- Year range
- 1620 - 1850
Exemplary WeRelate page with a well-written narrative, or comprehensive information.
- See Massachusetts Research Guide for more general research help regarding Massachusetts.
This page focuses on locating online transcriptions of pre-1850 vital records for all Massachusetts cities and towns. Post-1850 records are generally available on a statewide basis.
For most Massachusetts towns, the New England Historical & Genealogical Society, the Salem Institute, and several other entities published the vital records of the town up to 1850 as part of a somewhat coordinated project. These are called the Tan Books. Because they were published in the early 20th century, they are out of copyright and are widely available in digitized form. When entities such as Ancestry advertise databases containing vital records up to 1850, they are usually talking only about these books.
Other pre 1850 Compilations
In the years since, other individuals or groups have published VRs through 1850 in the same style from a number of towns, particularly in Worcester County. Other towns have independently developed sets of records covering different time periods. Many of these books are not out of copyright and are not as widely available online.
In addition, a good portion of the records Early Massachusetts marriages prior to 1800 by Frederick W. Bailey have been transcribed on Ray Brown's site. These are the only published vital records for some towns.
Finally, the Mormon Church has filmed the original town records for a number of towns, including some with no other published vital records. Many of these have not been separately published and are therefore accessible only through FHC films or the online search at the newly developed FamilySearch (formerly the IGI).
The table below attempts the following:
- Link to the "primary" source page for pre-1850 vital records for a town. This is considered to be either the Tan Book or the publication that is otherwise most widely available. The source pages are updated with free and paid online resources containing images or transcriptions of the source.
- In the absence of a widely available general source, indicate if there are other online transcriptions of records from the town, including through FamilySearch. Many of these are town-specific parts of Bailey or ad hoc transcriptions of FHC or town-held records, and thus may not have a useful source page on WR yet (although please add such pages if they exist).
- Provide information on what parent towns may contain records for towns established after 1850
- Track statewide resources containing all or most of these records
By Town: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U W Y
Statewide Databases | Resources
| Town Name || Est. || Source Page for Primary Source || Other Online Resources
|East Bridgewater || 1823 || Tan Book
|East Brookfield || 1920 || See Brookfield ||
|East Longmeadow || 1894 || See Longmeadow ||
|Eastham || 1646 || Tan Book||
|Easthampton || 1785 ||IGI: Town Recs 1785-1865 B M ||
|Easton || 1725 || || Marriages 1720-1802
|Edgartown || 1671 || Tan Book
|Egremont || 1760 || ||Marriages to 1800 (Bailey)
|Erving || 1838 || ||
|Everett || || ||
|Essex || 1819 || Tan Book ||
Statewide resources have improved greatly in the last few years. The best resource to use depends on whether you know just what you are looking for, and whether you need or want to see resources from multiple towns together at once. If your ancestor lived in a town not served by a Tan Book, the best resource is probably FamilySearch, since its collections are most extensive.
- Bailey: Early Marriages prior to 1800 Bailey's statewide work is searchable on Ancestry.
- NEHGS has combined records from a number of towns (mostly tan books and others that it owns the copyright to) into one database. It also has some unique town-specific databases that are called out above.
- Ancestry combined statewide births, marriages, and deaths into separate databases covering, roughly, the tan books. More recently, it indexed the volumes individually and enabled searching by title. Those links are on the source pages when available.
- IGI: The IGI includes extracted records from most towns, but only of births and marriages. A list of included towns can be found here. The IGI also includes user-submitted records of questionable veracity. When searching the database as a whole, extracted records often stand out because the names are in all caps and the place is written out in full, with no abbreviations or extra commas.
- FamilySearch is planned to replace the IGI with statewide collections that can be searched by town and include all sorts of vital records up to 1915. They continue to have only births and marriages.
- Google: All of Google Books (which contains many of the published vital records) can be searched at once; add "massachusetts vital records" to your search for decipherable results.
- Archive.org has many of the books. They are not universally searchable, but each book can be downloaded and searched.
- HathiTrust: Many of the books are available and searchable at HathiTrust Digital Library
- HeritageQuest Online has indexed a number of the vital records books and has the scanned images online as part of its subscription service (which is accessed through the library websites of many local libraries). The main search page searches all books in the collection, which are otherwise difficult to access individually. The books include vital records for most of the tan books and others out of copyright.