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"Massachusetts State Law: "Chapter 46: Return and Registry of Births, Marriages, and Deaths" mandates non-restricted marriage records are public records and are available for review, inspection, transcribing, or purchasing certified copies."

Author Profile

About the Author

J. James Simonson, a Suffolk University Journalism graduate, 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.

Is it possible for Massachusetts Marriage Records not to be Public and Restricted?

Yes, if birth parents of either spouse, or both, were not married at the time of the spouse's birth, or, if an adoption took place and the name changed, the original birth record is restricted. This in turn causes the marriage certificate of that person to be restricted.

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."

Out-of-wedlock marriage records are 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 subjects 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.

How Do I Get a Copy of My Own Restricted Massachusetts Marriage 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 marriage records 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.

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

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

City or town-certified marriage records are obtained by contacting the town or city clerk's office in Massachusetts where the couple registered to get married.

Some larger cities, such as Worcester and Boston, have online marriage 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 local marriage records.

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 Marriage 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 Marriage Records

Note: All data related to the father's information is sometimes missing on an out-of-wedlock marriage record.

  • • Subject's "A" name and gender
  • • Subject's "B" name and gender
  • • Month, day, and year of marriage
  • • Exact place of marriage (often includes the church, the official, etc.)
  • • Birthplace and age of "subject A" - sometimes has specific the birth date
  • • Names and birthplaces of the subject "A" parents
  • • Birthplace and age of "subject B" - sometimes has specific the birth date
  • • Names and birthplaces of the subject "B" parents
  • • Occupation of subject's "A" and "B"
  • • Number of times married, divorced, and or widowed (Does not provide former spouse's names)