Massachusetts State Vital Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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Massachusetts, State Vital Records, 1841-1920 .
This article describes a collection of records at
Massachusetts, United States
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Flag of Massachusetts
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Location of Massachusetts
Record Description
Record Type Vital Records
Collection years 1841-1920
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites

What is in the Collection?

This collection includes births, marriages, and deaths from 1916 to 1920, as well as state amendments to vital records from 1841 to 1920. The records were obtained from the state archives in Boston.

For a detailed guide to Massachusetts Vital Records, see the Massachusetts Genealogy Guide for that topic.

You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for Massachusetts, State Vital Records, 1841-1920.

Coverage Map

To see a coverage map of FamilySearch's holdings of Massachusetts marriages, click here.

Collection Content

Sample Images

Information found in birth records may include:

  • Date and place of record
  • Date and place of birth
  • Name of child
  • Gender and race
  • Names of parents
  • Residence of parents
  • Occupation of father
  • Birthplace of father
  • Birthplace of mother
  • Family History Library Microfilm and item numbers for the source materials

Information found in marriage records may include:

  • Date and place of marriage
  • Full names of bride and groom
  • Residences of each
  • Ages of each
  • Occupation of groom
  • Birthplace(s) of bride and groom
  • Name of bride's and groom’s parents
  • Number of marriages
  • Officiator

Information found in death records may include:

  • Date of death
  • Name of deceased
  • Gender, race, and marital status
  • Age of deceased in years, months and days
  • Cause of death
  • Residence or place of death
  • Occupation of deceased
  • Place of birth
  • Parents' names
  • Parents' birthplace
  • Burial information

How Do I Search the Collection?

When searching for your ancestor's record, it is helpful to know the following:

  • The type of event (birth, marriage, or death)
  • The name at the time of the event
  • Other identifying information such as the approximate date and place of the event

Search by Name by visiting the Collection Page:
Fill in the requested information on the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about those in the list to what you already know about your own ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person.

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page:
To search the collection you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒Select the "Browse" link in the initial search page
⇒Select the appropriate "Record Category" link
⇒Select the appropriate "Record Type, Date Range, Volume, Town Range" link which takes you to the images

Look at each image comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine if the image relates to them. You may need to look at several images and compare the information about the individuals listed in those images to your ancestors to make this determination.

With either search keep in mind:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names or variations of their name throughout their life.

For tips about searching on-line collections see the on-line article FamilySearch Search Tips and Tricks.

I Found Who I was Looking for, What Now?

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. 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 (while he or she was a child) to locate church and land records
  • Use the marriage date and place as the basis for compiling a new family group or for verifying existing information.
  • Use the parents' birth places to find former residences and to establish a migration pattern for the family.
  • Use the marriage number to identify previous marriages.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Occupations listed can lead you to other types of records such as employment records or military records.
  • The name of the officiator is a clue to their religion or area of residence in the county. However, ministers may have reported marriages performed in other counties.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Compile the entries for every person who has the same surname; this is especially helpful in rural areas or if the surname is unusual.
  • When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.
  • Information listed on vital records was given by an informant. Learn the relationship of the informant to your ancestor. The closer the relationship of the informant to the ancestor and whether or not the informant was present at the time of the event can help determine the accuracy of the information found on the record.
  • 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.

I Can't Find Who I'm Looking for, What Now?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby localities.
  • 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 that may be your ancestor.

For a summary of this information see the wiki article: United States, How to Use the Records Summary (FamilySearch Historical Records).

General Information About These Records

Early Massachusetts vital records were recorded by town clerks. Records of births, marriages, and deaths to 1850 for about 215 towns have been published. Most of these are on microfilm and microfiche at the Family History Library. These often include information from town, church, cemetery, county, and other records. Although records of about 100 towns have not been published in book form, many of these records have been published in periodicals such as the Mayflower Descendant, with concentration on Plymouth, Bristol, and Barnstable Counties.

Known Issues with This Collection

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See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

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 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.

Citing this Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.

Collection Citation:

"Massachusetts, State Vital Records, 1841-1920." Database with Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2016. Citing Secretary of the Commonwealth. State Archives, Boston.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for Massachusetts, State Vital Records, 1841-1920.

Image Citation:

The image citation is available by clicking on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen. You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for Massachusetts, State Vital Records, 1841-1920.

How You Can Contribute

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.