Posted by Crista Cowan on March 20, 2012 in Collections

Have you seen what we did? The announcement went out this morning about a new collection of vital records now available online. The Massachusetts, Town Vital Collections contains over 8.2 million records covering over 360 years. Wow!

After searching town records for their own relatives, Jay and DeLene Holbrook, realized that the majority of towns in Massachusetts had little to no knowledge of the condition or even the location of their vital records collections. To catalog and preserve the state’s rich history, the Holbrooks traveled town by town through Massachusetts in a 30 year effort to meticulously compile a complete collection. They often found themselves in town vaults organizing and inventorying untidy stacks of records, sometimes making copies of them on-site when the town clerk would not allow the records to be removed from the building. In some instances, it took years of return trips to get permission to access the records, and in the case of the state’s largest cities, weeks and months to duplicate the records. To date, this amazing couple has visited 315 of the state’s 351 towns and cities to film their holdings of vital and town records.

Now, in partnership with, they are making this entire collection available online for the first time ever! This database includes original images of Massachusetts town records with details such as names, birth dates, birth places, baptism records, parents’ names, marriage records, courthouse records, and death records.

In just 30 minutes with this database this morning, I managed to find five children of my 9th great-grandparents, previously unknown to me. These children were all born in the late 1600s. I also found a 1974 marriage record for a 4th cousin. Now I know her married name and can track her down to see if she knows anything else about your shared family history. Six records in thirty minutes. Too bad that was all the time I had. I guess I know what I’ll be doing tonight.

Tell me. What relatives are you looking for in Massachusetts?

Until next time…

Crista Cowan

Crista has been doing genealogy since she was a child. She has been employed at since 2004. Around here she's known as The Barefoot Genealogist. Twitter


  1. Bill Quinn

    I attended Family History Day in Tarrytown, NY this past weekend. Great conference!

    I’ve already been replacing my “dull”, “boring”, Vital Statistics pages with copies of the real pages.

    Having the actual pages is great too since it helps you quickly find other relatives born about the same time without jumping between generations.

    Fabulous addition.

    I do have one request; since it was explained at the conference that the “A” towns and some “B” towns arrived late and will be added later, I wonder if it’s possible to have a list of those towns that were not done…

    Thanks, and again, good job!

  2. Bill Quinn

    Missed your question…

    I’m researching the Carpenters of Rehoboth, Attleborough, Sutton, etc., etc., etc.

    Then of course theres’ the Richs, the Eastmans, the Waters, etc., etc….

    And all can be found in this new database…

  3. Do you have a list of the Massachusetts towns that are not in this database? I did not find entries for Plymouth, Eastham, Wellfleet, and several others of interest.

    Is there a list of the years covered for each town?

    I appreciate this database, but need to understand what is covered and what is not. The Holbrooks have done a yeoman job in obtaining these records and providing them to Ancestry to digitize and index. I know that the indexing was a challenge for many towns!

  4. I have been a critic of sum of the things that Ancestry has done over the years, but when they do great things I feel I need to thank them. I have done thousands of hours of Massachusetts Research online, graveyards, NEHGS, and many others and this database is the single biggest deal in Massachusetts Research I have ever seen. In twenty minutes I have found things that either took me weeks to find or even that I have never seen.

    Thanks You Ancestry and Good Job,


  5. Ann Hill

    I found some information on Mary (Allerton) Cushman’s descendents. Mary Allerton was on the Mayflower with her father, Isaac Allerton.
    It is wonderful to see more records from Massachusetts!
    Now I must go back to my research . . .

  6. Janna

    Found a few records for my Fletcher ancestors. Have a few dates I didn’t have before plus some beautiful records saved as images.

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