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Image of older birth records.

"The amount and quality of family genealogical information in a Massachusetts vital record varies based on the type of record you're examining, such as a birth, marriage, or death record.

In addition, the time period of its original recording can be an even bigger factor in the accuracy of the information."

Variations in Family History Details Across Different Types of Massachusetts Vital Records

In general, the older the record, especially older vital record registers from the earlier part of the 20th century - and especially the mid to late 19th century records - though certainly valuable - contain less genealogical information than later records.

Accuracy of the information can also be a factor.

Information in a death certificate about a person's birth eighty years before is sometimes not as accurate as in that person's marriage record or original birth certificate.

Simple truth, the further one "gets away" from the actual event, the more distinct the possibility genealogical data is not accurate.

The specific information in more contemporary vital records, i.e., post-1925, will usually include most, but, depending on the period, not all, of the following information:

Massachusetts Birth Certificate

  • •  First, middle (sometimes, or initial) and last name
  • •  Place of birth, including address and town/city
  • •  Day, month, and year of birth; time of birth began recording in 1950s.
  • •  Name, age, and address of father
  • •  Name, age, and address of mother
  • •  Birthplace of father and mother (city, town, state, country; sometimes just state or country)
  • •  Occupation of father and mother (no longer recorded as of 1990)
  • •  Number of previous children of the mother (not always filled in and no longer recorded)
  • Here is an example of a Massachusetts Birth Certificate - Transcribed for Genealogy.

Massachusetts Marriage Records

  • •  Subject's "A" name and gender
  • •  Subject's "B" name and gender
  • •  Day, month, and year of marriage
  • •  The exact place of marriage (often includes the church, the official, etc.)
  • •  Names and birthplaces of the subject "A" parents
  • •  Birthplace and age of "subject A" - sometimes have a specific birth date.
  • •  Names and birthplaces of the subject "B" parents
  • •  Birthplace and age of "subject B" - sometimes have a specific birth date.
  • •  Occupation of subject's "A" and "B"
  • •  Number of times married, divorced, and or widowed.
  • Here is an example of Massachusetts Marriage Records - Transcribed for Genealogy.

Massachusetts Death Records

  • •  First, Middle (sometimes, or initial) and last name
  • •  Place of death, including a specific address, whether a residence or other institution.
  • •  The specific town or city of death and residence
  • •  Day, month, and year of death
  • •  Age at death
  • •  Birth date and place of birth (not always accurate or known)
  • •  Marital status (single, divorced, widowed) name of spouse
  • •  Name of the father (not always filled in)
  • •  Name of the mother (not always filled in)
  • •  Birthplace of parents (not always known)
  • •  Causes of death, primary and secondary, and contributing
  • •  Place and date of burial or cremation
  • •  Name of funeral home or director
  • •  Name of physician or medical examiner
  • •  Name of informant (sometimes states relationship to the decedent)
  • •  Researchers should note older records, i.e., pre-1920s, have limited medical information, i.e. the cause of death, recorded on death certificates or registers.
  • Here is an example of Massachusetts Death Records - Transcribed for Genealogy.

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.