Massachusetts Vital Records From
Beginning in 1841, the state government required copies of each vital record to get sent to a central state office.
This directive means two sets of documents, one at the town or city level and one at the state level, have existed for almost every birth, marriage, and death since 1841.
IMPORTANT NOTE! The State Registry of Vital Records in Dorchester recently transferred all their vital record copies from 1926 - 1930 to the Massachusetts State Archives at Columbia Point.
Researchers should expect delays in accessing any free electronic records from 1926 - 1930.
It will take time to catalog, scan, digitize, and have these records available to the public for free. There currently needs to be a date when the digitation will be complete. In the meantime, researchers can view and purchase copies onsite.
Another alternative until then is to order the record from the city or town clerk where the event occurred.
What about finding a birth, marriage, or death event after 1930?
What kind of genealogical information is in these vital records?
Will a marriage record tell me where the spouse was born?
I'm also looking for a birth record from 1810. Where can I find that?
My great-grandparents divorced in the 1930s. How can I get a copy of this record?
220 Morrissey Boulevard
Use the above email address for basic research questions for the archival staff. It is not for requesting vital record copies.
The above link will take you to an official state list of town and city clerks with phone and email addresses.
State of Massachusetts, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Helpful Hints to Research Vital Records at the Massachusetts Archives
Researching vital records at the Massachusetts Archives involves a two-step process.
Much like the Massachusetts Department of Health (DPH) records from 1931 and up through the present, there are statewide indexes to these older vital records from 1841 - 1930.
Most vital records before 1920 at the Massachusetts Archives are on microfilm.
Most records from 1921 - 1930, except those from the City of Boston, are in traditional book volumes.
Both certified and microfilmed photocopies are available for purchase. Certified copies are a typed abstraction of the microfilmed birth, marriage, or death register. A microfilmed copy is a photocopy of the original town or city clerk's entry into the birth, marriage, or death register. Later years, such as 1921 - 1930, look much more like today's contemporary vital records.
Hours of the Massachusetts Archives are 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday. It is closed on all federal and state holidays.
For more information on additional archival records at the Massachusetts Archives, researchers can read their excellent, extensively detailed online guide, Researching Your Family History at the Massachusetts Archives.
The Massachusetts Archives accept both mail-in requests and walk-ins. Telephone orders are not accepted. Out-of-state researchers should be aware that mail-in requests, especially in the summer months, are researched by volunteers or college interns.
The most recent estimate to receive a certificate by mail from the Massachusetts Archives is about 3 - 4 weeks.
Our company, Massachusetts Document Retrieval, only provides vital record research before 1931 as part of a comprehensive family history or extended research project.
Suppose you're looking for only a single or even a few of these early vital records. In that case, you should contact the Massachusetts State Archives or the town or city clerk's office.
If you are interested in an overall family history project, email us at email@example.com for a free quote. We bill hourly for this type of research and only take on a few of these projects each month.
Depending on the complexity of the research project, we average a backlog of about 4 - 6 weeks for complete or partial family history projects, sometimes longer.
In your e-mail, please provide as much detail as you can about the intended search, including what specific research you have already done.
Researchers should be aware that the majority of vital records From 1841 - 1930 are in a register-style format. The originals are, in many cases, badly worn and faded. In addition, the quality of the microfilm recordings can range from excellent to very poor.
Though still valuable, the information contained in registers is less detailed than in present-day vital records. Generally speaking, these registers provide names, exact dates, residence information, parental information, sometimes with the place of birth (state or country), and occupational data.
One minor quirk is that the state copies of the death registers do not always include the burial place. This missing information is incredibly on point for the city of Boston records. The Boston city clerk's office did not pass burial information to the state for some odd reason. Suppose you find this to be the case with one of your relatives. In that case, you can usually find the burial place recorded with the town or city where the death occurred, including Boston!
Keep the town clerk from telling you that all they have is what the state archives have. Trust us, that's only sometimes the case! However, persistence in finding out the place of burial does pay!