Get access to historic divorce records

Find out which types of historic divorce records are available through the court archives and how to access them.

Judicial Archivist for the Supreme Judicial Court Archives

The Details of Get access to historic divorce records

What you need for Get access to historic divorce records

Divorces took place in different courts throughout the years, which means that where the records you're looking for will be available depends on the year of the divorce.

  • 1629-1692: In the colonial period, divorce petitions could be filed in a variety of courts, including the Court of Assistants, the General Court, and the county courts. Records of the General Court and the Court of Assistants have been published. Original records are located in the Suffolk Files, the Massachusetts Archives Collection, and the records of the county courts.
  • 1692-1775: During the provincial period, primary jurisdiction for divorces was with the Governor and Council, although 6 petitions dating 1755-1757 were heard by the General Court. Again, the original records will be found in the Massachusetts Archives Collection, the Suffolk Files, Council records, and county courts.
  • 1775-1782: The Council had jurisdiction. Divorce records are located in the Massachusetts Archives Collection and the Council records.
  • 1782-1886: In 1782, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) was given jurisdiction over divorce cases. Records dating 1782-1796 are located in the Suffolk Files collection and recorded in the SJC record books. After 1796, summary information regarding divorces is included in the SJC record books, which are indexed and arranged by county. Case papers are also generally available.
  • 1887-1922: Jurisdiction over divorce cases changed in 1887, when the Superior Courts were authorized to handle divorces. Records from this period are indexed in separate divorce docket books for the Superior Courts in the various counties.
  • 1922-present: In 1922, the county Probate & Family Courts were granted jurisdiction along with the Superior Courts, but since that date, most divorces have been heard in county Probate & Family Courts. Some Superior Courts gradually stopped and/or moved their current divorce records to the Probate & Family Court, while other counties continued hearing divorces in either court up until the 1970s. Records since 1922 are maintained in the counties. An index for cases since 1952 is available at the Department of Public Health, Registry of Vital Records and Statistics. Researchers may contact the Registry of Vital Records at (617) 740-2600, or through the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics online. Please note that the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics doesn't have the actual divorce records. They can only provide you with the court that the divorce was granted in and the docket number.

How to get Get access to historic divorce records

  • Records from 1629-1886: The best way to access divorce records is to call the Judicial Archivist, Elizabeth Bouvier, at (617) 557-1082. 
  • Records from 1887-1922: Many counties have transferred their Superior Court and Probate & Family Court divorce records off-site. If you're a researcher or you need proof of divorce for Social Security, contact the Judicial Archivist, Elizabeth Bouvier, at (617) 557-1082 if you're not sure where the records are.
  • Records from 1629-1886:The best way to access divorce records is to fill out and submit the Court Archives Information Request Form.
  • Records from 1887-1922: Many counties have transferred their Superior Court and Probate & Family Court divorce records off-site. If you're a researcher or you need proof of divorce for Social Security, fill out and submit the Court Archives Information Request Form if you're not sure where the records are.

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