New Old Massachusetts Vital Records on

The Weekly Genealogist, an e-newsletter from the New England Historic Genealogy Society, usually contains three current news stories of interest relating to family history research.  The newsletter of 21 March 2012 included a link to a story about a private collection of microfilmed old vital records from Massachusetts being sold to, a “for profit” genealogy site.  A Massachusetts official was quoted as saying that:

Most of the records are, of course, already public and free, a point that Secretary of State William F. Galvin emphasized when told of the sale. His spokesman said that vital records and other documents can be made available to anyone who asks for them at their local city hall or town hall. Vital records from 1841 through 1920 are also available at the Massachusetts Archives. “What they’re doing is fine, but he [Galvin] wants people to know those records are available at city and town halls at no cost,’’ said Brian McNiff.

I suspect that neither Galvin nor McNiff is a family researcher.  I appreciate the fact that the records are on Ancestry now.  I can visit that site 24/7, unlike trying to go to a town hall during business hours.  In fact, when I did go to a town hall for my grandfather’s birth certificate, a prominently posted sign said “Genealogy Inquires on Tuesdays Only”.  Just by coincidence, we were there on the specified day.  With Internet access to the records, I don’t have to wait in line.  I can do my research in my jammies.  I spend no money on gas or parking.  I have an immediate digital copy of the record.  I suspect that while someone can look at the records for free, copy costs probably apply – if in fact they will copy or scan the fragile documents.  A researcher has to know which city or town hall to visit.  While it would be wonderful to see those records in person, for those of us who are on the opposite side of the country, the collection on line is truly a treasure.

To read the full story, go to


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