In the State of Massachusetts, there are many types of records that fall under the category of being public records. These include marriage records, divorce records, birth records, and death records. The State is well known for having one of the most incredibly well preserved collections of records in the country, with some dating back into the early 1800’s. Searching Massachusetts public records can provide you with a wealth of information that can help you with many types of personal and professional endeavors.
Starting Your Public Records Search
Knowing where to start your search of public records is an important part of the process and it greatly depends on the types of records that you are looking for. Some records are simply not accessible to just anyone in the public, despite the very lenient policy that the State has about public records.
Some of the records that you may have a difficult time tracking down include the following.
- Underage marriage records
- Out of wedlock birth information
- Some adoptions
- Underage criminal activity
In the early 1800’s Massachusetts start putting policies into place that would ensure a statewide centralization of any records that covered a vital event like a birth, a marriage, or a death. What this means is that records that date back as far as the 1800’s were recorded in the town where the event took place and then a copy of this important event’s records were sent to be stored by the State. This offers those searching Massachusetts public records a greater ability to delve into their genealogy research.
- If you will be doing a public records search between 1841 and 1920 then you will need to consult the Massachusetts State Archives.
- If you will be doing a search of public records between 1921 and 2012 then you will need to consult the archives at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
- If you are seeking out records from before the 1841 records centralization laws started to go into effect then you will need to search the Town Hall records in the individual towns that you are interested in.
A Few Points To Note
There are certainly going to be gaps in the records that you are looking for. Not only were there some records that were simply not kept or created, but not all cities and towns took the time to abide by the centralization rules. This meant that a significant amount of vital data could have been destroyed with the destruction of a public building or a church. To be sure that you have all of the relevant information you need while doing your search of Massachusetts public records you should check both the State and the local records that may still be archived in the towns where the events took place.
If your public records search is for recent data you should keep in mind that city clerks have up to 90 days to send in copies of all vital records. However delays do happen on both the side of the city clerk who was to have sent in the records to the state and on the side of the State, who may have a delay in the indexing of the most recent events.
Massachusetts Vital Records
Researching anything prior to 1841 is going to be difficult on the State level so your best choice is going to be directly reaching out to the town where the event was thought to have taken place. Records should be archived and be up to date; assuming a natural disaster or other event didn’t destroy the records.