NEHGS Massachusetts Town Vital Records Project
"In November 1901 the New England Historic Genealogical Society voted to undertake an endeavor of lasting significance — the Massachusetts Town Vital Records Project. Now, after a century of usefulness in printed form, the records extracted for that project are being made available on NewEngland Ancestors.org." (Subscription required.) Read article
The Massachusetts Vital Records Project
These records were published in the early 1900s and are commonly referred to as the "Tan Books." They were compiled from all of the town, clerk and court records as well as private records, such as Bibles, and gravestone records that could be found at that time. They cover the time period from about 1600 to the end of 1849. (Death records, when taken from gravestones, sometimes are slightly later.) In addition to the transcriptions, part of the project is putting images of the pages online. Where these are done, they are linked from the transcriptions. These are there for the researcher to print for documentation purposes. The transcriptions are intended to be a research aid and are not the source. Access the Web Site
"The vital records transcribed here are taken from various sources and are referenced accordingly. The majority are transcribed from early town registers for births, marriages, and deaths. Other records are from cemeteries, churches, and private collections. They are compiled in these printed “Tan Books” by various publishers, generally by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, but also by the Essex Institute and the Topsfield Historical Society, among others."
Note: Use this source only if you have no way of knowing which town book the record came from. Most of the repositories listed to the left either have the full series of separate books, or specify which book the material was transcribed from. The individual books each have their own source page.
The records were also digitized and expanded into CD-Rom volumes by county in the early 2000s.