In 1665, the first volume of births, deaths, and marriages was prepared by Jonathan Danforth, who was clerk until 1686. The volume (as well as volumes 2 and 3) is arranged by family rather than the usual chronological order. It appears that until 1677, each new family was placed at the top of the front of a new page and each page was numbered sequentially. In later years, the extra space was partly filled by other families in no apparent order. Danforth was born in 1627, and he recorded the birth of himself and his wife, but the earliest birth and death recorded in the town was that of the daughter of Henry and Hannah Jeiffs in May 1653, who died in the first week of life. This first volume remained in use until about 1730. Hazen writes in his History of Billerica, “But in the later years, after 1700, the number of entries falls off, in a way which suggests that the record was much less complete than it had been while Danforth kept it. The difficulty in tracing many family lines during this period strengthens this probability that the record was imperfect.”
The second volume was prepared in 1730, and a large part of the first volume was transcribed into it, but it is not a verbatim transcription. As Hazen writes, “But the transcript was not complete, and it was probably the design to omit all families the representatives of which were not still resident in town. For this reason the Bedford families do not appear.”
The third volume came into use about 1789 and continued until 1844 when it was replaced by a thin volume, used for ten years. This fourth volume began the use of chronological order with births, marriages, and deaths being recorded in separate preprinted forms. In 1855 the system was again changed by the State, and separate volumes were used for the births, deaths, and marriages, each with a second index volume. Beginning in 1901, they were again all recorded in a single volume, and the index volumes were continued. The volumes beginning in 1855 are referred to as volume B, and the volume beginning in 1901 as volume C.
A note at the beginning of the first volume says that it passed through the fire at the burning of the town hall on 8 November 1893 and was rebound in December 1895. The pages may have been silked at that time. As notations indicate in the films, the earliest volumes have brown and faded pages, mending tape, ink spots, and ink bleeding through pages.
See also the Billerica Public Library's Birth, Death, and Marriage records as recorded in the Billerica Town Reports for an index of births, deaths, and marriages recorded between 1896 and 1950.
FHL film numbers