Massachusetts Birth Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records scheduled to become available at
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Collection Time Period

This collection covers births for the years 1841 to 1915.

Record History

Most towns in Massachusetts began recording vital events (births, marriages, and deaths) many years before it became state law. These records up to 1850 for about 215 Massachusetts towns have been published. Beginning in 1841, the state of Massachusetts mandated that a copy of each event recorded in a town or city be sent to the Secretary of the Commonwealth, which means that two sources exist for each event after 1841 – the town or city and the state. Most towns were in compliance with the law by the late 1840s. It is estimated that by the late 1800s, most births were reported.

Why This Records Were Created

Birth and deaths were recorded to better serve public health needs.

Record Reliability

The state birth registers are in bound volumes arranged by year, then by town. Entries within towns are arranged numerically.

Record Description 

The state birth registers are in bound volumes arranged by year, then by town. Entries within towns are arranged numerically.

Record Content 

Genealogical facts found in these records:

Massachusetts Births 1841 - 1915 (08-0381) DGS 004150576 00519.jpg
  • Day, month, and year of birth
  • Town of birth registration
  • Name and surname of child
  • Gender
  • Place of birth
  • Name of parents
  • Residence of parents
  • Father’s occupation
  • Father’s birth place
  • Mother’s birth place

How to Use the Record

Begin your search by finding your ancestors in the index. Use the locator information in the index (such as page, entry, or certificate number) to locate your ancestors in the birth records. Compare the information in the birth record to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct person. You may need to compare the information of more than one person to make this determination. Be aware that as with any index, transcription errors may occur.

When you have located your ancestor’s birth record, carefully evaluate each piece of information about them. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. For example:

  • Use the birth date along with the place of birth to find the family in census records.
  • Use the residence and names of the parents to locate church and land records.
  • The father’s occupation can lead you to employment records or other types of records such as military records.
  • The parent’s birth places can tell you former residences and can help to establish a migration pattern for the family.

It is often helpful to extract the information on all children with the same parents. If the surname is unusual, you may want to compile birth entries for every person of the same surname and sort them into families based on the names of the parents. Continue to search the birth records to identify siblings, parents, and other relatives in the same or other generations who were born in the same county or nearby.

Keep in mind:

  • The information in birth 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 record to record.

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Sources of This Collection

“Massachusetts Birth Records, 1841 - 1915,” database, FamilySearch, 2010; from Massachusetts State Archives. “Massachusetts Vital Records.” Massachusetts State Archives, Boston. FHL microfilm. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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