Vital Records and Genealogy

Vital Records are government produced records documenting births, marriages, and deaths. They are important sources of information in genealogy research and can be good jumping off points if you are starting out on your research. They can contain information about where someone lived, what their occupation was plus information about their parents, spouse, or children.

More Information

Besides the basic information about a birth, marriage, or death, vital records may contain some of the following information:

Birth records

  • Name of person’s parents
  • Where parents were from
  • Where parents lived at the time of birth
  • The occupations of the parents at the time of birth

Marriage records

  • Birthplace and home of each spouse at time of marriage
  • Occupation of each spouse at time of marriage
  • Names of each spouses’ parents
  • Where each spouses’ parents were born
  • Name of person who officiated ceremony
  • If it is the first marriage for both spouses

Death records

  • Exact age of person at time of death
  • Where a person lived at the time of death
  • Place of birth of person who died
  • Name of next of kin at time of death
  • Name of parents
  • Where parents were from

Finding Vital Records

In Massachusetts, most vital records are public and anybody can request them. There are some restrictions, especially in records relating to adoption and anyone whose parents were not married when they were born.

In Boston, the Registry Division at City Hall handles vital records requests. They take requests in person, online, by mail and via phone. Fees vary depending on type of request but will generally run from about $10-$24. The Registry Division’s website has more information about requesting vital records.

You can also find some vital records at the BPL through the Ancestry Library Edition database, the American Ancestors database, and published records available at the Central Library in Copley Square’s Research Services Department.

For more information about how to find vital records, check out the BPL’s Genealogy research guide.