The Massachusetts Archives has created a FREE online index for all recorded deaths in the state from 1841 through 1910. If you are looking for information about a Massachusetts ancestor, this can be a great resource.
I used the online database and found it to be super simple to use. You can search by first and last names, year, and city or town. You may also specify a start year and end year for your search. You simply enter whatever information you have, leave the unknown fields empty and then click SEARCH. A second or two later, all records that match your search parameters are displayed on your screen.
The only anomaly I found is that there is a check box labeled “Death” that has a default setting of unchecked. It is the only selection available, but if you do not check it you receive an error of “A Type must be selected.” That seems strange when there is only one type of record available, but perhaps they are planning a future expansion. In any case, don't forget to check the entry for DEATH.
Here is a result of typical search:
|Last Name||First Name||Town||Years||Volume||Page||Type|
As you can see, the information provided is strictly an index; it does not contain the details. You must contact the Massachusetts State Archives to obtain a copy of the original information, which usually specifies the exact date of death and often also lists date of birth, surviving next of kin, cause of death, residence and more. In the above case, you would need to order the record for George C. Eastman as listed in volume 356, page 112. You will be charged a small fee for the copy.
The same records have been microfilmed and are available through an LDS Family History Center near you. Images of the original records with full details are also available on a members-only section of the New England Historic Genealogical Society's web site.
This is a great resource: free genealogy information available to you in the privacy of your home, any time, day or night.
To view the Massachusetts Death Index for the years 1841 through 1910, go to http://www.sec.state.ma.us/vitalrecordssearch/VitalRecordsSearch.aspx
My thanks to Susan Daily for telling me about this valuable new online database.