Research Services

The Archives’ collections are public records and are open to all for research. A reference staff is available to help patrons find the information they need. Note that some materials may be restricted from use for reasons of privacy.

Although an appointment is not necessary to use Archives materials, a phone call may save you time or an unnecessary trip. Reference staff can answer questions, refer you to appropriate materials, or help you plan a research visit.

For additional information call 617-727-2816.

Guidelines for Mail, Phone, E-mail and Fax Requests

Information about resources for research can be requested by:

In person
220 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston MA 02125

By mail
Massachusetts Archives
220 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston MA 02125

By e-mail
archives@sec.state.ma.us

By fax
617-288-8429

Photo of researcherArchives staff can do only brief research to answer questions based on information in Archives records. Please be as specific as possible about the issue you are interested in. In-depth research requires a personal visit.

If you are not able to visit the Archives to do research in person, you may want to hire a student or professional who can conduct research on your behalf.

Queries are handled in the order received, and all responses will be sent by U.S. mail.

Please include your full name, mailing address, and telephone number on all requests.

For information on requesting copies of vital records (birth, death, and marriage records), please see Copies of Vital Records below.

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Photo of Reading RoomReading Room Research Policy

An appointment is not necessary to look at Archives materials. Please feel free to telephone in advance (617-727-2816) if you would like to verify hours, check what materials may be suitable to your research needs, or discuss research strategies.

All persons have the right, by law, to use public records. Certain materials, however, are restricted from public use for reasons of privacy, to protect trade secrets, to protect investigations, or when the public interest is best served by withholding materials. For more information on public record exemptions, please see the Public Records Division web page.

In order to protect the records in the care of the Archives, all patrons are expected to observe the following rules.

  1. Register at reference desk. Photo identification is required.
  2. All personal belongings, including handbags, briefcases, waist packs, bags, containers, jackets, hats and coats must be placed in lockers.
  3. Pencils must be used to take notes. No pens or other permanent markers are allowed.
  4. Notebooks, papers, books, etc., used in the reading room are subject to search on leaving the reading room.
  5. Researchers should work as quietly as possible.
  6. No food, drink, or tobacco is allowed.
  7. The Reading Room closes promptly at 4:30. Vault pulls cease at 4:00 and all vault materials must be returned to the vault by 4:15.

When using original materials patrons must also:

  1. Fill out and sign the request form.
  2. Handle materials with care. Do not lean or write on them.
  3. You are responsible for the safety of materials while they are in your possession. Return them to the reference desk if you leave your desk.
  4. Bound volumes may require use of supports.
  5. The existing order and arrangement of material must be maintained. Questions or comments should be directed to the attention of the reference staff.
  6. Consult with reference staff to copy any materials. Materials to be copied should be marked with the slips provided and left in the folder. Do not use post-it notes.
  7. Materials may not be removed from the reading room/reference desk area.

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Photo of Duplication Services deskDuplication Services

The Massachusetts Archives provides the following duplication services:

  • Photocopies
    All photocopies are $.05US (five cents) per page. Materials may only be copied in accordance with Archives policies.

  • Prints of microfilm images
    All microfilm prints cost $.50 cents per page. Four microfilm reader/printers are available in the reading room for patron use. The printers are self-serve.

  • Copies of Vital Records

    Researchers interested in obtaining copies of birth, marriage, and death records for personal or genealogical research can access digital images of Massachusetts Vital Records for the years 1841 to 1920 through the Archives website by following the appropriate links: Digital Records at the Massachusetts Archives

    While researchers are encouraged to utilize the digital images of vital records available on our website, the Archives staff can also provide microfilm photocopies of vital records from the years 1841 to 1920. Researchers can request photocopies of vital records in person, by e-mail, or by mail. Please provide the full name and date (no greater than a 10-year span) for each event. If possible, the location, volume and page number, parents' names, and any additional information you might be able to provide will be extremely helpful. Please remember to include a mailing address so that we can mail the photocopies to you. Researchers may request a maximum of five records at one time and must wait for receipt of copies from their initial order before submitting their next request. The cost for microfilm copies of vital records is $.50US (fifty cents) per page and we will send an invoice payable upon receipt.

    NOTE: Digital or microfilm copies of birth, marriage, or death records from 1921 to 1925 are not available at this time. Researchers interested in obtaining copies of vital records from 1921 to 1925 should follow the instructions for ordering Certified Copies outlined below.

  • Certified Copies of Vital Records

    Certified copies of births, marriages and deaths from 1841 to 1925 can be ordered in person or by mail only. Please provide the full name and date (no greater than a 10-year span) for each event. If possible, the location, volume and page number, parents' names, and any additional information you might be able to provide will be extremely helpful. The cost for each certificate is $3.00US payable by cash, check, or money order. We are not able to accept credit card payments at this time. Please include a separate check for each certificate requested. Researchers may order a maximum of five certificates may be ordered at one time and must wait for receipt of copies from their initial order before submitting a new request. If we are unable to locate the record you have requested we will return your payment.

    Checks should be made payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Our mailing address is:

    Massachusetts Archives
    220 Morrissey Blvd.
    Boston, MA 02125

  • Self-service photographic copying
    No cost. Patrons may bring their own equipment to photograph or tape materials with the approval of Archives staff. Handheld scanners are not premitted. An appointment must be made in advance. The Archives cannot supply lights, copy stands, easels, or other equipment.

  • Digital Reproduction
    $10.00 per scan or digital photograph. The Archives can offer a file burned to CD and/or a print for the $10.00 fee. Whether or not a document can be scanned will be decided on a case-by-case basis, based upon the condition and size of the document. The reference staff will discuss this with you. Orders can take 4 weeks to process.

  • Architectural Plans
    Actual cost. The Archives is working with an outside vendor to reproduce architectural plans. The condition of the plan will determine whether or not it can be sent out for scanning. The reference staff will discuss this and other reproduction options with you. Orders can take 2 weeks to be delivered to the vendor.

  • Publication
    The Archives requires patrons who copy materials for publication to complete a permission to publish form agreeing to use a standard citation for archival materials and to give a copy of the published work to the Archives. There are no charges for publication.

  • Copyright
    Those records created by Massachusetts government agencies and institutions held by the Massachusetts Archives are not copyrighted and are available for public use. Copyright for materials submitted to state agencies may be held by the person or organization that created the document. Patrons are responsible for clearing copyright on such materials. For more information on copyright law, please see the U.S. Copyright Office’s web page.

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Publications

The following digital guides are available to help researchers get a better understanding of the types of records held at the Massachusetts Archives:

Summary Guide to Holdings
A broad overview of different collections at the Archives, organized by topic

Collection Guides
Detailed listing of individual record series held at the Archives, organized by state agency