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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.