Question: I was searching published Massachusetts vital records to the year 1850 and came across "P.R. 3". Is this referring to a Probate record with a low docket number?
Answer: The published Vital Record series for Massachusetts includes "P.R." for "Private Records". These are usually journals, diaries and account books containing vital records. In some cases this represents the only occurance of that birth, marriage or death in the records of the city or town. One of the hard problems a genealogist faces is tracing down the descendants of the person who provided the source in the first place. Often a book will indicate a source such as "P.R. 23 - Bible record in posession of Mrs. Mildred Jones". The next step is finding the descendant of Mildred Jones, since the book may have been published in 1912.