Massachusetts Vital, Ship and 18th Century Archives

With the state of Massachusetts having such a long history, there are many chances you will have at least one ancestors from the Colony of Massachusetts or the state. Also because the Port of Boston was a major arriving destination for thousands of immigrants, there is an increased chance of ancestors from this region.

The State of Massachusetts has available online the Vital Records, Passenger Manifests and the 18th century archival records of the Massachusetts Colony for family researchers. Most of it is in the form of an index, but having that bit of data can then lead you to other resources.

The link for each of these three are at the top, just click on the one of interest. The Vital Records tap is for births-marriages and deaths between 1841 to 1910. That is a very wide range and a good deal of information available. However, be aware, not all BMD were recorded especially during most of the 1800s. So there will be gaps and missing information. Select the type of record, then place a name in the search boxes. You can also narrow down the search to span of years. It is best not to place a location, since the actual name on a record might be different than you thought. The list of results will have a full name, a location, date along with the volume and page that the Archives of Massachusetts have the full record. What you have is an just of the basic information. Even with marriages or births the parents’ and spouses’ names are not on the index, but would be on the full record.

Trying the Passenger Manifests place a name along with a range of dates, but do write them as ‘mm-dd-yyyy’, even if it is just a guess. Find something of interest, then click ‘view’ to reveal additional details. Ship name, birth place, occupation, age and who they were traveling with can all be on the additional information.

The Massachusetts Archives Collection covers 1629 to 1799 which would be it mainly was an English colony. The types of records here include court hearings, petitions, maritime, domestic relations, Indian affairs, emigrants and colonial laws. If a selection is of interest, click ‘view’ for further details. Since many of these have to do with legal proceedings, there will be signatures. The index material on the web site does not show everything in the archive collection, but the volume and page are listed so you can order copies of the full record.

To obtain full copies of any of the records you can email at:

[email protected] or at:

for more details.

Photo: Passenger manifest for Mary Johnson, age 35, a servant, arriving in Jan. 1848 on the ship ‘Washington Irving’ from Ireland, traveling with John.

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