Massachusetts death records are used for a variety of reasons. For example, a death record should be obtained after a loved one passes away so that you can settle the decedent’s affairs. You may also want to find a death for informational purposes. Public death records can be accessed by anyone in Massachusetts. It is common to perform a death certificate search when you need information about recent or historical deaths for any reason. A Massachusetts death index is maintained by the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (RVRS) from the year 1926 through the present. Death records from earlier periods are stored in other state and local databases. In the sections below, learn how to obtain a death certificate for a family member and how to search for public death certificates in Massachusetts.
What can you use a Massachusetts death record for?
Massachusetts death certificates can be used for official and legal purposes, as well as informational purposes only. For example, a public death record can be used when conducting genealogical research in Massachusetts. On the other hand, after a loved one passes away, a copy of death certificate papers is usually required to complete the following processes:
- Claiming benefits from a decedent’s life insurance or pension fund
- Making funeral arrangements
- Handling a decedent’s will
- Selling or changing a decedent’s property or other assets
- Making changes to health insurance policies
- Cancelling certain products and services that require proof of death
How do I get a death certificate in Massachusetts for a loved one?
When you need to find death certificate papers for a loved one in Massachusetts, you may start by ordering a copy from the city clerk in the location where the death occurred. Death records that are issued immediately after a decedent has passed away should be obtained in this manner. The application methods and processing times for getting a death record vary by city, so it is best to contact the local clerk for more information.
When you need an MA death certificate copy for a family member later on, you can order one through alternative methods, such as the RVRS or other state databases using the methods described in the next sections.
How to Search Death Records in Massachusetts
If you are wondering how to get death certificate information for research purposes or general interest in Massachusetts, then you can usually obtain the record from the RVRS. You may order death certificate papers by phone, by mail or in person. The RVRS even allows you to visit its office and search death records in person, as long as you pay a fee for searching. Online death records are not issued directly from the RVRS.
To request death certificate information by mail or in person in Massachusetts, you must complete a form called the Application for a Vital Record. This is a generic application used for ordering death records, marriage records and birth certificates. Be sure to complete the section for a death record when filling out your application. The application for death certificate papers requires that you enter the following information:
- The name of the decedent, including the decedent’s maiden name (if applicable)
- The name of the decedent’s spouse, if he or she was married
- The decedent’s Social Security Number, if known
- The date and location in which the decedent passed away
- The names of the decedent’s parents
- Your relationship to the deceased
When requesting a death certificate by mail in Massachusetts, include a self-addressed, stamped envelope and photocopy of your ID card. Ordering a death certificate with any method requires that you pay an application fee. In most cases, you will pay an initial fee as well as a fee for each subsequent copy you require. However, when the RVRS cannot locate an MA death record, a negative statement is returned instead.
How to Locate Historical Death Records in Massachusetts
If you are wondering how to get a death certificate in Massachusetts when it is not maintained by the RVRS, then you can try searching in other locations. Remember that MA death records prior to 1926 are not maintained by the RVRS. For older records, try the State Archives or the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which maintains an archive division with records from the years 1841 through 1925. Most years contain searchable archives that you can browse through online. For even earlier death records, you may try city archives. Some cities maintain records from as early as the year 1635.
When searching for Massachusetts death certificates in historical archives, the procedures for ordering a record will differ based on which city or state death index you are searching. To get a copy of a death certificate, it is helpful to provide as much information as possible about the decedent, such as his or her name, birth date, parents’ names and date of death.
How long does it take to get a death certificate in Massachusetts?
The processing times for Massachusetts death record requests will vary greatly depending on the method you use for obtaining a record. When you search MA death records in person, you can often obtain the record you need on the same day. Most death records from the RVRS can be delivered within two to three weeks. Expedited services are also available from the RVRS for faster results. If you need to make a correction to an RVRS death record, then the wait time can be longer.