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    Information about the Massachusetts Vital Records 1841–1910 Database

    There are a few unique characteristics and challenges to this database, and to Massachusetts vital records in general, that are important to note. Massachusetts vital records are kept in two parts, the records and the index. This database combines both in digitial format, as an exact copy of the index and records which are housed in hardcopy format at the Massachusetts State Archives.

    MA VR Search Screen  

    USING THE INDEX
    THE RECORDS
    MISSING IMAGES and AMENDED RECORDS
    COPIES OF RECORDS
     


    USING THE INDEX
    The entire index has been added to this database and Records will be added regularly until the project is complete.

    The Index contains the following information:

    • Name of individual
    • Year of event
    • Town or village of event
    • Year of event
    • Volume and page number of original record
    • Y/N indicator to note if the record is an "amended record"


    Records have been indexed by the name of the subject of the record (i.e. person born, bride and groom, deceased). The indexes are linked to images of the original records (when available), which provide additional data (date and place of the event, parents’ names, etc.).

    The indexes allow records to be searched by record type, year, town, and county. A citation to volume and page number will also be provided in the search results. When checking birth records it is critical to note that children were not necessarily named at birth. There are many entries for “(Male) Smith” and “(Female) Jones.” Searching by town, year, and surname will help you find such “hidden” data.

     

    MA VR Record Screen  

    THE RECORDS
    The data recorded in the Massachusetts Vital Records varies depending on the year and the type of record. From 1841 to 1849 vital statistics were recorded from May 1 of a given year to April 30 of the next year. After 1850 the statistics were recorded from January to December.

      Birth
      Birth records typically include the name of the child, date and place of birth, gender, and parents’ names and places of birth.

      Marriage
      Marriage records include the names, ages, and residences of the bride and groom, their places of birth, and their parents’ names, as well as the date and place of marriage. There is typically one record for each subject.

      Death
      Death records include the name of the decedent, the date and place of death, place of birth, age at death, residence of decedent, and parents’ names and places of birth. In later years, the place of burial was also included.

      In years 1903 and later, death records are contained in their own set of volumes, which are numbered from V.1 and up. So, when choosing a volume for a post 1902 death search, the volume number will be preceeded by a year.

     

    MISSING IMAGES and AMENDED RECORDS  

    If a name appears in the index but the image of the record is not available, there are a few reasons why:

    • Some pages of the original records were destroyed and no longer exist (this is most often the case at the beginning and at the end of the volumes).

       
    • An asterisk (*) next to an index entry indicates that the record is in the volumes of amended records. "Amended" records for years prior to 1901 were recently released on microfilm and are being incrementally added to the database.

       
    • Amended records for years 1901 and later are held by the Registry of Vital Records and must be requested from that office. "Amended” records are records that were submitted after the initial release of records by the towns to the state or records that were recalled for correction, sometimes known as “late returns.” These records are either additions to an earlier year’s report, corrections to a previously entered record, or records of illegitimate births. The Mass. Registry of Vital Records and Statistics has released the pre-1901 “amended” records in amended volumes v.1 – v.42 to the Mass. Archives, and we are in the process of adding them to our website. Amended volumes 43 and up, and records later than 1900 in volumes v.1 – v.42 are not available for public viewing.

       
    • The original State index contains errors; so a name may appear in the index referencing a volume and page which do not actually exisit, thus there is no image linked.
       


    Note as well that vital records were originally kept at the town level and a copy was sent to the state. Records that were destroyed or missing in the state's copy are likely to still exist in the town's original files. The addresses of town clerks of Massachusetts can be found here.

    COPIES OF RECORDS
    NEHGS has these records on microfilm and photocopies are available by ordering from our Research Services team.

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