Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page
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|This article describes a collection of historical records scheduled to become available at FamilySearch.org.|
Collection Time Period
The collection covers the years 1653 to 1972.
The Massachusetts County and Town Records is a collection of will records that contain valuable information of where they lived, if they have any children or grandchildren, etc.
The record content varies by record type. It may include any of the following pieces of information:
- Name of primary individual
- Event date
- Event place
- Names of parents
- Biographical information about parents such as date and place of birth
- Names of heirs, such as spouse, children, other relatives, or friends
- Names of the executor, administrator, or guardian
- Names of witnesses
- Dates the documents were written and recorded (used to approximate event dates since a will was usually written near the time of death)
- Description and value of property or land
How to Use the Record
To begin your search it is helpful to know the following:
- The place where the event occurred
- The approximate date the event occurred
- The name of the individual or individuals such as the names of the bride and groom
Compare the information in the records to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct person. You may need to compare the information of more than one person to make this determination.
When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. Add this new information to your records of each family.
- Use the marriage date and place as the basis for compiling a new family group or for verifying existing information.
- Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth of each partner to find a couple's birth records and parents' names.
- Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth to find the family in census records.
- Use the residence and names of the parents to locate church and land records.
- Occupations listed can lead you to other types of records such as employment or military records.
- Use the parents' birth places to find former residences and to establish a migration pattern for the family.
- The name of the officiator may be a clue to their religion or area of residence in the county.
- The name of the undertaker, mortuary, or cemetery could lead you to funeral and cemetery records, which often include the names and residences of other family members.
- Compile the entries for every person who has the same surname. This is especially helpful in rural areas or if the surname is unusual.
- Continue to search the records to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives who may have been born, married, or died in the same county or nearby. This can help you identify other generations of your family or even the second marriage of a parent. Repeat this process for each new generation you identify.
- When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.
Keep in mind:
- The information in the records is usually reliable, but depends upon the reliability of the informant.
- Earlier records may not contain as much information as more recent records.
- There is also some variation in the information given from one record to another record.
If you are unable to find the ancestors you are looking for, try the following:
- Check for variant spellings of the surnames.
- Check for an index. There are often indexes created by local genealogical and historical societies.
- Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.
For a summary of this information see the wiki article: United States, How to Use the Records Summary (FamilySearch Historical Records).
County officials began keeping records from the time the county was formed.
Why the Record Was Created
Each type of record within the county was created for a different purpose, but most were created to keep track of the vital events happening in the lives of the citizens and to safeguard their legal interests and the legal interests of their heirs.
Facts current at the time of the event are generally reliable.
Related Wiki Articles
Contributions to This Article
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Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.
A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the Wiki Article: How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.
Examples of Source Citations for a Record in This Collection
- United States. Bureau of the Census. 12th census, 1900, digital images, From FamilySearch Internet (www.familysearch.org: September 29, 2006), Arizona Territory, Maricopa, Township 1, East Gila, Salt River Base and Meridian; sheet 9B, line 71.
- Mexico, Distrito Federal, Catholic Church Records, 1886-1933, digital images, from FamilySearch Internet (www.familysearch.org: April 22, 2010), Baptism of Adolfo Fernandez Jimenez, 1 Feb. 1910, San Pedro Apóstol, Cuahimalpa, Distrito Federal, Mexico, film number 0227023.
Sources of information for This Collection
Massachusetts. County and Town Records, 1653-1972.