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Like most states with a long history, Massachusetts genealogy records can be found in multiple locations depending on the time period you are researching. You can look back to the early 1600s, providing you know where to search.
Massachusetts Vital Records
Vital records are birth, death and marriage registrations that are usually kept by the state and/or county. These have been kept by the state since 1841, so any searches for material older than this will have to be located by contacting the individual county registrar's offices.
More recent than 1841 but still older than 1921 can be located at the State Archives (see below). After 1921, that's when you can make a document request from the Office of Vital Statistics in Dorchester. You just have to send a proper requisition form along with the current fee, and a certified copy of the record will be mailed back to you. On the other hand, if you visit the office in person, they will usually issue your desired records while you wait.
If you are not positive about the exact dates on the records you want, you can request that their staff do a 10 year search around an estimated date. Besides the date, you also have to provide full names and locations to identify your records.
The current fee for vital records is $28 if you send by mail, and $18 if you are at the counter personally. These fees are not refunded if the records you order can't be found. If you are going to be paying these fees by check or money order, it needs to be issued to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Massachusetts State Archives
As mentioned earlier, vital records between 1841 and 1921 are housed at the State Archives in Boston. Not only can you freely access and copy all vital records for these years, but the rest of their collection is of great importance to most Massachusetts genealogy pursuits.
In their research room, you can find passenger lists, military records, judicial archives, census records, military records, probate documents, adoption records, naturalization documents, photographs, maps and a lot more. You can visit the Archives Monday through Friday, during regular business hours. They also offer regular workshops for people interested in local history and genealogy.
Local Genealogy Groups
Another option when looking up Massachusetts genealogy is to get in touch with one of the local groups. They have their own collections of material and you can even learn quite a lot from personal knowledge of the other members.
Given the long history of the state, Massachusetts has a large number of genealogy and historical societies. Depending on where your research is taking you, you can gain from contact with any of them. The main group is the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists, which is involved in genealogy across the state. The Massachusetts Historical Society is another large group.
Smaller groups for counties, cities or regions are also plentiful. There are several groups for the Boston area alone, for example. There is also a group specifically involved in the descendants of the original Plymouth Colony (the National Society of Old Plymouth Colony Descendants).
State Resources Sites
Death Records and Obits