Researchers should expect delays in accessing these records until they are catalogued and eventually, scanned and digitized and readily available to the public for free. There is currently no date as to when digitation will be complete.
An alternative until then is to order the record from the city or town clerk where the event occurred.
What about a birth, marriage or death event that occurred after 1930?
What kind of information is in these vital records? Will a marriage record tell me the place of birth of the spouse?
I'm also looking for a birth record from 1810, where can I find that?
"Massachusetts state law requires town and city clerks to record all birth, marriage and death events occurring in that town or city."
This system has been in place for the last 300 odd years. Beginning in 1841, the state government required copies of each vital record be forwarded to a central state office. What this means is basically, two sets of records exist for almost every birth, marriage and death since 1841.
Researching vital records at the Massachusetts Archives involves a two step process.
Much like the Massachusetts Department of Health (DPH) records 1931 and up through the present, there are statewide indexes to these older vital records From 1841 - 1930.
Most vital records prior to @ 1920 at the Massachusetts Archives are on microfilm. Most records from 1921 - 1930, with the exception of records 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 entry into the birth, marriage or death register. Later years, aka, 1921 - 1930 look more like today's contemporary vital records.
Hours of the Massachusetts Archives are 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday - Friday. Closed on all federal and state holidays. No longer open Saturdays. Just to be safe, always call ahead.
The Massachusetts archives accepts 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 and/or college interns.
The most recent estimate to receive a certificate by mail from the Massachusetts Archives is about 3 - 4 weeks.
Mass Document Retrieval only provides vital record research before 1931 as part of an overall family history project or extended research project.
If you're looking for only a single or even a few of these early vital records, 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, drop send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free quote. We bill on an hourly basis 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.
Early Massachusetts Vital Records
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. Quality of microfilm can range from excellent to very poor.
Though still valuable, the information contained in registers is not as detailed as present day vital records. Generally speaking however, these registers provide names, exact dates, residence information, parental information, sometimes with place of birth (state or country) and occupational data.
One small quirk to be aware of is that the state copies of the death registers do not always include the place of burial. This is especially true for the city of Boston. For some odd reason, burial information was not passed along to the state. If you find this to be the case, burial information is recorded at the town or city level. This is available directly from thetown or city in which the event occurred.
Don't let the town clerk tell you that all they have is what the state archives have. Trust us, that's not always the case! Persistence does pay!
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.