Archive for the ‘Death Records’ Category

Imagine visiting 315 city and town clerks and going through all their vital records.

The Story

Thanks to Jay and DeLene Holbrook, approximately 17 million birth, marriage and death records from Massachusetts are being digitized and made available online through Ancestry.com.   Over a period of thirty years these two people personally visited each of 315 (out of 351) cities and towns in the state  of Massachusetts.  They inventoried and, where necessary, organized the material.  Then they took the original records to a professional imaging service to have them filmed by a special flatbed camera.  Just this one detail tells me that the records were in good hands. The couple obviously understood the importance of the preservation of the original records.  All of this was done with the permission of each city and town clerk. The film became microfiche.  When the copying was done, the Holbrooks returned all the records, complete with a microfiche copy, to the town.

When you imagine all the dust these two people breathed in over the years, it is not surprising that they finally had to retire from their mammoth undertaking and move to a dryer clime in Utah.  It was at this point that they sold their collection of microfiche to Ancestry.com.  Ancestry has already digitized over 9 million of these records and placed them online as of Tuesday,  March 20th. They will continue to add records until all 17 million have been done.

As the Secretary of State has pointed out, all of these records are available free of charge from the individual cities and towns.  However, anyone who has tracked down vital records from various locations knows how the costs for gas, food, and sometimes lodging, can escalate quickly, not to mention the time involved. We are and have always been a nation of people on the move. As family researchers we often feel lucky if we have several generations who stay in the same state, let alone the same city or town.

How to Access the Records for Free

Although Ancestry does charge individuals for access to their records, did you know that you can access these and many other records at no cost at a local public library.  Although not all libraries subscribe to Ancestry, many do.  Check with your own public library.  If they do not have Ancestry, call other nearby libraries until you find one that does.

Libraries can only offer Ancestry to their patrons in house.  You will have to go to the library and use one of their public computers.  These computers will most likely require a library card to log in.  If you have a card from your local library, check with that library to see where else you can use it.  Your  library probably belongs to a network.  In the state of Massachusetts, if you go to a library outside your network, the library you are visiting should be able to configure your card to work in that library as well. If you are from out-of-state, many libraries provide guest passes.

Once you have settled into your computer, click on the Ancestry database.  If it’s not obvious where it is, don’t hesitate to ask the nearest librarian.  That’s one of the things we do–answer questions.

This is how you find the records collected by the Holbrooks. Once Ancestry’s home page comes up, you will see two large boxes, one above the other.  Under the words “MORE COLLECTIONS” in the lower box, you will see the words “recent” and “all databases.”  The name of the collection you are looking for is “Massachusetts, Town Vital Collections, 1620 – 1988.”  If you click on “recent” you look by the  date, which will be  3/15/2012.  If you click on “all databases”, you look alphabetically by the name of the collection.  Once you get to the collection, click the browse drop down menu in the upper right to see which towns are included. (Remember, only 315 out of 351 had their records copied by the Holbrooks.)  Happy hunting.

Two Other Links You Might Want to Investigate

If you would like to see what one person has already accomplished using these records, click here for “What I Found in the New Massachusetts Town Records.”  It’s from the One Rhode Island Family blog done by Diane MacLean Boumenot. It’s a good blog, well worth checking out.

You can find more details about the Holbrooks by clicking on the  Boston Globe article  “A New Window on Bay State’s Vital Records.”

vea/22 March 2012
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com

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The Massachusetts State House was the former home of the Massachusetts State Archives

Online at the Massachusetts State Archives

Status of the 1916-1920 Vital Records Project

Posted by the State Archives on June 27 2011

We are pleased to announce that the contract between the Archives and the GSU/Family Search has been finalized. Digitization of the 1916-1920 vital records should begin this summer and the GSU has confirmed that the process will take approximately 18 months from the start date. At the end of that time we will have an indexed database complete with images of our vital records, 1841-1920, available on our website.

The approximate 18-month duration of the scanning process is something that is determined by FamilySearch. We are told, given the scope of their operations and the detail of the indexing involved, that this is the fastest turn-around that they can provide. Though this does little to lessen the inconvenience of the long wait for these critical records, we hope that it might clarify for you the reasons for the delay.

With the needs of our researchers in mind and given the complex process of digitization, we have worked out an arrangement whereby we can accommodate requests for searches resulting in certified copies of the 1916-1920 vital records. Although the physical volumes will remain inaccessible for in-person research and photocopies, in an effort to make the materials as accessible as possible, we have made arrangements so that we might process search requests for certified copies as we do for the earlier vital records.

Your patience and understanding are appreciated as we work to provide, to the fullest extent possible, access to these important records. If you have any questions about this project, please contact us.

I discovered this information from the intrepid Dick Eastman in his Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter.

vea/8 September 2011
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com

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First, a Word Regarding Databases


What is the difference between a website and a database?  There are more technical and precise definitions of each term, but for our purposes a website is free to everyone.  A database must be paid for either by the individual or the institution wishing to use it.  The library provides access for its patrons to some subscription databases. Depending on the provisions of individual database providers, a patron who lives in Newton may be able to access the database from home.  Others can be used by anyone using the library, but must be used at the library only, not off site.  For a complete list of all databases, click  here. Those provided by the state of Massachusetts can be accessed from anywhere within the state. The list of genealogical databases provided through the library follows.

Ancestry Library Edition (In Library Only)

Ancestry Library Edition allows you access to more than three billion names using a number of different records that it provides online.  Once you find a transcribed record through Ancestry’s “Search” function, the database often allows you to click onto a photographic copy of the original record. Never rely on a transcription when you have access to an original record.  There can be major discrepancies between the original and the transcription.  Another Ancestry tip: their section on federal census records allows a search for neighbors. This is often very useful for finding additional family members.  If you are looking for recent immigrants, it also helps you find other people from the town or village of origin. People coming to a strange country often settled around other people they knew or who shared the same culture. Ancestry does not allow the library to provide remote access, so it must be searched here at the Newton Free Library.

American Ancestors:  Member Website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (In Library Only)

The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), founded in 1845, is the nation’s oldest and largest genealogical society with a research library of over 200,000 volumes. Even if you do not have New England ancestors, you will find that NEHGS is an important resource for helping you to track information about your family history.  If you do have New England ancestors, it is a treasure trove that you must check.

This database provides most of what is available to its members online to anyone using one of the library’s computers. Here you will find extensive family resources, including databases, how-to articles, research columns, bibliographies, free queries, and discussion groups. You may also browse through the online book catalog for New England, New York, and other regions.  This site is not limited to the New England area as its new title suggests.  Non-members can access some sections of the American Ancestors site from home.  Anyone working within the library can access the database as though you were a member.  Check with a librarian if you need help.

America’s Obituaries and Death Notices (Home Access Available for Newton Residents Only)

America’s Obituaries and Death Notices database contains the largest and most comprehensive online collection of newspaper obituaries and death notices published from 1980 to the present.  Each obituary or death notice is indexed by the name of the deceased person. In addition, the text of each obituary or death notice is searchable, making it easy to find other categories or leads such as a place of residence, occupation, names of family members, or other personal information.   There are over 29 million listings.  Not all newspapers are included.  For a list of newspapers and the dates covered by each, click here.

vea/4 January 2011
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass.

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Newton City Hall taken May 1993 by vea The Curious Genealogist

Newton City Hall

Every city and town generates many types of records for and from its citizens.  Historic Newton at the Jackson Homestead has created a chart listing each type of record and where it can be found in the city.  The chart is three pages long in pdf format.  If you have a question about what city records are available, this is the place to check, especially when you need an answer quickly.  Click Local History Resources to see the chart.

Since the chart does not have links to the various departments and sources cited, I am including them below. I give the records in the same order as the chart with links.

A number of items are located here at the Newton Free Library. The library is one department of the City of Newton and is located across Homer Street from City Hall.

Assessed Polls
Newton Election Commission
Available at the Newton Free Library
N MICROFICHE 350.724 A84A 1889-1891,1894,1899-1918, 1920-1921,1923-2002
N MICROFILM 350.724 ANNUAL 2003, 2004, 2005

Newton Free Library
Newton History Museum/Historic Newton
Department of Planning and Development

Newton Blue Book
Newton Free Library
Newton History Museum/Historic Newton

Building Permits
Newton Inspectional Services at Newton City Hall

Church Directory
Newton Free Library

Registry of Deeds, Middlesex County Courthouse
Middlesex County — South


Newton Free Library
Newton History Museum/Historic Newton

Guidebooks and Published Histories
Newton Free Library

Historic Property Survey, National Register of Historic Places Nominations
Newton History Museum/Historic Newton

Newton Free Library
Newton History Museum/Historic Newton
Newton Planning and Development Department
For “Historic Maps” click on link at the very bottom

Maps, Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
Newton Free Library
Newton History Museum/Historic Newton

Photographic Files
Newton Free Library
Newton History Museum/Historic Newton Free Library

United States Census Records 1790-1930
Subscription database available free of charge at the Newton Free Library

Vital Records
City Clerks Office at Newton City Hall
Birth certificates:  http://www.ci.newton.ma.us/city%20clerk/birth.html
Death certificates:  http://www.ci.newton.ma.us/city%20clerk/death.html
Genealogical Research/Birth, Death, and Marriage Indexes: http://www.ci.newton.ma.us/city%20clerk/genealogy.html
Newton Free Library owns the book Vital Records of Newton, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1905. 521pp. N 312 V83V

Water Records
Newton Engineering Department Located at Newton City Hall

vea/28 September 2010 (updated)
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com


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