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Massachusetts State Law: "Chapter 46: Return and Registry of Births, Marriages, and Deaths"

Mandates Birth, Marriage, and Death Records are Public Records.

Author Profile

About the Author

J. James Simonson, a Suffolk University Journalism graduate in Boston, has been a key player in genealogy research since the 1990s. Renowned for his work in Massachusetts birth, marriage, and death documents, he has helped piece together complex family histories. Simonson’s talent for revealing hidden family connections and unknown relatives has greatly enriched family trees. His research stretches from local New England records to global historical sources. Actively participating in genealogy conferences, Simonson is dedicated to helping people uncover their ancestral stories, significantly impacting the field.

Massachusetts Birth Certificate Accessibility

Is it possible for a Massachusetts Birth Certificate not to be Public and Restricted?

Yes, the original birth certificate is restricted if the birth parents were not married and the child was born out-of-wedlock or if an adoption occurred and the name changed.

This restriction is also outlined in the above Chapter 46 link details.

Some agencies or Massachusetts city clerks also refer to these restricted records as "impounded."

An out-of-wedlock birth certificate is restricted to the individual named on the record, the birth parent(s) named on the record, or a legal guardian.

A court order, issued by a local judge at a MA Probate and Family Court, is needed to access the record for all other individuals.

Certified copies can still be obtained directly by the subject named on the record, the birth parent, or parents(s) named on the record, or the child’s legal guardian, but this record type is NOT open to the public for review, and the public cannot obtain copies.

Obtaining Your Restricted Massachusetts Birth Certificate

How Do I Get a Copy of My Own Restricted Massachusetts Birth Certificate?

It's not complicated. It depends on why you need the record and where you live, as some states and agencies will only accept state-certified copies, not town copies.

You'll most likely need a State-certified record if you need the certificate for any official purpose, such as obtaining a United States passport, processing a "REAL ID" application, updating your driver's license, or applying for dual citizenship or social security benefits.

State-certified copies of restricted Massachusetts birth certificates can be obtained from the Massachusetts State Registry of Vital Records and Statistics in Boston.

Most importantly, a photo ID and documentation of the relationship to the subject, if not the subject applying, is needed for the application.

Non-Official Use of Birth Certificates

What if I Don't Need a State-Certified Copy for an Official Purpose?

A Massachusetts city or town birth certificate should work perfectly if you only need a certified copy for your records, general information, or a family history project.

City or town-certified birth certificates are obtained by contacting the town or city clerk's office in Massachusetts in the town or city where the subject was born.

Some larger cities, such as Worcester and Boston, have online birth order forms on their websites, but many smaller towns, such as Medfield, still only accept mail-in or walk-in applications.

The biggest plus of a city or town certificate is that they are generally less expensive than state-certified copies. The most significant disadvantage is that they can take longer to obtain and appear less official than state copies.

This can vary by the city or town that issues the certificate; some are lightning-fast at delivery, and others look as good as state-certified records.

It’s almost a case-by-case scenario, as there is no state-wide mandate about the aesthetics of a local birth record.

However, we have heard that city certificates are unacceptable by some federal agencies, such as Social Security, or for applying for driver’s license renewals and passports.

This is especially true if you live outside the country or in Colorado or California.

Enhanced Security Benefits of State Certified Birth Records

The following features ensure the authenticity and security of state-certified birth records:

  • Embossed with Official Raised Massachusetts State Seal
  • Signed by the State Registrar of Vital Statistics
  • Contains the Original Date of Issue
  • Stamped with Current Date of Issue
  • Printed on Secure, Watermarked, Heavyweight Paper
  • Embedded with a Scannable, Digital Bar-Code for Tracking

Recorded Information on State Certified Birth Records

Note: All information related to the father is usually not reported on restricted birth certificates.

  • First, middle (sometimes, just an initial) and last name of child
  • Place of birth, including address, hospital (depending on the time frame - hospital name not always recorded), and town or city
  • Month, day, and year of birth
  • Time of birth - began in the early 1950's but not always recorded
  • Name, age, and address of father and, depending on the era of recording, his exact date of birth
  • Name, age, and address of mother and, depending on the era of recording, her exact date of birth
  • Birthplace of the father (city, town, state, country; sometimes just state or country)
  • Birthplace of the mother (city, town, state, country; sometimes just state or country)
  • Occupations of father and mother (not always filled in - stopped being recorded entirely in mid-1990's)
  • Number of previous children of the mother (again, not always filled in and no longer recorded)