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The Genealogical Information Recorded
in Massachusetts Vital Records

Birth, Marriage and Death
What kind of family information will I find in these records?


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"The amount and quality of family genealogical information in a Massachusetts vital record varies not only from the type of record you're looking at, but by the time period in which it was originally recorded."

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 - do not contain as much genealogical information as later records.

Accuracy of the information can also be a factor. Information contained in a death certificate about a persons birth, eighty years before, is sometimes not as accurate as the information contained in that person's marriage record or original birth certificate. The further one "gets away" from the actual event, the more distinct the possibility the 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 time span, not all, of the following information:

Birth Certificates

  • 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 1950's.
  • 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's)
  • Number of previous children of the mother (not always filled in...and no longer recorded)
Marriage Certificates
  • Subject's "A" name and gender
  • Subject's "B" name and gender
  • Day, month and year of marriage
  • 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 has specific birth date
  • Names and birthplaces of the subject "B" parents
  • Birthplace and age of "subject B" - sometimes has specific birth date
  • Occupation of subject's "A" and "B"
  • Number of times married, divorced and or widowed
Death Certificates
  • 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 father (not always filled in)
  • Name of mother (not always filled in)
  • Birthplace of parents (not always known)
  • Causes of death, primary and secondary and/or 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 1920's, have limited medical information, i.e. the cause of death, recorded on death certificates and/or registers.

  • Official Massachusetts Vital Record Laws

  • General Laws of Massachusetts, Chapter 46: Registry of Births, Marriages and Deaths.
  • General Laws of Massachusetts, Chapter 210: Adoption of Children and Change of Name.
  • Vital record information for all other states.