Talk:World Archives Project: Massachusetts, Vital Records, 1700-1850

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Feel free to add to or edit information in this discussion tab as necessary. Please take time to become familiar with the World Archives Keying Standards and be sure to read all instructions on the main project page. (Please note that in case of a discrepancy, project level instructions always trump general keying standards.)

Extra Keying Helps


Common Keying Errors Found by Reviewers


Please remember that we do not key records where there is only a name/names and no date, nor do we key records that only have a date and no name/names

Please remember that records of intentions of marriage should be treated the same as actual marriage records.

Please remember that we are not inferring anything on this project. If parents are listed as John and Mary, do not put in surnames of child as parents surnames.

The city listed in the header is the city the birth was registered in and not the birthplace of the child. Birthplace is typically shown following the word "b" or "in".

Records that do not have a given name should still be keyed with the surname and date listed.

Please remember to key the gender when there are indicators. On the other hand, please do not infer gender when there are no indicators.

Surname should be copied down to following records, until changed.

Keyers are taking the info in the brackets which may differ from the original info before the brackets. Based on the examples in the next section, the bracket information should only be used, if it is additional to the earlier information, such as middle name / initials, maiden name, or additional date information.

Birthplace should not be assumed unless stated. When a person is stated as 'of' a location, that means that is their residence on the date of the event, not necessarily their birthplace.

Questions and Answers

If you have a keying question that is not answered on the project page or in any of the information above, click “EDIT” and ask it here. (If you click on Rich Editor you won't have to worry about formatting your entry.) Then click “WATCH” at the top right on this page and you will be notified via email when an update has been made.

Question: I have several entries where a title and a mother's maiden name are in brackets -- i.e., they are additional information. When I enter them, should I include the brackets? Thank you.

A: No, just the additional information that was in the brackets. --Katerimmer (talk) 17:53, 29 October 2017 (MDT)

Q: I have an entry (the surname so far has been Booth) that reads "Daniel B (Boothe), s. Nathaniel G. (booth), laborer, and Francis [sic] H. Congdon of N.B., June 23, 1844 in N.B." I would key Daniel as Booth rather than the variant Boothe, correct?

A: Yes. --Katerimmer (talk) 12:49, 8 August 2017 (MDT)


Q: I have been indexing these records for a little while in a certain way but looking back now, I am second guessing myself. I have marriages and one of the records reads: (under the surname of Turner) Elisha of Scituate, and Ruth Reed, Feb. 18, 1746-7. The primary is Elisha Turner and the spouse would be Ruth Reed. Would I put Reed as the surname or the maiden name?

A: The surname. --Katerimmer (talk) 03:43, 8 July 2017 (MDT)
Q: I am confused as to why Reed would not be indexed as Ruth's maiden name. Thanks!
A: Because her name on the image is Ruth Reed, not Ruth Turner, nee Reed. (And in fact we don't know whether Reed was her maiden name or a previous married name anyway.) --Katerimmer (talk) 02:36, 2 August 2017 (MDT)

Q: While indexing Wayland Deaths, I have run across this entry Cory, Ruhamah, wid. Isaac, Mar. 2, 1819. [dropsy, Mar. 1, a. 75, C.R.I.] Am I to assume she died on Mar 1 and was buried on Mar 2? Or is his possibly a corrected entry in the []?

A: Please do not assume. As there are no keywords indicating otherwise, March 2, 1819, should be keyed as the death date. Burial date should be left blank. Thank you! -- mccallapeterson (talk)

Q: I have ran across several entries that have the following "int. Jan 16, 1828. [m. Feb 20, P.R.16]" Should I make 2 entries? 1 for the int date and one for the marriage date? Thank you

A: For this case, make one record, using the marriage day and month and the intention year. Thanks!

Q. I pulled a set of abbreviations pages which only have grave site information. There is no information specific to any individual and there are no dates. Do I label these as "Cover page, Section header, etc."?

A: Instructions state to only key records that have name and date, so abbreviations like this would be Cover Pages, etc

Q. When Father's name is listed in one of the following manners "John 2nd", "Capt John", or "John Jr" should that be keyed into the father given name field? or just John? - This question did not get answered. Usually the 'suffix' of 2nd and Jr is entered with Given name when there is no suffix field, so should that be done with this set also? Prefix is usually not entered with given name, correct?

A: General keying standards state that a suffix may be entered with surname of individual when a suffix field is not present (Never with given name). If the surname of the father is shown then it would be correct to enter suffix with it; however, do not infer a surname to input the suffix and do not input a suffix by itself into surname field.--816spider (talk) 00:37, 13 February 2017 (MST)
A: Please note that the above ONLY applies to the following suffixes: “Junior” “Jr” “Senior” “Sr”. No other suffix should be keyed in the surname field. --Katerimmer (talk) 07:19, 13 February 2017 (MST)

Q: I am finding entries that are in this format: Green, Hannah, d. Charles S., Dec. 16, 1841. Brown, Charles, ch. Sally, July 23, 1811. Since we are not supposed to infer gender, how are we to index this? In my opinion Charles would be the father in one, and Sally would be the mother in the other.

A: Wiki instructions state: "The father may be found following the abbreviations "s." for son, "d." for daughter, "ch." for child, or "inf." for infant." The mother may be found written after the father's name following the abbreviations "s." for son, "d." for daughter, "ch." for child, or "inf." for infant." I would key both names in the father's given name field and not infer gender.

I have the following entry for Massachusetts Vital Birth Records: Baker, Sarah, ch. Job and Rachel, Dec. 29, 1798. [Sarah W., C.R.] I am wondering who Sarah W. is and do I index her?

A: [Sarah W., C.R.] is just another form of the name of the primary person. There should not be an extra name indexed. mccallapeterson (talk)

For the Massachusetts Vital Birth Records, is the name of the town at the top of the page entered as the birthplace? If so, what does the "in Stockbridge" in the following record mean? "Burghardt, Catharine, d. Lonson N. and Catharine, Apr. 13, 1849, in Stockbridge."

A: The town at the top of the page is the town the birth was registered in. We do not key that as the birthplace. In your example given, Stockbridge is the birthplace. Sometimes it will just have a "b" in front of the town name or the word "in". --816spider (talk) 17:13, 3 February 2017 (MST)

For the Massachusetts Vital Marriage Records, do we record marriage intentions? I am also finding on marriage records surnames being listed as the women's maiden name.

A: Yes, intentions of marriage should be treated the same as marriage records. Key the surname/maiden surname as seen on the image. Thank you! mccallapeterson (talk)

Would Sam[ue]ll be keyed as Samuell? I did not see this addressed in the Keying Standards.

A: Correct, key as "Samuell". mccallapeterson (talk)

Got the abbreviation Eld. Figure it stands for Elder? This is a prefix correct?

A: Correct, key as seen into the prefix field. mccallapeterson (talk)

How do I index this: Anthony (surname for this section) Hannah, d. Daniel, merchant, and Mariah, Aug. ---, 1843. [Hannah Maria, d. Daniel B. and Maria L. (Winslow), Aug. 22, P.R.19.] Do I index two separate records or combine the info into one record - as they appear to be for the same people.

A: Given Name: Hannah Maria Surname: Anthony Gender: F Father Given: Daniel B Mother Given: Maria L Mother Maiden Name: Winslow Event Month: Aug Event Year: 1843 --816spider (talk) 00:32, 31 January 2017 (MST)

What does dup. mean? Example: Grainger (see Granger), David [dup. Granger], s. Noah and Rebeca [dup. Rebecah], Nov. 4, 1796. Almost looks like it is denoting an alternative spelling?

A: Dup means duplicate. There is a duplicate record in file for the same individual with different spelling. On this one you are indexing Grainger, David; with parents Noah and Rebeca. --816spider (talk) 00:26, 31 January 2017 (MST)

I have an image that states Westport Births at the top and most of the listings are births. Several of the listings actually look like deaths in this format: (this is in a section with Allen as the surname of the first person then all other persons in that section only list given names) William G., h. Nancy S., ----, 1816, G.R.3. Do I index it as a death, even though it is in a section of births, or do I skip it? Or do I add a separate section since we need to select a form type?

A: No, this is still a birth. It is saying William G Allen, husband of Nancy S was born in 1816. It looks odd because it doesn't have his parents names, just his wife's name. --816spider (talk) 18:10, 30 January 2017 (MST)

Do we still index a record with a name and only a year? Also, if we come across a record we don't index, do we blank that entry or just skip it and continue to the next line?

A: Please still index a record with any part of the date available. Please skip the records that won't be indexed; there is no need to blank that entry for this project. Thanks! Gigivs (talk) 10:47, 30 January 2017 (MST)

I have entries that lack a month and instead say something like 3 mo. For example, "Hannah, d. Isaac and Phebe, 15th, 4 mo. 1791, c.r." Are they referring to April in that example?

A: When I was keying, I 'assumed' it meant 15th day of Apr 1791'. Hopefully, that's correct.
A: That is correct! --816spider (talk) 17:13, 3 February 2017 (MST)

Q: Which month should be keyed in this example -- 2d, 5 mo., "called July," 1729 -- May or July?

A: July. Until 1752, the year started in March. --Katerimmer (talk) 02:46, 4 August 2017 (MDT)

I am keying birth records that have an unusual abbreviation that is not listed in the instructions. Example: Roberts, D. S., enrl. May 1, 1863, a. 24. I am thinking this is enrolled. If correct, they enrolled in something on May 1, 1863 at the age of 24. I would not key this since we do not calculate birth dates and this is not a valid date. Correct?

A: You are correct! If there is not a birth, baptism, marriage, death, or burial date, the record can be ignored.

Q. I am keying birth records and I am not sure what to do with this record: "Betsey, [b. or d.] Nov. 9, 1791". There is a name and a date but the date could be a birth or a death according to this record. Do I skip it?

A: Do not skip it. You would still key the record with the event date as 9 Nov 1791.--816spider (talk) 22:49, 12 February 2017 (MST)

Q. I have a record that says this: Taft, Abigail Right, d. Sullivan and Abigail ("'Mrs Abigail'...should read 'Mrs Sarah'" written in pencil in later hand) July 25, 1805. So would you key Abigail or Sarah as the mother's name?

A: You would key Abigail.--816spider (talk) 22:49, 12 February 2017 (MST)

Q. Should we key adoptions as births? Sometimes, the records have the adoption date, but not the birthdate.

A: Does it specifically state date adopted or does it say adopted parents, then have a date? If it says date adopted, no we would not key it as a birth date. If it says adopted child of with the parents names, then has a date, this is the birth date and would be keyed.--816spider (talk) 22:49, 12 February 2017 (MST)

Q. Alternate surname should not be entered in Surname field, correct? Ex. Bisbee, Ansel (Bisbey). Bisbey is alternate name for Bisbee, but there is no alternate surname field. Surname should be entered as Bisbee not Bisbee (Bisbey) or Bisbee or Bisbey, correct?

A: Correct. Enter surname as Bisbee. If there is no alias surname field, alternate surnames should not be entered. Gigivs (talk) 09:36, 15 February 2017 (MST)

Q. I am uncertain about the birth date of the following record. Graham, William H, June 18, 1815, ch. William H and Rebecca J Oct 15, 1843. I assume the latter date is the birth date but the date by the child is the 1815 date.

A: Without seeing the record you are looking at I will go off the examples I have seen. The event date that is highlighted is after the parents names - toward the end of the record. I would stay with this pattern and enter the 1843 date as the Event Date.
A: This one has been sorted out on the message boards - it is actually two separate entries, one for William H Graham born 1815 and the other for a child of William H and Rebecca J, born 1843. --Katerimmer (talk) 05:10, 26 February 2017 (MST)

Q: If given name of child is blank, but parents' names and birth date are present, should this record be skipped? Or should we use 'daughter / son / child' as in other projects? Or mark given game as blank?

A: If there is a surname, the record should still be keyed. The surname that appears at the top of the image in bold should be copied down to all records until a new surname appears. So, as long as there is a date and either a given name or surname, the record should be keyed. Thank you! mccallapeterson (talk)

Q: What do we enter when dates are marked as (rec. dd/mm/yyyy)?

A: If that is the only date available, please key as seen. mccallapeterson (talk)

Q: What do we enter when dates are listed as between one date and another? Sometimes there is a correction in brackets, which I would assume is entered?, but often date reads between, e.g. July 1851 and June 1857. Please advise.

A: If a correction is not available, please key the earliest date listed. mccallapeterson (talk)

Q: If it states in deaths @in 24th year@ should that be entered as 23 or 24, I have been entering 23. Please advise.

A: You are right, it means age 23. --Katerimmer (talk) 03:26, 21 March 2017 (MDT)

Q: A death entry records a spouse's name as "Dns" with the "ns" as superscript (which I did not know how to reproduce here). Should I key as "Dns" or does the use of superscript indicate something else should be keyed? (Image set 5892598_82, page 2 for Mary Norton)

A: It should be entered as seen on the record, Dns. It is an abbreviation but we don't expand these...you will often see Jno and Wm and they should always be keyed as written on the record. Annafechter (talk) 09:55, 30 March 2017 (MDT)

Q: Under the subheading of "Unidentified," there are several marriage records where the given name and surname of the primary person are blank; however, the spouse name is identified as well as the year of marriage. Should I skip these records since the primary person's surname is missing?

A: It would be reasonable to key this as a record since there is at least one full name. mccallapeterson (talk)

Q: In reviewing the Massachusetts, Vital Records, 1700-1850 I found that some people inserted a blank in every field that did not have data in the image, while others left it empty. Which is preferred? I accepted both methods.

A: Not marking the field blank is generally preferred so it is easier to see the data was that indexed but it is acceptable either way. It will not impact a keyer's accuracy if you remove the blanks. Annafechter (talk) 13:51, 10 April 2017 (MDT)

Q: In the following birth record example should there be two entries seems he had two wives; and Lydia Crocker should the Crocker be entered as a middle name or surname? Isaac. Capt., h, Lydia Crocker, h. Deborah ( wid. Andrew Cofin. d. Wickliffe Chadwick). s. Hercules and Lydia. 2d, I mo 1770,

A: There should be only one entry and index the first spouse that is listed. For this example you would key Lydia Crocker and I would index Crocker as her maiden name. Annafechter (talk) 13:51, 10 April 2017 (MDT)

Q (follow-up to previous Q&A): The keying standards say to key the most recent spouse when multiple spouses are given. To clarify, the first listed spouse should be considered the most recent for this project? I've been assuming it is the last spouse listed unless clearly identified otherwise. Also, I would have keyed "Crocker" as a middle name (since parent/spouse surnames are not often given and maiden names usually show in parentheses). The instructions say not to infer, so how can it be clearly discerned whether it is a surname or maiden name?

A: Because there were no marriage dates given we index the first spouse you encounter. Some records will have the current spouse listed first and the first spouse listed second and others will have the spouses listed in chronological order...

Q: For birth place I have seen several entries showing for example "in A" where the top of the page says "Acton Births". This obviously means the person was born in Acton. What should we key, nothing "A" or "Acton"?

A: Enter "A" as seen on the record.

Q: Should the following entries be entered using the first date listed, or skipped since the dates refer to other persons and/or are too open-ended?
Example 1: Anna, d. William and Experience, ----- [? b. between ch. b. Aug. 3, 1723, and ch. b. July 19, 1726]
Example 2: Elizabeth, ch. Isaac and Judith, -----[? b. after ch. b. Oct. 21, 1691]
Example 3: Amasa, ch. Isaac and Elizabeth, bp. ----- [prob. before 1773]

A: Example 1: If I am reading this correctly they are saying that Anna was born between 2 other siblings? In this case there wouldn't be a date to enter for Anna.
Example 2: And this is saying that Elizabeth was born after 1691...again, no date that is applicable to Elizabeth.
Example 3: If this said "abt 1773" as opposed to "before 1773" I would enter it but before 1773 is not specific enough. Annafechter (talk) 16:47, 3 May 2017 (MDT)

Q: How should the parents be keyed in the following example; Stearns, Amos Edward, ch. Mr. and Mrs. Stearns bp. Aug 5, 1838?

A: Father Surname = Stearns, Mother Surname = Stearns. Father Given Name and Mother Given Name left blank. --Katerimmer (talk) 01:17, May 2017 (MDT)

Q: How should the following be entered or should this entry be skipped? "4 sons, Charity, bp. Sept 11, 1776"

A: Because there isn't an individuals name this record wouldn't be keyed.

Q: I have a entry that reads "Maryan, ch Charlotte A., wid. then the date. Should Charlotte be entered as "father" on "mother"?

A: Mother. (Because wid shows that the parent was a widow, therefore must be female) --Katerimmer (talk) 02:25, 22 May 2017 (MDT)

Q: Several entries have the following: b."suppose" Blandford. Should this be entered as the birth place?

A: Blandford would be keyed as the birthplace. --Katerimmer (talk) 02:25, 22 May 2017 (MDT)

Q: Okay, this following record appeared in Birth, typing it as it appears - "Daniel [dup adds R.] h Sarah and Elizabeth (daughters of Joseph G. Colemau and Phebe) [? accuracy, the mar record gives these wives to Daniel, s. Stephen and Sally], s Arnold and Susanna (Clark), 27th, 9 mo. 1809. P.R. 38." (surname of Remson was in top of section]. So would this be just the entry for birth of son Daniel (or Daniel R?) Remson to Arnold and Susanna (maiden surname of Clark) on event date of 27 Sep 1808. And typing in 2 lines with different Spouse given names and surname of Colemau for both spouses??

A: Yes, just the birth of Daniel R Remson to Arnold and Susanna. Anna's answer to one of the previous questions says just to key the first spouse name listed. --Katerimmer (talk) 01:33, 23 May 2017 (MDT)

Q: Have this record in Deaths : "Moses, Capt., typhoid pneumonia, Apr 13, 1843, a. 30 y. 4 m. 15d. [[h Martha] Apr 17, a 80 y. 4 m., G.R.]". Is the Martha record a death record entry as well? If not, date and age entered for Moses?

A: I read it as Moses is the husband of Martha and that the Apr 17, a 80y 4m is an alternative death entry for Moses, but you should key the first date and age shown for him. --Katerimmer (talk) 09:55, 22 May 2017 (MDT)

Q: Have this record in deaths: Martha, w James dec'd Aug 25, 1774 [this date has been crossed out] should this record not be keyed?

A: It should be keyed. --Katerimmer (talk) 16:19, 27 May 2017 (MDT)


Q: Following appeared in Bradford Deaths;Cuff "a negro child belonging to M' Zacheus Whitney. How should this be entered? Also the last listing is for "Unidentified" __________,_______ "a chil living with mr. William Hartwell" there is one other entry like this. Do I key them or just ignore these entries.

A: In these cases you would enter, "a negro child belonging to M' Zacheus Whitney" and similarly, "a child living with mr. William Hartwell" in the Given name field.

Q: Have the following record for deaths : Blush, Lucy, w. W[illia]m D. and Eliza A., Dec 11, 1843, a. 11 d. G.R.I

Obviously w here doesn't stand for wife. What does it stand for(some form of parents?!) and if so should it be keyed as such?

A: I know this is long past time yes, William and Eliza are the parents. I cannot determine what the w stands for the only thing that makes sense is with.

Q: When two maiden names are given in parentheses (most often found in duplicate information for the mother), should both be keyed or only the first name shown?
Example: [Mary Pitts, d. Benjamin and Mercy (Chadwick) (Chase) (second w.)]

A: Only enter the first "maiden" name.

Q: Need clarity on use of bracketed information. I'm seeing answers that allow for use and others not. So, don't use for conflicting information [different name or date], but is it acceptable to use if it is expansive [more complete name or date]? Or should we ignore bracketed information altogether? --Rhmaynard (talk) 16:42, 18 July 2017 (MDT)

A: We will provide a more complete answer after some discussion with the Content Manager. If the example below you can see where one instance is an expansion of the name and one is a spelling variation. The expansion would be keyed but since there isn't an alias field we wouldn't key the spelling variation.
47458.brackets.jpg






Q: The records states that these are from 1700-1850. Yet many of the birth records I am running across are from the 1600s. I have been typing them in but they are being highlighted as wrong. Before I continue should I keep typing these in

A: Yes. --Katerimmer (talk) 12:49, 8 August 2017 (MDT)

Q: I am keying a marriage page and came to a section "Unidentified". All entries have dates and some names.

exp.#1 " ______,Ja[torn],______ _______ Dec 27, 1764"
exp#2;______, Joseph and ______ _____ Nov 8, 1764 '
exp #3 another exp: ____ ___ and Amelia Bailey then the date.

My question is how should these be keyed or should exp 1 and 2 be ignored?
A: Key what you can read from the record. Annafechter (talk) 13:06, 31 August 2017 (MDT)


Q: I am reviewing Massachusetts Vital Records, 1700-1850, Birth Record. There are no Surnames for first half of list. Are these okay to accept if they have no surnames, but have given name, birth date, etc? --Billlinda155 (talk) 19:46, 29 August 2017 (MDT) Further review of this vital record leads me to believe the publication is not a "birth" but a "death" record because it looks one. I don't know how to insert a file. So I'll list the first two names under Norton Births

_____, Sarah W. [w. ____ Sweet] [May __, 1818]. G.R.2
____, Selina A. F., w. Austin Messinger, Mar. 13, 1823. G.R.2.

--Billlinda155 (talk) 22:39, 29 August 2017 (MDT)
A: There are times when we have to use our best judgment. To insert a line you can use the Ctrl+A short cut.

Q: I am on the last page of my allocation set for this project (the others have all been deaths) the last page just says public records and whilst there are names and dates (years) it doesn't really give me much more info other than grantee/grantor/occupant etc, what do I put this as? I have done a print screen if anyone would like to see please message me? my username is cbaker7

Q: On my 2nd set of records I have a page of births, the first entry is for Caleb Knowles Chiles born in truro, parents Thomas and anne chiles, 21 jan 1812, the next line there is just a date no name: 4 may 1812 ( I believe it might be a date of death for Caleb), then the next line is the next person...what do I enter the date as do I assume it is to do with caleb or do I do it as its own entry (and if so do I put it as a birth date) or do I not transcribe the date and just move on to the next person?

Suggestions/Additions

If you have a suggestion or would like to make an addition to the project page, click “EDIT” and post your suggestion here. (If you click on Rich Editor you won't have to worry about formatting your entry.) Then click “WATCH” at the top right on this page and you will be notified via email when an update has been made.

I have a suggestion for all entry forms. I have located several volumes of these Massachusetts Vital Records volumes in the Hathi Trust database and have reviewed the original abbreviation lists after having many questions about keying "Place" names. In the Nantucket image sets, for example, there often appears the letter "N." as a designation of location. After reviewing the keying instructions and discussion board, I could not figure out what this meant. Finding the original abbreviation list (I did cross reference the actual page I am currently transcribing in Keying Tool with Hathi Trust to make sure it was the same Volume), I discovered that it stood for "Nantucket." I apologize if this is redundant from something that was in fact posted or that most people would commonly infer, but I feel like it would greatly help if the full abbreviation lists from each volume of vital records could be uploaded as they are a bit different across the entire state.

I have a suggestion for death records, I noticed that there is no place of death entry field, although there is a place of birth field. I have come across several entries listing a different place of death than the place it was recorded. It appears the rule used for birth, that the name at the top of the page is the place recorded, and not to be assumed as the event place, should be applied to death as well.

I have a suggestion for marriage records, same as above, there is no place of marriage entry field. Same rules should apply to marriage as they do to birth, place of marriage is not necessarily the same as the place it was recorded. Being the main markers in the life of an individual, Birth, Death and Marriage information is very important. Event places are important information that should always be on the transcription form.

I have a suggestion for all entry forms. Researching immigrant and black history in this country can be particularly problematic. There is no race designation entry field used, but I have come across several entries listing the persons as Black, Colored, Mulatto Chinaman, etc.. Being able to list the race would go a long way toward aiding ancestry research.

I have a suggestion to improve the keying of the marriage records. Currently, we are keying 'int' as the event date for marriage records. However, 'int' is the date that the couple announced their intention to marry. That's not the same as their marriage date. In order to ensure that we capture the couples' history correctly, we should identify a record as intent to marry or the actual marriage. There are a few simple ways to address this. We could add a field that allows two values, intent to marry or marriage. Or we could add a field called "intent to marry" with the allowed value of "Y". The first option is preferable, however.

- Thanks for your suggestions! While these instructions were being created, this topic came up. It was discussed as a team and decided that we would still capture this date as a marriage date, even though it was clearly an intention of marriage. As per our keying standards, dates of marriage engagements or intentions are not typically keyed. So in order to capture these records, the date needed to be classified as a marriage date. Otherwise the names and other vital information found within the records would not be indexed. Also, it is most common that the intention of marriage is within the same year of the actual marriage during the time frame of these records, so it was decided that this date could reasonably be keyed as the marriage date.