Are you looking for the birth records of Clara Barton, Paul Revere, John Hancock, John Adams, or Benjamin Franklin? How about your own ancestors instead? If they were born in Massachusetts, you have an excellent chance of finding such records by using your own computer and logging into Ancestry.com. The new database includes Massachusetts birth and marriage records and, in many cases, death records as well. The years vary but often are from the time each town was founded to about 1850.
The records are those created by the town clerks of each town. The recording of vital records by each town clerk was ordered by the government as early as 1639, although not all towns immediately complied. All of the town clerks' records that have survived will soon be available on Ancestry.com.
In 1841, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts became the first state to create statewide vital records in the modern sense. However, town clerks typically maintained duplicate records for several more years. There was one notable exception: the city of Boston lagged behind reporting to the state and its records do not show up at the state until about 1850, although the city maintained its own records before then.
The records that are being released online this week the early records kept by town clerks, not the later records collected by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The online database contains images of the original records.
The records were gathered and filmed by Jay and DeLene Holbrook. While others have also collected Massachusetts vital records, the Holbrooks’ collection is believed to be the most complete collection of such records known to exist. The Holbrook Collection documents births, marriages, and deaths of residents of 315 cities and towns over 330 years.
You can read more in an article by Emily Sweeney in the Boston Globe at http://goo.gl/r2FHQ.
My thanks to newsletter reader Jo Dye for telling me about this story.
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