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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 Marriage Record Accessibility

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

Yes, if the 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, restricts the marriage certificate of that person.

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 local judge must issue a court order from a MA Probate and Family Court for all other individuals to access the record.

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 a legal guardian. Still, this record type is NOT open to the public for review, and the public cannot obtain copies.

Obtaining A Restricted Marriage Certificate

How Do I Get a Copy of My Own Restricted Marriage Record?

It's simple.

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

You most likely will 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.

Non-Official Use of Marriage Records

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

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

City-or town-certified marriage records can be 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 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 it is generally less expensive than state-certified copies. The most significant disadvantage is that it 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 delivered lightning-fast, and others look as good as state-certified records.

It's a case-by-case scenario, as there is no statewide 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 when applying for driver's license renewals and passports.

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

Enhanced Security Benefits of State-Certified Marriage 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 Marriage Records

Note: All information related to the father is usually kept from an out-of-wedlock marriage record.

  • Subject's "A" name and gender
  • Subject's "B" name and gender
  • Month, day, and year of marriage
  • The exact place of marriage (often includes the church, the official, etc.)
  • Birthplace and age of "subject A" - sometimes has a specific birth date
  • Names and birthplaces of the subject "A" parents
  • Birthplace and age of "subject B" - sometimes has a specific 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)