Massachusetts became the sixth state of the United States in 1788. This database is an index to death records for the state from 1970 through 2003 (with the most recent update adding records from 2002-2003). The information was originally accessed from the Massachusetts State Health Department. Researchers may find information including:
- The deceased's full name
- Death date
- Death place (town and/or county)
- Birth date
With the information provided in this index you may be able to obtain a death certificate. Death certificates can be very valuable because of the amount of information they provide (see extended description). Death certificates from 1911 to the present may be obtained from the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics at the following address:
- Registry of Vital Records and Statistics
150 Mt. Vernon Street, 1st Floor
Dorchester, MA 02125-3105
Inquiries are also welcome at (617) 740-2606. For more information about ordering death certificates and other vital records visit the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics website.
Vital Records in Massachusetts:
No state in the Union can boast the depth and breath of vital records sources available in Massachusetts. Starting with the arrival of the pilgrims, vital events have been diligently (although not completely) recorded, preserved, and published. Spurred by legislative order, over 200 (out of 364) towns have had all their vital records to 1850 published. The volume (or volumes) in the Systematic Series (those published as a direct result of legislation) for each town is divided into alphabetized sections of births, marriages, and deaths.
Beginning in 1841 the state 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 that datethe town (or city) and the state. However, some towns were not in compliance until the late 1840s. The indexes for 1841 through 1895 are in bound volumes, arranged in five-year periods, except for the first, which is 1841 through 1850. They are available at the Massachusetts State Archives.
As of 1 January 1896 the Massachusetts Division of Health Statistics and Research, Registry of Vital Records and Statistics, 150 Tremont Street, Room B-3, Boston, Massachusetts, 02111, is the repository for copies of town or city recorded vital records. The facility is open to the public, but marriage and birth records may be restricted. As with the bound ledger-styler volumes for the 1841 to 1895 period, indexes continue in five-year periods, separated into births, marriages, and deaths. Records and indexes are transferred to the Massachusetts State Archives every five years. The 1896 to 1900 grouping will begin the transfer after December 1991. Until individual death certificates were used in the 1900s, the name of the cemetery did not appear in the state copy, but it may be found in the town or city copy.
Taken from Eichholz, Alice, "Massachusetts." In Ancestry's Red Book, ed. Alice Eichholz. (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1992).
Modern (post-1910) death records, though comparatively recent, are steadily increasing in value. People are living longer, and death records often provide information about birth as well as death.
Modern death certificates have not been standardized throughout the United States; but, like birth certificates, most of them contain the same types of information. Most contemporary death certificates include the deceased's name, sex, race, date of death, age at the time of death, place of death, date of birth, place of birth, marital status, name of spouse, Social Security number, occupation, residence, father's name, mother's name, cause of death, and place of burial. Records from some states provide the birthplace of the deceased's parents. The Social Security number is not always included but, when it is, it can be invaluable because other records (subject to right-of-privacy laws) may be accessible if you have the Social Security number.
As any experienced researcher knows, death records are only as accurate as the knowledge of the person who provided the information. Many informants are unaware of the names of parents or are unsure about dates and places of birth. Always try to find additional information about parents and dates and places of birth whenever possible.
Taken from Cerny, Johni, "Research in Birth, Death, and Cemetery Records." In The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, ed. Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997).