Massachusetts, United States - Marriage - 1900-PresentEdit This Page

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'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 are a good way to find the town or county where your ancestor lived. Then you can use town and county records to find information about your ancestor. The censuses also give other information described below.

'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.'Marriage Record: Vital records
Marriage records contain information about a person's marriage. Different types of marriage records exist, and each can give slightly different information. Marriage returns may only give the names of the bride and groom, the date and place of marriage, and the name of the person who performed the marriage. The minister, justice of the peace, or other authority reported the marriage to the town or county clerk. Marriage licenses or applications were filed with town or county clerks by the bride and groom before marriage. They give additional information, such as ages, birthplaces, names of parents, and current residences. Witnesses' names are sometimes given, and they may be relatives or close friends.

Marriage records are kept by the clerks of the town or county where the marriage occurred, usually where the bride lived.

What you are looking for
A marriage record for your ancestor recorded by the government.

Why go to the next record
A death record often gives the name of a person's spouse. Death records of children (adult or infant) usually give the names of both parents.

'5.'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
Birth records often give the names of the parents. Birth dates of children help determine the parents' marriage date.

'6.'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
The birth records of your ancestor's children.

Why go to the next record
Obituaries often give a short biography of a person's life.

'7.'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
Town and county histories often give short biographies of first settlers and people in the area when the histories were written.

'8.'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
Church marriage records are alternatives to marriage records kept by the government. Baptisms for the children may give the names of parents, and baptism dates of children can help determine the parents' marriage date.

'9.'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 marriage.
  • Baptismal records of your ancestor's children.

Why go to the next record
Tombstone and sexton records often tell the name of a spouse.

'10.'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 or your ancestor's name in the sexton records.

Why go to the next record
Newspapers often give announcements of marriages, which may include date and place of marriage, plus names of relatives.

'11.'Newspapers: Newspapers
Local newspapers report local, regional, national, and global news. They also include notices of births, marriages, deaths, obituaries, etc. To find newspapers, you need to know the place and an approximate date of an event. Check newspapers from a week or two before or after a wedding, funeral, or wedding anniversary to find mention of out-of-town visitors and relatives.

There are newspapers for towns and cities.

What you are looking for
A newspaper covering the area where your ancestor lived when he or she lived there.

Why go to the next record
Military records may give the name of a spouse.

'12.'Military Records: Military records
Military records may contain birth information about a large portion of the male population. They may also have information about their deaths and marriages.

Pensions are offered for military service by state or federal governments. The applications and pension records often contain birth, marriage, death, and service information; residences; and names of spouses, children, and other close relatives. They began with the Revolutionary War and continue to the present.

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

What you are looking for
Records about your ancestor's military service. To find his or her military records, you usually need:

  • The state where he enlisted.
  • His company, regiment, or unit.
  • Dates of service.

Why go to the next record
Military pensions often give marriage information, such as the name of the spouse and sometimes the date and place of marriage.

'13.'Military Pensions: Military records
Military records may contain birth information about a large portion of the male population. They may also have information about their deaths and marriages.

Pensions are offered for military service by state or federal governments. The applications and pension records often contain birth, marriage, death, and service information; residences; and names of spouses, children, and other close relatives. They began with the Revolutionary War and continue to the present.

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

What you are looking for
A record of the pension your ancestor received for military service.

Why go to the next record
Wills, administrations, and inventories often give the name of your ancestor's spouse.

'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 at death, 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
Funeral home records are often good sources of biographical and family information.

'15.'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 came to the United States by ship or train, marriage and family information may be found in passenger lists and border crossings.

'16.'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 the 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.


 

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  • This page was last modified on 18 July 2014, at 23:26.
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