Massachusetts Deaths (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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Massachusetts, Deaths, 1841-1915 .
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 Death Records
Collection years 1841-1915
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites

What is in the Collection?

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.

You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for Massachusetts, Deaths, 1841-1915.

Collection Content

Sample Image

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 Do I Search the Collection?

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 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. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to find your ancestor.

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page:
To search the collection you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒Select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page
⇒Select the appropriate "Film Number" 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 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.

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.
  • 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.

Known Issues with This Collection

Important.png Problems with this collection?
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 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, Deaths, 1841-1915." Database with Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2016. Citing Secretary of State. 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, Deaths, 1841-1915.

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, Deaths, 1841-1915.

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