Massachusetts Court Records
Massachusetts Marriage Records
Massachusetts marriage records are official documents that attest to legal unions filed within the state. They typically contain the full names of the bride and groom, their gender, race, date of birth, ages, date of marriage, birthplace of the couple, address of the couple, their occupation, and names of witnesses. Furthermore, Massachusetts marriage records also hold information on the couple's occupation, the location of the marriage, the officiating minister's name, the marriage certificate number, the parent's full name and age, and the county of marriage. Massachusetts marriage records contain details of the number of times married, divorced, or widowed on a Massachusetts marriage record.
Note: The Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (RVRS) in Massachusetts holds and issues certified copies of marriage records from 1930 to the present. In addition, Massachusetts marriage records dating from 1931 to date are available at the offices of city and town clerks across the state. Marriage records dating between 1841 - 1930 are available at the State Archives.
What Types of Marriage Records are available in Massachusetts
There are two types of marriage records available to Massachusetts residents. They are:
- Marriage certificates
- Marriage licenses
Massachusetts marriage certificates are documents issued by the state after a wedding, certifying that the couple is lawfully married. Marriage certificates are prima facie evidence of the legal union of a couple. After the legal joining of the couple, the official must sign and complete the marriage license and return it to the city or county clerk where the couple obtained it. Massachusetts marriage certificates have no expiration date. However, marriage certificates become invalidated if the couple annuls the marriage or gets a divorce.
Massachusetts marriage licenses are official documents that permit a couple to get married. Marriage records allow two people to be joined in matrimony. It is issued by an official government agency, usually at the office of the city or county clerk. In Massachusetts, residents can obtain marriage licenses from any city or town in the state, as the state does not restrict obtaining marriage licenses to where the couple resides.
State law requires couples to obtain a marriage license before their wedding ceremony, as marriages conducted without obtaining a license are not binding. In Massachusetts, the city or county clerk will not issue marriage licenses, also referred to as notice of intention of marriage, to persons under the age of 18 years. There is a 3-day waiting period after applying for the marriage license. Massachusetts marriage license becomes invalid if the couple does not get married within 60 days. Per Section 24 of Massachusetts General Laws, persons under 18 cannot obtain marriage licenses. After the wedding ceremony, the officiant must sign and return the marriage license to the city or town clerk where the couple got the license.
Are Massachusetts Marriage Records Public?
Most Massachusetts marriage records are public records and available to the public. Per Massachusetts Public Records Law, codified in Section 10 of the Massachusetts General Laws, each person has the right to access public information, including the right to inspect, copy, or obtain copies of the records. However, some Massachusetts laws restrict some marriage records from public view. Marriage records restricted from the public occur when one partner birthed by unmarried parents has their original birth certificate restricted due to their unwed status. Also referred to as impounded marriage records, they are not open to the public. Massachusetts law restricts access to marriage records of persons born to unwed parents to:
- Individuals named on the marriage record
- The parents listed on the marriage records
- The legal representatives or guardians of the couple
Although most marriage records are open to the public, the record custodian can exempt certain information on the marriage records from public view to protect the safety of the privacy of the individuals on the record. The City or town Clerk may withhold the home addresses, Social Security Numbers, and other sensitive information from the public.
How to Find Marriage Records in Massachusetts
The RVRS provides certified copies of Massachusetts marriage records from 1931 to date. Earlier marriage records between 1841 and 1930 are available from the State Archives. In addition, persons interested in obtaining marriage records may also visit the office of the city or town clerks where the marriage was held in Massachusetts. Most city or town clerks have marriage records dating as early as 1635.
Massachusetts residents may order marriage records by mail, online, by phone, or in person. Online and phone requests for marriage records are available through third-party vendors offering public record searches. The RVRS processes mail order requests for marriage records within 30 business days of receiving the request.
It costs $32 per copy to order Massachusetts marriage records. The RVRS offers expedited mail requests for marriage records for a fee of $42 per copy. Expedited mail requests are processed and shipped within ten business days of receipt of the request. To obtain marriage records by mail, interested persons must fill out the Application for Vital Record Form and pay the fees with a check or money order. Send the completed application and fees to:
Registry of Vital Records and Statistics
Mt. Vernon Street
Dorchester, MA 02125
In-person requests from Massachusetts marriage records are available Mondays through Fridays from 8:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. at the RVRS office. Requesters may also pay the fees using checks or money orders.
The Office of City or Town Clerks in Massachusetts also maintains the records of marriages conducted in the state. Interested persons may obtain certified copies of marriage records for a fee upon in-person or mail requests. The fees and processing times vary per city or town. The only acceptable form of payment for all Offices of City or Town Clerks in Massachusetts are checks or money orders. Requesters can use the Cities and Towns Directory to mail their requests or visit the office in person to obtain Massachusetts marriage records.
How to Get a Marriage License in Massachusetts
Marriage licenses and marriage certificates are two completely separate legal documents. A marriage license is a legal document couples apply for before getting married, which permits them to get married. Marriage certificates, on the other hand, are the official record by the state, attesting to the formation of a marriage union.
Persons intending to get married in Massachusetts must fulfill the state’s legal requirement for obtaining marriage licenses. Massachusetts General Law Chapter 207 provides the legal framework for getting marriage licenses in the state. Per the law, residents and non-residents may get married in the state provided they are 18 and older and have obtained marriage licenses from any city or county in the state. In addition, the state requires the couple to provide necessary documentation and comply with any legal obligations before the wedding, including:
- Both parties must come together in person to the office of the county or city clerk to obtain the marriage license.
- The couple must fill out the Notice of Intention of Marriage Form
- The bride and groom must provide the county or city clerk with information such as proof of age - birth certificate or passport, Social Security Number, and the intended name to use on the marriage certificate
- The couple must pay the necessary fees
There is a 3-day waiting period before couples can pick up the marriage license. Massachusetts allows couples to waive the waiting period if they fill out the Marriage without Delay Form. Marriage licenses issued in Massachusetts are valid for 60 days after issue.
Who can obtain Marriage Records in Massachusetts?
The majority of Massachusetts marriage records are public records accessible by the public. Interested persons may access these records at the City or County Clerk's Office or at the RVRS. Persons eligible to request Massachusetts marriage records include:
- The couple named on the marriage record
- The couple's birth parents named on the marriage record
- Persons conducting genealogical research
- Family members, including children, siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren of the couple
- Legal guardian or legal representative of the couple
Can You Lookup Online Marriage Records For Free in Massachusetts
Yes, interested persons can look up online marriage records for free in Massachusetts. However, even though Massachusetts has one of the most complete and preserved collections of marriage records dating back to 1841, there is no central online repository to access these records for free. Some cities provide these records online. For example, Worcester and Boston, two of the larger cities in the state, have searchable marriage indexes online on their website. Also, digital copies of marriage records are available from the State Archive website. In addition, third-party websites also provide Massachusetts marriage indices from 1901 to 1955 and 1966 to 1970 for free.
Some third-party sites provide options to order through their website, and records are not available online. These services allow interested parties to access records that may be difficult to access easily.
Is Massachusetts a Common Law State for Marriage?
No, Massachusetts is not a common-law state for marriage. Massachusetts couples who desire marital rights and responsibilities after living together for some time without participating in a lawful ceremony cannot do so in Massachusetts. While couples can opt to live together, and it is not illegal to do so, they will not have the same rights as if they were married. However, under the full faith and credit clause of the United States Constitution, Massachusetts is required to recognize common law marriages started in states where such unions are acceptable.
While Massuchets does not recognize common law marriages, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recognizes cohabitation agreements, which are written contracts between couples living together. Cohabitation agreements govern the affairs of couples living together on financial and other matters at the death of a partner or when the relationship ends. Massachusetts laws also provide domestic partnership ordinance laws, which allow local governments such as cities or towns to legislate statutes for couples. The statutes allow couples to register at the office of their local clerk and obtain a certificate that affirms their status and allows them to share some rights as conferred by the local bylaws. Couples must meet specified criteria to register as domestic partners.