Massachusetts Deaths (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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Massachusetts, Deaths, 1841-1915 .
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
Massachusetts, United States
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Flag of Massachusetts
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Location of Massachusetts
Record Description
Record Type Death Records
Collection years 1841-1915
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites


What is in This Collection?

The collection consists of an index and images of Massachusetts statewide death registers and certificates for the years 1841 to 1915. When deaths were recorded on register forms, the second page of the form is on the next image. The death registers and certificates are in numbered volumes arranged by year then by individual town.

Starting in 1841, the state required that a copy of each death recorded in a town or city be sent to the Secretary of the Commonwealth. Since 1896, the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics has been the repository for the copies. Population coverage is near 100% for later years. Coverage is not as complete for some earlier years.

Deaths were recorded to serve public health needs. They were also used to probate wills and administer the deceased individual’s estate. The information is generally reliable for the place and date of death of the deceased. Other information will only be as reliable as the informant’s knowledge or memory.

The earlier records were recorded by hand in a register style format. In the early 1900’s, individual death certificates came into use.

Collection Content

Sample Image

What Can These Records Tell Me?

The records usually contain:

  • Town and year where death recorded
  • Full name and age of deceased
  • Death date and place of death
  • Gender, marital status and occupation
  • Date and place of birth
  • Parents' names
  • Cause of death
  • Place and date of burial
  • Name of informant (sometimes shows a relationship to deceased)
  • Name of the funeral home or director

How Do I Search This Collection?

Before searching this collection, it is helpful to know:

  • The name of your ancestor.
  • The approximate death date.
  • The place where the death occurred.

Search the Index

Search by name by visiting the Collection Page.
  1. Fill in the search boxes on the Collection Page with the information you have
  2. Click Search to show possible matches

Keep in mind:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names or variations of their name throughout their life.


How Do I Analyze the Results?

Compare each result from your search with what you know to determine if there is a match. This may require viewing multiple records or images. Keep track of your research in a research log.

What Do I Do Next?

I Found the Person I Was Looking For, What Now?

  • Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth to find or verify their birth records and parents' names.
  • Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth to find the family in census records.
  • Use the residence and names of the parents (if the deceased is a child) to locate church and land records.
  • Use the parents' birth places to find former residences and to establish a migration pattern for the family.
  • Occupations listed can lead you to other types of records such as employment or military records.
  • The name of the officiator is a clue to their religion or area of residence in the county.
  • The name of the undertaker or mortuary could lead you to funeral and cemetery records, which often include the names and residences of other family members.
  • Compile the entries for every person who has the same surname; this is especially helpful in rural areas or if the surname is unusual.
  • Continue to search the records to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives of the deceased who may have died or been buried in the same county or nearby. This can help you identify other generations of your family or even the second marriage of a parent. Repeat this process for each new generation you identify.
  • When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.
  • The information in these records is usually reliable, but depends upon the reliability of the informant.
  • Earlier records may not contain as much information as the records created after the late 1800s.
  • There is also some variation in the information given from one record to another record.

I Can't Find the Person I'm Looking For, What Now?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • Look for an index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume. Local genealogical and historical societies often have indexes to local records.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.
  • Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals with the same family number.

Known Issues with This Collection

Important.png Problems with this collection?
See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to support@familysearch.org. Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.

Citing This Collection

Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.

Collection Citation

"Massachusetts Deaths, 1841-1915." Database with images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : 14 June 2016. Citing Secretary of State. State Archives, Boston.

Record Citation:
When looking at a record, the citation is found below the record.
Image Citation:
When looking at an image, the citation is found on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen.

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