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

Guidelines for Mail, Phone, E-mail and Fax RequestsArchives 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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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 at www.sec.state.ma.us/pre/preidx.htm.
 
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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Duplication ServicesDuplication Services

The Massachusetts Archives provides the following duplication services:

  • Photocopies
    30 cents per page. Material may be photocopied in accordance with Archives procedures.

  • 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

    Photocopies of the birth, marriage, and death records from 1841 to 1915 can be ordered in person, by email, or by mail. 1916-1920 vital records are only partially accessible for photocopies at this time – a copy will be provided if possible. 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 your mailing address in your letter so that we can mail the photocopies to you. Only five records can be requested at one time. Patrons must wait for receipt of copies from their initial order before submitting their next request. We will send a bill along with the photocopies, which are $0.50US per page. Orders take approximately 6-8 weeks to process.

    However, if you require a certified copy of the record, please follow these instructions:

    Certified copies of births, marriages and deaths from 1841 to 1920 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. Please remember to include your mailing address in your letter so that we can send the completed certificate to you. A maximum of five certificates may be ordered at one time. Patrons must wait for receipt of copies from their initial order before submitting their next request. Please include individual checks for $3.00US for each certificate requested. A self addressed, stamped envelope is helpful, but not necessary. If we are unable to locate the record you have requested we will return your payment. Orders take approximately 6-8 weeks to process.

    Checks should be made payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We are not able to accept credit card payments, but do also accept money orders and cash. 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
    Records created by Massachusetts government 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 at lcweb.loc.gov/copyright.

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Publications

The following publications are available free of charge. To order, please contact:

Massachusetts Archives
220 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston MA 02125
Phone 617-727-2816
archives@sec.state.ma.us


The following materials can be ordered at the price indicated:

  • Historical Data Relating to Counties, Cities and Towns in Massachusetts, 5th ed., 1997
    Summary legal histories of the 14 counties and 351 municipalities in Massachusetts. Information includes dates of incorporation, town charters, archaic names of communities, and section and village names. $9 plus shipping.

To order, please contact:

New England Historic Genealogical Society
101 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02116
Phone: 617-536-5740
Fax: 617-536-7307
Email: sales@nehgs.org
Web: http://www.newenglandancestors.org

Guides for students and teachers on selected historical topics are available through the Commonwealth Museum.