Thursday, August 23, 2012 Loaded More Massachusetts Town Records

I highlighted the first release of Massachusetts Town Records in Adds Original Massachusetts Vital Records on 20 March 2012. released Town Vital Records for many more Massachusetts towns this week from the Jay Mack Holbrook collection of microfiche images.  These are, in general, the handwritten, ORIGINAL, town records that contain birth, marriage, death and burial information dating from 1620 to 1988 (not all towns have records spanning these years, of course!).

I didn't keep a list of the Towns that were previously covered, but I did list some of my ancestral towns of interest that were not covered back in March - they were Medfield, Eastham, Wellfleet, Salem, Concord and Sudbury.  As of today, only Wellfleet on that list of five towns is available.

There are hundreds of towns available, however, and by far the easiest way to search the records of one town is to start at the   "Massachusetts, Town Records, 1620-1988" record collection page, where there is a dropdown menu on the right sidebar to determine the towns included in the collection, as shown below:

I wondered what records they now had for Boston, so I scrolled down to Boston in the dropdown list and clicked on it.  The list of different titles of documents is shown - there are a lot of them!

I put Last Name = "Seaver" and Any Event - Location = "Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, USA" in the search fields in order to narrow my search to only Boston records:

I clicked the "Search" button and received 1,763 matches.  Yikes, I need to do more mining!

I clicked on the first match (for Benjamin C. Seaver marriage to Susan Bill, which had no year indicated for some reason - the indexing is imperfect, I fear), and saw the record summary:

I clicked the "View image" link and saw the record:

Now I understand why there was no year - it was not totally visible to the indexer!  It was 1843, based on other resources.

The source citation for this specific record is: Massachusetts, Town Vital Collections, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data: Town and City Clerks of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Vital and Town Records. Provo, UT: Holbrook Research Institute (Jay and Delene Holbrook).

Note that the Source Citation does not reflect the current Title of the database.  It also does not reflect the specific Title where the record was found, or the specific page number in that Title, or the Image number in the collection, or the specific record selected, let alone the line number!

My own free-form source citation for this record, based on Evidence! Explained principles (as best I could), is:

"Massachusetts, Town Records, 1620-1988," digital images, ( : accessed 23 August 2012), citing original data from Massachusetts Town and City Clerk records in Jay and Delene Holbrook, Massachusetts Vital and Town Records (Provo, Utah : Holbrook Research Institute), Microfiche collection. Boston Marriages: Benjamin C. Seaver and Susan Dill (6 July 1843) entry.

Unfortunately, I cannot ascertain from the record exactly which Title was used for this specific record.  It was Image 5329 of 60705.  I don;'t know if that image number will change if/when more towns are added, and I'm leery of using the Image number.  I can browse back to try to find the first page of this specific Title...and I did - it's on Image 5181:

So I should probably modify my Free-form source citation to read:

"Massachusetts, Town Records, 1620-1988," digital images, ( : accessed 23 August 2012), citing original data from Massachusetts Town and City Clerks Records, collected by Jay and Delene Holbrook, Massachusetts Vital and Town Records (Provo, Utah : Holbrook Research Institute, n.d.), Microfiche collection. "Boston Marriages, 1841-1849," page 378 (penned), Benjamin C. Seaver and Susan Dill (6 July 1843) entry.

That is "doable," but it's a real pain to find the specific Title by browsing for the title page image.

Another Source Citation, crafted from the RootsMagic 5 source template for "Vital Records, Town Registers (New England)" is:

Boston, Massachusetts, "Boston Marriages, 1841-1849": Page 378 (penned), Benjamin C. Seaver (of Boston) and Susan Dill (of Eastham) entry, 6 July 1843. Digital images, (, "Massachusetts, Town Records, 1620-1988," citing original data from Massachusetts Town and City Clerk records in Jay and Delene Holbrook, Massachusetts Town and Vital Records (Provo, Utah : Holbrook Research Institute, n.d.), Microfiche collection.

I like the latter one, but it requires a lot more typing or copy/pasting to put all of that into the "Source Detail" field in the Free-form citation.  Any comments or recommendations from "Citation Mavens?"

If a researcher is looking for a specific name in a specific locality, it might be advisable to search through each specific Title, and thereby be assured that s/he knows in which specific Title the record was found.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver


Delia Furrer said...

Just curious how long it took you to enter that one source. This is my huge frustration spending so much time trying to figure out how to enter that correctly to EE standards and deciphering Ancestry's records. Will be interested in reading others comments.

Geolover said...

One anomaly is that most of the microfilms are not Town records but Church records. There are often overlapping entries that sometimes differ in dates, name-spellings and other record elements.

Another is record titling. A partial Church (of Christ) record for Lancaster is peculiarly entitled "Immigration and Town Records," although there seem to be no 'immigration' entries (not even Warnings Out) or Town-Record permissions to settle. So figuring out the nature of a given record can be a real chore.

Martin said...

I think Ancestry does a real disservice to researchers by naming this Massachusetts Town Records. It's not. It's the Holbrook Collection, which is a collection of filmed vital records from many sources in Massachusetts. Town records are completely something else and include tax records, school records, town elections, warnings out, land records, and yes, vital records. But the Holbrooks only filmed the vital records. You are missing out on much if you think that all of a give town's records are what is filmed and indexed on Ancestry.

Martin said...

Also, Blogger's robot defense codes are so unreadable, I had to type in a code six times to get my comment published. I may go another six times for this comment.