The Massachusetts Vital Records Project, at present, has two indices: Town & Surname. A third, Family, should be available by the end of 2010. The indices are found by links on the project's home page.
- The town index provides links to most towns and is grouped by county.
- Towns that are fully transcribed and have all images online are bolded links with a green star in front of them.
- Towns that are in the process of being transcribed and/or having their images put online are bolded links with a blue star in front of them. Most towns in this group have their images online with links.
- A yellow star indicates that the images can not be put online but can be requested.
- A black star indicates that the town has no published records and that copies of the original records have not yet been obtained by the project. Where the town name is an unbolded link, a further description of the town will be found by clicking the link.
- No star indicates that the town will eventually have something but is on the waiting list while other towns are completed.
- The surname index provides links to groups of surnames, arranged alphabetically. At this time the researcher must still think of all alternate spellings and check those. The surname index will be redone in the future to remove the need for thinking of alternates. This will also, eventually, index the given names.
- Each surname has separate links for births, marriages and deaths and is broken down by town within county.
Chronlogically sorted records
All names within a surname are sorted on date. Hopefully, this will make searching through the larger surnames a bit easier. There is a small graphic, , that provides a link to the image of the page where that record is found. All towns will eventually be done this way making a very consistent look.
Over the years there have been updates made to the formatting of the transcriptions. Some of these updates did not get applied across all towns. Consequently, there are basically four different formats. A complete revision of the formatting will be undertaken during 2010 and all towns will be updated.
- The first two formats are essentially the same. The difference is that the links to images are on opposite sides and there won't be a "Back" button where the links are on the left side. There should be very few of those with links on the left. Both formats work the same way. There are no navigation tools on the page.
- Each town's home page has a brief history and description, where it has been provided, and an alphabetic index to the transcriptions.
- The page numbers, whether on the left or right, are links to the images from the published vital records. While every effort has been made to ensure accurate transcriptions, errors do get through. It is your responsibility as the researcher to copy the images for your documentation. The title pages are also available. On older formats, the links will be found on the town's index page. On the majority of towns, the Vol. number is the link to the title page. Again, it is your responsibility to copy these for your documentation.
- The third format comes from those towns whose records were not published in the more common alphabetic format. These towns are distinctive in that each record has a link to the page where the transcription came from.
- The fourth format is the one that all towns in the first two formats will be reformatted. This format takes advantage of more display capability by browsers. Where possible, testing has been done using the following browsers: IE7, Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari and Opera. (I tried IE8 and didn't like it, so I went back to 7. There are minor differences in how 7 & 8 display things.)
- The most notable change is the navigation bar at the top of all pages except the Contact page. The town and surname index pages will get their navigation bars later. The navigation bar will be fixed in place even though the rest of the page is scrolled. This always makes the navigation bar immediately available to the researcher. The top links are to the project Home page, How To Use (this page), the Towns index, the Surnames index and the Contact page.
- The second row changes depending on the page. There may or may not be links.
- The second row of links in the navigation bar on transcription pages cycle through the births, marriages and deaths.
- Births - The left link will always go back to the town's index. The right link will go to the marriages whose surnames begin with the same initial. If there are none, then the deaths. If no death's surnames begin with the same initial, the link will go to the town's index.
- Marriages - The left link will go to the births whose surnames begin with the same initial or to the town's index. The right link goes either to the deaths or the town's index.
- Deaths - The right link will always go to the town's index. The left link works like the birth's right link except that the order is: marriages, births and town's index.
- The three links, Vol., Page and Abbrevs for each transcription page are:
- Vol. - This will display the image of the title page for that volume. Copy and save for documentation.
- Page - This will display the image of the page from which this transcription was done. See below for more on image display. Copy and save for documentation.
- Abbrevs - This will display a page, in a new window, that shows the meanings of the various abbreviations, i.e. CR1, PR1, etc.
The way that images are displayed is also getting an update. Previously, clicking the link simply displayed the image. Different browsers handle this differently. IE will load the page and then shrink it so that the entire image will display in the browser window. Clicking the image caused it to display full size. The new display will center the image and all will display at the same size. There are also three navigation buttons at the top and bottom: Previous, Back & Next. The Previous and Next links will display the next sequential page. The Back button uses your browser's history. So, if you start on page 9 and click Next, Next, Next, Previous, Next, you will see pages 10, 11, 12, 11, and 12. It will take six clicks of the Back button to return to page 9.