tax, military, and naturalization records. Historical magazines may contain biographies and histories of towns, ethnic groups, organizations, industries, historical events, political campaigns, military activities, etc.

There are genealogical and historical magazines for cities, counties, regions, states, and the country.

What you are looking for

  • An article about your ancestor.
  • An article about your ancestor's relatives.
  • An article about the town or county where your ancestor lived.
  • An article with records for the town or county where your ancestor lived.

Why go to the next record
A collection often gathers information from many sources. Some of these sources may no longer be available or would be difficult to find.

'16.'Genealogical Collections: Genealogy
Genealogical collections usually give information about families and may include several generations. They usually give the names, and birth, marriage, and death dates and places for the husband and wife, the children, and possibly siblings and parents.

There are genealogical collections for towns, counties, states, and the country.

What you are looking for

  • A collection about your ancestor's family, relations, or friends.
  • A collection with records from the place where your ancestor lived.

Why go to the next record
Land records give clues about when a family moved into and out of an area. They may also indicate where the family came from and moved to. This helps determine where children were born. Parents may deed land to their children and spouses.

'17.'Land Transactions, Person to Person: Land and property
Deeds contain the names and residences of the grantor and his wife (the sellers) and the grantee (buyer). Deeds may contain the names of children and their spouses, siblings, and sometimes the parents or in-laws. Deeds give a description of the land, the date the deed was actually written, and the date it was recorded. Witnesses and neighbors mentioned may be relatives or in-laws.

Deeds are kept by the clerk of the county where the deed was recorded.

What you are looking for
Records showing your ancestor buying or selling land, especially to relatives.

Why go to the next record
If your ancestor came to the United States by ship or train, birth and family information may be found in passenger lists and border crossings.

'18.'Passenger Lists and Border Crossings: Emigration and immigration
Passenger lists record individuals arriving in the United States by ship. Before 1820, few records were kept, and most of them are indexed in the Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. Federal records began in 1820 and usually give the name, age, and sex of each passenger, country of origin, occupation, date and port of departure, date and port of arrival in the United States, and the name of the ship and captain. After 1893 they often give the person's last city of residence overseas. After 1 July 1907 they usually give the city and country of birth, name and address of nearest relative in the home country, and if they are going to join a relative in the United States, the name and address of the person.

Between the United States and Canada, border crossing lists began in 1895. They listed people who crossed the border on trains, plus ship passengers arriving in Canada who said they were going to the United States. They usually give the name and birthplace of each person, port and date of entry, last residence and name of nearest relative there, and previous visits to the United States.

There are passenger lists for towns, states, and the country. There are border crossing lists for the countries.

What you are looking for
Your ancestor's name on a passenger or border crossing list.

Why go to the next record

This is not a complete list of all records you could search. If you did not find what you need, check the FamilySearch Catalog - Place Search or archives and libraries for the area where your ancestor lived for other records which may have information about your ancestors.


 

Need additional research help? Contact our research help specialists.

Need wiki, indexing, or website help? Contact our product teams.


Did you find this article helpful?

You're invited to explain your rating on the discussion page (you must be signed in).

  • This page was last modified on 18 July 2014, at 23:26.
  • This page has been accessed 608 times.