Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Massachusetts BMD Records Prior to 1921

In Massachusetts, Birth, Marriage and Death records recorded prior to 1921 are located at the Massachusetts Archives in the Dorchester section of Boston, Massachusetts.

The MA Archives has many records housed there, however for the purposes of this post we are restricting ourselves to just BMD records.

The MA Archives has all BMD records on microfilm from 1841 to 1915 available in their reading room. They only charge for copies and the staff is very friendly.

BMD records from 1916-1920 are only available in the form of index books at the MA Archives. Once you locate the record in the index book, you can order a certified copy for $3 from the staff. They will mail it to you within 6 weeks.

Researchers must register the first time they visit the MA Archives and are issued research cards that must be displayed while in the research room.

More about what records the Massachusetts Archives has can be found on their website at:


The MA Archives has other various vital records prior to 1841, however they acknowledge that most vital records prior to 1841 are located at the local cities and towns.

I travel to the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and the MA Archives on a weekly basis.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Records Access in Massachusetts - State Registry Versus the Local Records

With regards to this post, we continue to work with Birth Marriage and Death (BMD) records in Massachusetts from 1921 to present.

All Birth Marriage and Death Records are not just available at the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records (MA RVR), they are also available at the local city or town clerks office.

I have not visited every city or town clerks office in the state so I am speaking in general terms. Very few charge you to access and view their records and will let you transcribe them for free. Some will let you photograph them. All will charge you for a certified copy and their rates seem to vary. I have never had any bad experiences with viewing or receiving records from the local cities or towns.

The only issue I have had is not finding a record for someone in the town I thought they were in and is the main reason I prefer to use the MA Registry of Vital Records. If someone lives in one town and is taken to the hospital in the other town, the death record will be in the other town. This can be a huge problem when working with the city and town clerks office as their indexes only cover their city or town. The MA RVR has them all.

I am fortunate that that the MA RVR is not that far for me and I am able to visit weekly.

Next week, records prior to 1921!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Records Access in Massachusetts - MA Registry of Vital Records - Restricted Records

Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but in Massachusetts, very few records are restricted. According to the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records Website (on 6 June 2012) the following information is supplied regarding records access and restrictions:

"Access Policy for Massachusetts Vital Records

Access to restricted birth and marriage records is limited by §2A, Chapter 46, M.G.L. For those persons with access to restricted records, proof of identity (a photo ID) is necessary, and in some cases additional documentation is also necessary. Access to persons other than listed below require a court order.

Out-of-Wedlock Births

Access to non-marital (out-of-wedlock) births is limited by §2A, Chapter 46, M.G.L. to the following:

Subject of the record (child)
Parents listed on the record
Father not listed on the record with documentary proof that he is the father (such as a paternity adjudication, stipulation or properly completed Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage)
Legal guardian of the child
Legal representative of the child
Marriages of Person Born Out-of-Wedlock

Access to marriage certificates when the bride or groom was born out-of-wedlock is limited by §2A, Chapter 46, M.G.L. to the following:

Bride or groom
Legal representative of the bride or groom
Parent or guardian of the bride or groom
This information is provided by the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics within the Department of Public Health."

(From: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/consumer/basic-needs/vitals/access-policy-for-massachusetts-vital-records.html )

Please note that there does not appear to be any restrictions of death records, and from my own experience I have never been denied a death record. (Death certificates may contain restricted information on the back of them, and I encountered this on one occasion.)

My series on Massachusetts BMD records continues next week.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Records Access in Massachusetts - The Registry of Vital Records

Recently I have seen discussions on various boards and blogs about access to records in various states. For the purposes of this post, I am strictly referring to BMD (Birth, Marriage & Death) records in the state of Massachusetts.

The state of Massachusetts has some of the most extensive BMD records in the US, however they are not free!

All BMD records from 1921 to present* are located at the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records (MA RVR) in the Dorchester section of Boston, MA. All records are available for public viewing in the research room, however they charge $9 per hour to use their research room and the hours are limited to just a few hours  per day. There are no research hours on Wednesdays or weekends. All of the indexes are open for inspection and the staff will pull your records for viewing and transcribing the records.

If you want a copy of a record at the MA RVR, you have to pay the $18 fee for a certified copy. Photography and scanners are not permitted at the MA RVR.

*An exception to the 1921 to present is that cities and towns have a period of time before they are required to send the records to the state. So records that are within 3 months of their occurrence may only be found at the local town clerk's office.

In my next posts I will cover records that are restricted, records from the cities and towns and the MA Archives.