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, Death Records, 1841-1915 .
Collection Time Period
This collection covers the years 1841 to 1915.
The earlier records were recorded by hand in a register style format. In the early 1900’s individual death certificates came into use.
Key genealogical facts found in Massachusetts Statewide Deaths are:
- Full name
- Specific town or city of death and residence
- Day, month and year of death
- Age at death
- Place and date of birth
- Gender, marital status, and sometimes name of spouse
- Name of parents and their place of birth (not always filled in)
- Place and date of burial
- Name of informant (sometimes gives information as to relationship to the deceased)
- Name of the funeral home or director
How to Use the Records
Begin your search by finding your ancestors in the index. Name indexes to deaths make it possible to access a specific record quickly. Remember that these indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.
When searching the index 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.
Use the locator information found in the index (such as page, entry, or certificate number) to locate your ancestor in the death records. Some on-line indexes, such as indexes to FamilySearch Historical Records, will take you directly to an image. Compare the information in the death record to what you already know about your ancestor 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 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.
- Occupations listed can lead you to employment records or other types of records such as military records.
- Use the parent’s birth places to find former residences and to establish a migration pattern for the family.
- 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.
If you are unable to find the ancestors you are looking for, try the following:
- Check for variant spellings of the surnames.
- Check for a different index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume.
- Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.
Keep in mind:
- 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.
For a summary of this information see the wiki article: United States, How to Use the Records Summary (FamilySearch Historical Records)
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.
Why This Record Was Created
Deaths were recorded to serve public health needs. They were also used to probate wills and administer the deceased individual’s estate.
Death 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.
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Related Wiki Articles
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Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
When you copy information from a record, you should also 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
Massachusetts Death, 1841-1915. index and images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org): 20 January 2011. death of Rebecca A. Stovvoll, 24 May 1878; microfilm number 960,215; Massachusetts State Archives, Massachusetts Division of Vital Statistics, State House, Boston, Massachusetts.
Sources of Information for This Collection:
"Massachusetts Death Records, 1841-1915", database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org); from Massachusetts State Archives. "Deaths, 1841-1971". Massachusetts Division of Vital Statistics, State House, Boston, Massachusetts. FHL microfilm. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah