Are Birth Records Public in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, birth records are public. Hence the general public can inspect and copy public birth records such as birth certificates upon request. However, under Massachusetts general law chapter 46 §2A, access to certain birth records may be restricted. The act prohibits public examination of birth records of children born out of wedlock. Only eligible persons may request such records. These include the child, their parents, legal representatives, and legal guardians. Generally, eligible persons such as legal representatives, legal guardians, and fathers who are not listed on the record need to provide supporting documentation to access restricted birth records.
Massachusetts public birth records are maintained by the state Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (RVRS) and at the municipality level by local town and city clerk offices. In addition to maintaining state vital records, the RVRS also keeps track of vital statistics of vital events, including the Massachusetts Annual Birth reports.
What are Birth Records in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts birth records refer to documents containing information regarding birth events in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The importance of birth records in Massachusetts cannot be over-emphasized. A birth certificate is proof of age, citizenship, and also legal proof of identity. Birth records in Massachusetts may be accessed by the public because they are considered public records. However, birth records of individuals born to unwed parents are restricted from public disclosure and only accessible by certain persons. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts was the first state in the United States to begin statewide registration of vital records, including birth records. Although some towns within the Commonwealth started recording births in the 1600s, official birth registration began statewide in 1842.
Birth records in Massachusetts are needed to enroll in schools, apply for passports, and join the military. They are also required to seek and obtain government benefits. The following are some of the information that can be found in a Massachusetts birth record:
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Name of child (in full)
- Sex of child
- Method of birth
- Date and place of registration and birth registration number
- Parents’ names
- Mother's marital status
How to Find and Request Birth Records Online in Massachusetts
There is no known avenue to look up birth records online in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Commonwealth does not also have a state-owned online repository of birth events registered within the state. Individuals who wish to obtain birth records online in Massachusetts may use the service of any third-party vital records vendor endorsed by the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (RVRS). Requesters must provide necessary information to help the search and proof of their identification. They will also be required to pay the applicable fees, which may be higher than the rates obtainable for requests made by other means.
Considered open to citizens of the United States, public records are available through both traditional, government sources, and through third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. In order to gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:
- The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
- The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.
While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government-sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites when compared to government sources.
How to Get Birth Records in Massachusetts
A legible copy of valid government-issued photo identification is required of anyone who wants to get a copy of a birth record in Massachusetts. Some of the acceptable forms of identification include the United States passport, Massachusetts driver's license, and driver's license issued by another state. Requesters other than the persons or parents named on birth records must provide proof of eligibility or relationship with the record owners. The Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (RVRS) is the statewide custodian of all records of births that occur in the Commonwealth. The Registry issues only certified copies of birth records regardless of the intended use. Interested persons may obtain birth records in Massachusetts using the following options:
Requesting a Birth Record in Massachusetts in Person
Interested parties may request birth records in Massachusetts by completing the Application For Vital Record form and submitting it in person at the counter of the RVRS. They may also visit the Vital Records Offices in the towns or cities where the births of their interests occurred. Requesters may contact the RVRS at (617) 740-2600 or via email for further inquiries only regarding in-person birth record requests.
Requesting a Birth Record in Massachusetts by Mail
A mail application for a birth record in Massachusetts to the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (RVRS) must have enclosed in it the following:
- Completed Application For Vital Record form
- Requester's self-addressed stamped envelope
- Proof of payment
- A readable copy of acceptable photo ID
The application should be forwarded by mail to the office of the RVRS or the Vital Records Offices in the cities or towns where requesters' births of interests took place.
Where Can I Find Birth Records in Massachusetts?
The Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (RVRS) manages the vital records system and makes records, including birth records available, upon request. It issues birth records of events that occurred in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 1926 to date.
- Requesters should submit their completed applications for Massachusetts birth records in person to:
Registry of Vital Records and Statistics
150 Mount Vernon St.
Dorchester, MA 02125
The Registry is situated in the Bayside Office Center. The building is next to the Bayside Centre and adjacent Double Tree Hotel. Requesters should submit their applications at the counter of the RVRS, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:45 a.m. and 4:25 p.m.
- For mail applications for birth records in Massachusetts, requesters should send their requests to:
Registry of Vital Records and Statistics
150 Mount Vernon St.
Dorchester, MA 02125-3105
Requesting Massachusetts Birth Records From the Archives
Massachusetts birth events recorded before 1926 are not available at the RVRS but kept at the State Archives. Digital copies of Massachusetts birth records from 1841 to 1920 are accessible through the Digital Records at the Massachusetts Archives. Those recorded between 1921 and 1925 are currently not available in digital forms.
Interested individuals may request certified copies of birth records in Massachusetts registered between 1841 and 1925 in person, by mail, and via email. Such persons should complete the Application for Certified Vital Records form, 1841 - 1925, and submit or forward their request at/to:
220 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125
How to Get Birth Records From a Hospital in Massachusetts
Hospitals do not keep Massachusetts birth records even though most births occur there. The Department of Public Health, Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (RVRS) is the official repository for birth records in the Commonwealth.
Can Anyone Get a Copy of a Birth Certificate in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts birth records are available to the public, but restrictions are placed on some of these records. The Massachusetts General Law allows certain persons to get copies of restricted birth certificates. These are persons listed on such birth records, and they can get certified copies. Generally, restricted birth certificates are those of persons born to unwed parents (out of wedlock).
Access to the birth certificate of a person born to unwed parents in Massachusetts is limited to the following individuals:
- The child named on the certificate (Registrant)
- Registrant's parents
- Registrant's legal guardian, with documents supporting guardianship
- Father not listed on the registrant's birth record (documentation supporting paternity is required)
- Legal representative, with a document to prove such representation
In Massachusetts, access to a birth record that existed before an adoption is also restricted to specific individuals. These include:
- Adoptee born in Massachusetts on or before July 17, 1974
- A child (18 years or older) of a deceased adoptee parent born in Massachusetts on or before July 17, 1974
- The adoptive parent of a minor child born in Massachusetts on or after January 1, 2008
- The legal guardian or parent of a minor child whose deceased parent was an adoptee born in Massachusetts on or before July 14, 1974
While applying for a copy of a birth certificate in Massachusetts, an eligible requester must provide the registrant's name, place of birth, and date of birth. They must also provide proof of identification. Any requester other than the registrant or a parent named on the certificate must provide proof of relationship with the registrant.
How Much Does a Birth Certificate Cost in Massachusetts?
The cost of obtaining a certified copy of a birth certificate in Massachusetts by standard mail is $32 per copy. A person who chooses to get it in person will pay $20 for each copy of a certificate requested. An expedited mail request costs $42 per copy. Permitted payment modes include checks, money order, and cash (for in-person request only). Certified copies of birth certificates from 1841 to 1925 cost $3 per copy. Requesters should make checks and money orders payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Fees for birth records requested at the county Vital Records Offices are paid by means provided by such offices.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Birth Certificate in Massachusetts?
Most in-person requests for birth certificates in Massachusetts are processed immediately and fulfilled the same day. Standard mail applications are processed and shipped within 15 to 20 working days from the day of receipt of requests by the Vital Record Office. Requesters must make sure to provide all required documentation, complete and accurate information, and proof of payment to prevent an extended waiting period in processing their applications.
How to Get a New Birth Certificate in Massachusetts
State residents who want to get a new certified copy of their birth certificate in Massachusetts can do so by submitting a vital record request to the state Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (RVRS). The registry accepts requests by mail or in person at their physical location. For mail-in requests, records seekers can send a completed vital records mail order form and the required fees to the RVRS. Depending on the record type, requesters may need to submit other supporting documents. Record seekers can opt to order their new certified copy of their birth certificate in person at the registry’s counter from Monday to Friday, 8:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.
Record seekers can also request a new certified copy of their birth certificate locally through the clerk's office of their birth city or town. Although most town and city clerk accepts birth certificate request strictly via mail and in-person, others also offer online portals through their city’s or town’s official websites records seekers can use to place an online order for their birth certificate. For instance, the city of Cambridge clerk office. For expedited service, requesters are advised to submit their requests in person. This advice generally applies Regardless of whether a requester chooses to obtain a certified copy of their birth certificate through the RVRS or their birth town or city clerk’s office.
Lastly, record seekers can also get a certified copy of their birth certificate through third party online vendors that offer public record search services. Third party online vendors are good alternatives to government agencies for getting a new birth certificate. However, requesters should note that birth certificates availability and accuracy typically vary by service providers.
How to Expunge Your Birth Records in Massachusetts
Expungement of birth records refers to permanently destroying the records. When a birth record is expunged, nobody knows that it ever existed in the first place. Such a birth record is no longer accessible by anyone, the court, federal, state, or county agencies. Currently, birth records are not in the list of documents privileged for expungement in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
How to Seal Your Birth Records in Massachusetts
In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, all adoptee's original birth certificates were first sealed in 1974. The current Massachusetts law seals records for adult adoptees born between July 14, 1974, and January 1, 2008. Sealing a birth record does not permanently destroy it but merely makes such a record unavailable to the members of the public. It is a legal process that comes to the fore after an adoption has been finalized. A birth certificate is issued for every recorded birth. Such a document is called an original birth certificate in an adoption process. After an adoption, an amended birth certificate is prepared and issued to bear the adoptee's vital information and the names of the adoptive parents. Afterward, the court seals the original certificate and becomes restricted from public access.
Furthermore, Massachusetts adoption records (court’s adoption paperwork) are not public. These records are only made public pursuant to a court order issued by a judge. Even the adopted person named on such records is not allowed access to their Massachusetts adoption records about their biological parents without a court order. Hence, there is no need to file a court petition to seal adoption records in Massachusetts.
There are many reasons for sealing birth records after an adoption. People generally believe that getting pregnant out of wedlock usually invites scorn. Sealing birth records of a child born from such pregnancy protects the child from the stigma of illegitimacy. Sealing adoption records also protect birth parents' privacy. The sealing procedure in an adoption process in Massachusetts is as listed below:
- The adoption report generated by the court is sent to the Department of Public Health, Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (RVRS)
- The RVRS reviews the adoption report and prepares an amended certificate bearing the names of adoptive parents
- The RVRS seals the adoptee's original birth certificate and every information in the adoption report
How to Unseal Your Birth Records in Massachusetts
It is common for an original birth certificate to be amended and sealed following adoption. In Massachusetts, an eligible person can access the information in such a document by obtaining an order from the Probate Court and serving it on the State Registrar. Typically, the Registrar will make the information kept in an original record available upon receipt of a court order. In an adoption, birth parents may have written consent to provide information about their identities to the adoptee. Such permission may be considered sufficient evidence to grant an order for the release of information in an adoptee's original birth certificate.
The non-identifying information in a Massachusetts sealed birth record may be accessed by the adoptee, who must be aged 18 or older. It may also be provided to the adoptee's birth and adoptive parents. Similarly, identifying information may be issued to both adoptive and biological parents of an adoptee. However, an adoptee must be at least 21 years of age or older to access a sealed Massachusetts birth record.
To obtain non-identifying information in a sealed birth record, the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (RVRS) will do the following:
- Release to the adoptee who is age 18 or older, upon their written request, information on their birth parents that does not identify the birth parents or their present or previous addresses
- Make available to an adoptee's birth parent, upon the birth parent's written request, information about the adoptee that does not reveal the adoptee's identity after adoption or their address
- Provide to an adoptive parent, if the adoptee is under age 18, upon the adoptive parent's written request, information about the adoptee and their birth parents that do not identify the birth parents or their previous or current addresses
If an adoptee is under age 21, the RVRS will do the following if it has received written permission from the birth parent, adoptive parent, and the adoptee to release identifying information:
- Provide the identity of a birth parent to the adoptee
- Release adoptee's identity after adoption to birth parents
The second page of the Application For a Non-Certified Record of Birth Prior To Adoption form provides further information on how to obtain birth records before adoption in Massachusetts.
Who Signs Birth and Death Certificates in Massachusetts?
Per Massachusetts general law chapter 46 §3A, birth certificates may be signed by the physician, certified nurse midwife, or medical officer in charge of such birth in the hospital. The hospital administrator overseeing birth registration may also sign birth certificates. Regardless of whether the birth occurred en route to or at the hospital, either of the aforementioned qualified personnel can sign the infant birth certificate.
Meanwhile, according to Massachusetts general law chapter 46 §9, the physician that last attendant to the decedent, the physician that declares the decedent's death, the medical examiner, and a hospital’s medical officer may sign death certificates.