Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tuesday's Tip - Massachusetts Vital Records (1600-1850) Project

This week's Tuesday's Tip is:  Find Massachusetts Vital Records (1600-1850) "tan book" page images at the Massachusetts Vital Records Project site (http://ma-vitalrecords.org/).

The Vital Records (births, marriages, deaths) of many Massachusetts towns prior to 1850 have been published over the years, based on transcriptions or extractions from the handwritten Town Clerk records.  These are usually called the "tan books" because the covers of the books are mostly tan colored.  In general, the vital records in the "tan books" are in alphabetical order, rather than in the order recorded by the town clerks.  Hence, the "tan books" are very useful as "finding aids."

The Massachusetts Vital Records Project  (managed by John Slaughter) has imaged many of the "tan books" that are not copyright protected, and provided them online for free.  Here is a view of the home page for the Massachusetts Vital Records Project:

There is a link for directions on How To Use the site:

The "How To Use" page describes the indicators used to define what information is available, plus the different formats used for the images or transcriptions.  Read the "How To Use" page first!

Clicking on the "Towns" link in the top menu opens the list of Massachusetts Counties, and clicking on a County name opens the list of Towns in that County.  I clicked on "Worcester" County in the screen below:

The different colors and indicators are explained in the "How To Use" page.  There are records for this many Towns in these Counties:

*  Barnstable - 2
*  Berkshire - 15
*  Bristol - 8
*  Dukes - 3
*  Essex - 29
*  Franklin - 12
*  Hampden - 6
*  Hampshire - 3
*  Middlesex - 43
*  Nantucket - 1
*  Norfolk - 8
*  Plymouth - 14
*  Suffolk - 0
*  Worcester - 49

That totals 193 Towns that have been imaged or transcribed to date on this site.  That's a phenomenal achievement by John Slaughter and his project members.

Clicking on "Westminster" and finding the Birth page for my Seaver/Sever family shows the page:

There is another very helpful feature - the "Surnames: link on the main menu.  That opens a "Surname Index" with ranges of surnames in alphabetical order:

I clicked on the "Searl-Sharton" link and saw:

For each surname, the user can see which towns and counties have entries for the surname in the Births, Marriages and Deaths sections of the town books.

While these "tan books" are derivative sources, they are extremely useful as "finding aids."  I use them all the time as I add content and sources to my database, which has tens of thousands of vital records from Massachusetts.

The URL for this post is:  http://www.geneamusings.com/2013/06/tuesdays-tip-massachusetts-vital.html

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver


Celia Lewis said...

Excellent information, Randy. A lot of work here! And I have a number of MA ancestors to continue researching... Thanks!

Shelley Bishop said...

Thank you, Randy, this is a great tip! I'm off to explore Berkshire County.