Massachusetts Church Records

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Massachusetts Wiki Topics
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Beginning Research
Record Types
Massachusetts Background
Cultural Groups
Local Research Resources

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Before 1900 the major religious groups in Massachusetts were:

Massachusetts was founded and settled by Brownist Puritans in 1620, and soon after by other groups of Separatists/Dissenters, Nonconformists and Independents from 17th century England. A majority of people in Massachusetts today remain Christians. The descendants of the Puritans belong to many different churches; in the direct line of inheritance are the various Congregational churches, the United Church of Christ and congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association. The headquarters of the Unitarian Universalist Association, long located on Beacon Hill, is now located in South Boston. Many Puritan descendants also dispersed to other Protestant denominations.

Today, Christians make up 57% of the state's population, with Protestants making up 21% of them. Roman Catholics make up 34% and now predominate because of massive immigration from primarily Catholic countries and regions—chiefly Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Quebec, and Latin America. The Association of Religion Data Archives, (ARDA) the largest single denominations are the Catholic Church with 2,940,199 adherents; the United Church of Christ with 86,639 adherents; and the Episcopal Church with 81,999 adherents. [1]

Information Found in the Records[edit | edit source]

To effectively use church records, become familiar with their content. Click on these links to learn about a specific record type:

Finding the Records[edit | edit source]

Look for online records.[edit | edit source],, and can be searched free of charge at your local family history center or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Caution sign.png

Online databases are incomplete. This can lead to two common errors:

  1. Near matches: Researchers might mistakenly accept an entry very similar to their ancestor, thinking it is the only one available. Only use information that matches your ancestor in date, place, relationships, and other details.
  2. Stopping research: Researchers might assume the database proves church records do not exist. Actually the record is still out there, just not in this incomplete collection of records. Keep searching!

FamilySearch[edit | edit source][edit | edit source]

Findmypast[edit | edit source]

Catholic[edit | edit source]

Congregational[edit | edit source]

Dutch Reformed[edit | edit source]

Lutheran[edit | edit source]

Methodist[edit | edit source]

Presbyterian[edit | edit source]

Other Collections[edit | edit source]

  • Dunham-Wilcox-Trott-Kirk indexes church, cemetery, probate and other early New England, New York and New Jersey records with links to abstracts of the records.

Look for digital copies of church records in the FamilySearch Catalog.[edit | edit source]

Family History Library
Salt Lake City, Utah
  • The Family History Library (FHL) has a substantial collection of original church records and transcripts on microfilm for churches in the United States.
  • Online church records can be listed in the FamilySearch Catalog under the state, county, or town.
  • If you find a record that has not yet been digitized, see How do I request that a microfilm be digitized?
  • Some records might have viewing restrictions, and can only be viewed at a Family History Center near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations.
  • To find records:
a. Click on the records of United States, Massachusetts.
b. Click on Places within United States, Massachusetts and a list of counties will appear.
c. Click on your county if it appears.
d. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Click on Places within United States, Massachusetts [COUNTY] and a list of towns will appear.
f. Click on your town if it appears, or the location which you believe was the parish which served your town or village.
g. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
h. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the record is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the records.

Consult available finding aids.[edit | edit source]

These aids generally provide lists of records that are known to exist and information on their location.

Correspond with or visit the actual churches.[edit | edit source]

Some records are still held in the local churches. Contact the current minister to find out what records are still available.

  • Make an appointment to look at the records. Or ask the minister of the church to make a copy of the record for you.
  • To find church staff available, you might have to visit on Sunday.
  • Ask for small searches at a time, such as one birth record or a specific marriage. Never ask for "everything on a family or surname".
  • A donation ($25-$40) for their time and effort to help you would be appropriate.
  • If the church has a website, you may be able to e-mail a message.
  • See the Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy for help with composing letters.
  • Each denomination page offers an online address directory of local churches for that denomination.

Check the church records collections in archives and libraries.[edit | edit source]

Some church records have been deposited for preservation in government archives or in libraries. Watch for links to digitized, online records offered by the archives. Some archives provide research services for a fee. For others, if you cannot visit in person, you might hire a researcher.

Here you will find archive information unique to the state. Many more archives are kept by denomination. For denominational archives, go to Searching for Church Records by Denomination.

American-Canadian Genealogical Society Library
1 Sundial Avenue, Suite 317N
Manchester, New Hampshire 03103

Tel: (603) 622-1554

American-Canadian Genealogical Society Library[edit | edit source]

American-Canadian Genealogical Society Library
1 Sundial Avenue, Suite 317N
Manchester, New Hampshire 03103

Tel: (603) 622-1554

Congregational[edit | edit source]

The Congregational Library
14 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108
Phone: (617) 523–0470
Fax: (617) 523–0491

Society of Friends (Quakers)[edit | edit source]

Rhode Island Historical Society
121 Hope Street
Providence, RI 02906
Phone: (401) 273–8107
Fax: (401) 751–7930

  • Quaker Census of 1828: Members of the New York Yearly Meeting, the Religious Society of Friends of New York, Ontario, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Quebec, at the Time of the Separation of 1828 Fay, Loren V., editor. Rhinebeck, N.Y.: Knshp, 1989 and is available in the FHL Collection. Use this to determine the monthly meeting a person attended. It includes name, age, and family group.
    • To locate a copy nearest you, use WorldCat.

Methodist[edit | edit source]

Boston University School of Theology Library
745 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
Phone: (617) 353–3034
Fax: (617) 358–0699

Roman Catholic[edit | edit source]

Archdiocese of Boston Archives
66 Brooks Drive
Braintree, MA 02184-3839
Phone: (617) 254-0100

  • Researchers may contact the archive and request one of our staff members conduct research for them. There is a fee for this service which will depend on the number of records requested, how much detail is provided, and other factors. A quote will be provided prior to commencing any research."
  • For records not digitized, contact the local parish.

The Archdiocese includes the counties of: Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth and Suffolk

Diocese of Fall River Archives
362 Highland Avenue
P.O. Box 2577
Fall River, MA 02722
Phone: (508) 675-1311

Sacramental records are kept and maintained at the parish where the particular sacrament was celebrated. These records are not centralized in the Fall River Diocese. Requests for baptism, confirmation or marriage records must be made to the parish where the sacrament took place. The sacramental records from parishes that have been closed or merged become the property and responsibility of the parish to which the former parish was joined or of the new parish community formed in the merger.
The diocese includes the counties of: Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes and Nantucket

Diocese of Springfield
65 Elliott St.
P.O. Box 1730
Springfield, MA 01102
Phone: (413) 732-3175

Sacramental records are kept and maintained at the parish where the particular sacrament was celebrated. These records are not centralized in the Springfield Diocese.
The diocese includes the counties of: Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire

Diocese of Worcester
49 Elm Street
Worcester, MA 01609
Phone: (508) 791-7171
Sacramental records are kept and maintained at the parish where the particular sacrament was celebrated. These records are not centralized in the Springfield Diocese.
The diocese includes the county of: Worcester

Unitarian/Universalist[edit | edit source]

Andover-Harvard Theological Library
Harvard Divinity School
45 Francis Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone: (617) 495–5788
Fax: (617) 496–4111

Consult the PERSI index for records published in journals.[edit | edit source]

PERSI is the Periodical Source Index and is available at, ($). It can be searched for free at any Family History Center. PERSI is an index to family and local history periodicals from 1847 to the present. Many of these periodicals publish church records. If you locate an index entry for a church, you will then need to find the periodical. Use the search engine to find a library near you that carries the periodical. Library reference desks can be contacted to request a copy of articles, or you may need to hire a researcher.

Correspond with genealogical or historical societies.[edit | edit source]

Some church records have been given to historical societies. Also, historical societies may be able to tell you where the records are being held. To find a society near you, consult these lists:

Next, go to the Wiki article for your ancestors' denomination.[edit | edit source]

There are frequently additional, nationwide or regional archives and online collections for each denomination. Find the article for your ancestors' denomination and follow the instructions there to access these sources.

Wiki Articles for Records of Major Religious Denominations

Carefully compare any record you find to known facts about the ancestor[edit | edit source]

You will possibly find many different people with the same name as your ancestor, especially when a family stayed in a locality for several generations, and several children were named after the grandparents or aunts and uncles. Be prepared to find the correct church records by organizing in advance as many of these exact details about the ancestor as possible:

  • name, including middle name and maiden name
  • names of all spouses, including middle and maiden name
  • exact or closely estimated dates of birth, marriage, and death
  • names and approximate birthdates of children
  • all known places of residence
  • occupations
  • military service details

Dark thin font green pin Version 4.pngCarefully evaluate the church records you find to make sure you have really found records for your ancestor and not just a "near match". If one or more of the details do not line up, be careful about accepting the entry as your ancestor. There are guiding principles for deciding how to resolve discrepancies between records that are seemingly close. For more instruction in evaluating evidence, read the Wiki article, Evaluate the Evidence.

  1. "Massachusetts:Religion" in Wikipedia. Accessed 8 July 2020.