Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Finding Massachusetts Death Records on FamilySearch Record Search

In my post Massachusetts Vital Record collections on FamilySearch Pilot, I noted that some of the Massachusetts Vital Records (1841-1915) were available on the LDS FamilySearch Record Search site for free access.

Back in the day when I was busily "collecting" all Seaver information, these databases were on microfilm, and I found information by ordering microfilms for the alphabetical Index to the births, marriages and deaths, noting the specific volume and page number for each entry of interest (this was before spreadsheets!), then by ordering the specific volume on microfilm and abstracting the information, and then entering the information into my genealogy database. I also spent some time at NEHGS checking the alphabetical index books and then scrolling through microfilms of the records.

Later, by perhaps 2003 or so, the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) put images of the Massachusetts birth, marriage and death records (1841-1915) online at www.NewEnglandAncestors.org (a subscription site) with a search capability. I've used this since it came online.

Now that FamilySearch has put these records online, I will use their search capability. As I noted before, there are two separate sets of death records available on the Record Search site. They are:

1) Massachusetts Deaths and Burials, 1795-1910 -- Name index to death and burial records from the state of Massachusetts. Microfilm copies of these records are available at the Family History Library and Family History Centers. This set contains 3,690,196 records. This record set is complete.

The dataset search fields look like this. I searched for the death of my second great-grandfather, Isaac Seaver:

There were 16 matches, and my Isaac was number 1 on the list:

I clicked on his name, and saw the record summary for the entry:

This dataset has no images of the records, so I'm stuck with the record summary. The summary does list volume number, page number and FHL microfilm number for the record. However, this is a derivative record - these lists and indexes were obtained from copies of the town record books compiled by the state each year. For an original source document, I should go to the Massachusetts town that created the record.

2. Massachusetts Deaths, 1841-1915
-- Name index and images of Massachusetts statewide death registers and certificates. Currently, the collection includes only years 1906 to 1915. When deaths were recorded on register forms, the second page of the form is on the next image. This dataset is only 58% complete at this time.

I had not seen my uncle's death record previously, so I entered Stanley Seaver in the search fields:

There were 3 matches, the first two were for my uncle:

From the record summary page (similar to the one above), I clicked on the "Image" icon in the right margin. Here is the image for the first record, from the town of Leominster:

The second record is from the town of Fitchburg, where the Fred Seaver family was residing in 1910:

The two entries have somewhat different information. The residence on the Leominster entry is wrong, and there is more information about the cause of death in the Fitchburg entry. It pays to find every record available!

The images in the second dataset are original source documents - this is how deaths were recorded in 1910. I'm not sure how the state collected these records - did the towns send duplicate originals to the state, or did the state collect the original record? My guess is that the state obtained a duplicate original because the towns still have ledger records, and perhaps the original record, for this time frame.

1 comment:

Bill West said...

Hi Randy,
I had great success there this past weekend!