Massachusetts Deaths (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page
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|This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.|
Access the records: Massachusetts, Deaths, 1841-1915 .
The collection consists of an index and images of Massachusetts statewide death registers and certificates for the years 1841 to 1915. When deaths were recorded on register forms, the second page of the form is on the next image. The death registers and certificates are in numbered volumes arranged by year then by individual town.
Starting in 1841, the state required that a copy of each death recorded in a town or city be sent to the Secretary of the Commonwealth. Since 1896, the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics has been the repository for the copies. Population coverage is near 100% for later years. Coverage is not as complete for some earlier years.
Deaths were recorded to serve public health needs. They were also used to probate wills and administer the deceased individual’s estate. The information is generally reliable for the place and date of death of the deceased. Other information will only be as reliable as the informant’s knowledge or memory.
The earlier records were recorded by hand in a register style format. In the early 1900’s, individual death certificates came into use.
The records usually contain:
- Town and year where death recorded
- Full name and age of deceased
- Death date and place of death
- Gender, marital status and occupation
- Date and place of birth
- Parents' names
- Cause of death
- Place and date of burial
- Name of informant (sometimes shows a relationship to deceased)
- Name of the funeral home or director
How to Use the Records
To begin your search it is helpful to know the following:
- The place where the death occurred
- The name of the person at the time of death
- The approximate death date
Search the Collection
To search the collection fill in the requested information in the boxes on the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the individuals in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to look at the information on several individuals comparing the information about them to your ancestors to make this determination.
As you are searching it is helpful to know such information as your ancestor’s given name and surname, some identifying information such as residence and age, and family relationships. Remember that there may be more than one person in the records with the same name as your ancestor and that your ancestor may have used nicknames or different names at different times
- If your ancestor used an alias or a nickname, be sure to check for those alternate names.
- Even though these indexes are very accurate they may still contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.
For tips about searching on-line collections see the on-line video at FamilySearch Search Tips.
Using the Information
When you have located your ancestor’s death 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. For example:
- Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth to find or verify their 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 (if the deceased is a child) to locate church and land records.
- Use the parents' birth places to find former residences and to establish a migration pattern for the family.
Tips to Keep in Mind
- Occupations listed can lead you to other types of records such as employment or military records.
- The name of the officiator is a clue to their religion or area of residence in the county.
- The name of the undertaker or mortuary 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 of the deceased who may have died or been buried 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.
- The information in these records is usually reliable, but depends upon the reliability of the informant.
- Earlier records may not contain as much information as the records created after the late 1800s.
- There is also some variation in the information given from one record to another record.
Unable to Find Your Ancestor?
- Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for nicknames and abbreviated names.
- Look for an index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume. Local genealogical and historical societies often have indexes to local records.
- Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.
- Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals with the same family number.
|Don't overlook FHL Keyword Massachusetts, Death Records items in the FamilySearch Library Catalog. For other libraries (local and national) or to gain access to items of interest, see the wiki article Massachusetts Archives and Libraries. For additional information about this state see the wiki article Massachusetts.|
Known Issues with This Collection
For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached Wiki article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.
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Contributions to This Article
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Citation for This Collection
The following citation refers to the original source of the information published in FamilySearch.org Historical Records collections. Sources include the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records.
- "Massachusetts, Deaths, 1841-1915." Index or Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2013. Citing Secretary of State. State Archives, Boston.