Massachusetts Vital Records
Introduction to Vital Records
Vital Records consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths recorded on registers, certificates, and documents. United States Vital Records has additional research guidance on researching and using vital records. A copy or an extract of most original records can be purchased from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services - Registry of Vital Records & Statistics or the Town Clerk's office where the event occurred.
Vital Records Reference Dates
Massachusetts' vital records start the following years:
Massachusetts Birth, Marriage and Death Records Online
The following is a list of online resources useful for locating Massachusetts Vital Records which consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths. Check Massachusetts Vital Records Online for more information about the resources listed below. Most online resources for Massachusetts Vital Records are indexes. After locating a person in an index always consult the original record to confirm the information in the index.
- New England Historic Genealogical Society  $
- Massachusetts Databases listed on Rootsweb.com - Free
- USGenWeb.org Massachusetts Site - Free
- Search for Massachusetts Collections on FamilySearch.org under Canada, USA, and Mexico - Free
- The Vital Records Search and Information Directory for Massachusetts - Free/$
- Linkpendium Links for Massachusetts Genealogy and History, including individual Counties - Free/$
- Search the Massachusetts Birth, Marriage & Death Records at Ancestry.com - $
Birth, Marriage, and Death Records
Early Records of Births, Marriages, and Deaths
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.
For Boston the Family History Library has microfilms of:
- Birth records, 1630-1799, 1849-1890
- Index to birth records, 1630-1955
- Marriage records, 1646-1889
- Index to marriage records, 1646-1910
- Death records, 1630-1970
- Index to death records, 1630-1848, 1870-1955
Many of the births and marriages recorded in the town records have been indexed and are searchable at familysearch.org. The Clarence Torrey collection of New England marriages prior to 1700 is at the New England Historic Genealogical Society and on microfilm at the Family History Library:
- New England Marriages Prior to 1700. Lists 17th-century marriages of Colonial New England with approximate dates.
- Torrey's Bibliography to His Source Notes for New England Marriages Prior to 1700. Has an alphabetical list of his source notes indicating book title, author, publication date, and manuscript titles.
- New England Marriages Prior to 1700 is on CD, edited and published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society. It has complete citations for almost all the sources cited. See also www.americanancestors.org.
- Supplement to Torrey's Marriages Prior to 1700. Has additional marriages found in Torrey's notes after his death in 1962.
- Second Supplement to Torrey's Marriages Prior to 1700. Provides additional marriages found in Torrey's notes after his death in 1962.
- Third Supplement to Torrey's Marriages Prior to 1700. includes the first and second supplements. It has many marriages from the Great Migration Study Project, sponsored by the New England Historic Genealogical Society.
State Records of Births, Marriages, and Deaths
The Family History Library has records of births, marriages, and deaths beginning as early as 1603, although state records start in 1841. They can be found in a Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
- MASSACHUSETTS - VITAL RECORDS.
Most vital records from 1841 to 1910 are online at American Ancestors, open to members of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. You can also obtain copies of birth, marriage, and death certificates for 1841 to 1915 by writing to:
Writing to the town clerkcan be the quickest way to get birth, marriage, and death information. The Family History Library has some of the vital records on microfilm:
- Births, Marriages (1841–1895); Indexes to Births and Marriages (1841–1905), Deaths (1841–1971). Microfilms of original records are in the Division of Vital Statistics, Massachusetts.
For copies of birth, marriage, and death records from 1921 to the present, write to:
150 Mt. Vernon Street, Floor
Dorchester, MA 02125-3105
(The department does not accept phone or internet orders, however directions for phone and internet orders can be found on their web page at the link above)
State your relationship to the individual you want information about and the reason you want the information.
Images of certificates are online at New England Historic Genealogical Society
The New England Historic Genealogical Society has vital records of 351 Massachusetts towns from their inception to 1850, statewide vital records from 1841-1910, and vital records 1911-1915. This is a subscription website.
The Massachusetts Vital Records Project has transcribed many of the vital records of Massachusetts to 1850.
Google Online Books: Vital Records of Massachusetts to the Year 1850 571 online books with full preview and fully searchable.
The Massachusetts Archives has a free online search of the indexes for vital records for many towns in Massachusetts for 1841-1910. After finding the record you desire from this index, you can find the applicable microfilm at the Family History Library to see the actual record.
- Gretna Greens. When an eloping Massachusetts couple's marriage is not in their home county, search for it in alternate places like Lowell, Middlesex, Massachusetts where many went to be married to avoid the waiting period between the time of issuing a license and the performance of the marriage. Also, many went to Elkton, Cecil, Maryland, or Prince William County, VA, or Niagara Falls, NY.
Massachusetts Marriage Records, 1841-1915
A name index and images of Massachusetts marriage records are available for free online at FamilySearch. To access these records, see Massachusetts Marriage Records, 1841-1915 . A description of this record collection is available at the Family Search Wiki article: Massachusetts State Marriage Records.
open / closed/ state statutes
From 1738 to about 1888, divorce records may have been filed in the county court, governor's council records, superior court of judicature, or supreme judicial court. After 1888 proceedings were usually filed at the county probate court and superior court. The library has some of these court records, including:
- Divorce Index, 1952–1970. 
- Information listed on vital records is given by an informant. Learn the relationship of the informant to the subject(s) of the record. The closer the relationship of the informant to the subject(s) 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.
- If your are unable to locate vital records recorded by governments, search for church records of christenin, marriage, death or burial, A family Bible may haave been used to record births, marriages and deaths.
- Privacy laws may arestrict your access to some vital arecords. Copies of some vital arecords recorded in the last 100 years may be unavailabale to anyone except a direct relative.
- Search for Vital Records in the Family History Library Catalog by using a Place Search and then choosing Vital Records. Search for Massachusetts to locate records filed by the state and then serach the name of the county to locate records kept by the county.
These links will take you to wiki pages describing alternate sources for birth, marriage and death records.
- Church Records: Depending on the denomination, church records may contain information about birth, marriage and death.
- Cemetery Records: Cemetery records are a rich source of birth and death information. These records may also reveal family relationships.
- Census Records: Census records are a valuable source for birth and marriage information. You may also determine approximate time of death when the individual disappear from the census. This is a good place to begin a search.
- Newspapers: Besides obituaries, local newspapers may contain birth and marriage announcements and death notices. Also check newspaper social columns for additional information.
- Periodicals: Local genealogical and historical societies often publish periodicals which may contain abstracted early birth, marriage and death information.
- Military Records: Military pension records can give birth, marriage and death information, In addtion, soldiers' homes records can included this same information.
- Probate Records: If no death record exists, probate records may be helpful in estimating when an individual has died. Probate records in the 20th Century often contain the exact death date.
- History: Local histories, family histories and biographies can all be sources of birth, marriage and death information. Often this information is found in county-level records or in surname searches of the Family History Library catalog.
Lost or Missing Records
- Torrey, Clarence Almon. New England Marriages Prior to 1700. Andover, Massachusetts: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1985. (Family History Library film 1320548 item 14; for source notes, see films 929494–500 [films do not circulate to Family History Centers].)
- N.l.: Williams Word Processing, 1984.
- Torrey, Clarence Almon. New England Marriages Prior to 1700.
- Sanborn, Melinde. Supplement to Torrey's Marriages Prior to 1700. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1991.
- Sanborn, Melinde. Second Supplement to Torrey's Marriages Prior to 1700. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1995.
- Sanborn, Melinde Lutz, Third Supplement to Torrey's Marriages Prior to 1700. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., [date not handy]
- Secretary of the Commonwealth, Massachusetts. Births, Marriages (1841–1895); Indexes to Births and Marriages (1841–1905), Deaths (1841–1971). (On 398 rolls of film, beginning with Family History Library film 961262.)
- Arlene H. Eakle, "Have you searched and searched for a marriage without finding it?" in Genealogy Blog at "http://www.arleneeakle.com/wordpress/2007/02/19/
- Massachusetts, Secretary of the Commonwealth. Divorce Index, 1952–1970. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1974. (Family History Library films 959804-5.)
Wiki articles descrivbing these collectons are found at:
- Massachusetts Births and Christenings (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Massachusetts Birth Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Massachusetts Marriages (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Massachusetts Deaths and Burials (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Massachusetts Deaths (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Massachusetts Marriage Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Massachusetts Springfield Vital Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Massachusetts, State Vital Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)