Contact for Get access to historic name change records
Judicial Archivist for the Supreme Judicial Court Archives
The Details of Get access to historic name change records
What you need for Get access to historic name change records
Before 1852, name changes were administered by the General Court. Anyone interested in a legal name change submitted a petition to the legislature requesting the change. The petition and resulting legislation are held by the Massachusetts Archives. The Archives also have petitions that didn't get legislative approval.
Chapter 256, Acts of 1851, transferred jurisdiction over name changes to the county Probate & Family Courts. Annual returns of name changes were sent by the Probate & Family Courts to the state secretary's office until 1900. The returns were also published annually in the printed volumes of Acts and Resolves, 1852-1913. Name changes dating between 1780 and 1892, including both those enacted by the legislature and those decreed by the probate judges, were published in the volume List of Persons Whose Names Have Been Changed in Massachusetts. The book, which is thoroughly indexed, provides the:
- Original name
- New name
- Date of change
- Chapter number of the legislative statute or the location of the Probate & Family Court
It's important to note that the information above only applies to name changes that were authorized by the General Court or Probate & Family Courts. Many people changed their names informally and didn't record the change with the state government. Immigrants' names may have been anglicized or had the spelling altered slightly when they arrived in the United States, but these changes aren't usually documented. Name changes for naturalized citizens may be referenced in their naturalization records.
How to get Get access to historic name change records
The best way to access name change records is to contact the Judicial Archivist, Elizabeth Bouvier, at (617) 557-1082. If you're looking for your own name change record, please see Get a copy of your Probate & Family Court record.
The best way to access name change records is to fill out and submit the Court Archives Information Request Form. If you're looking for your own name change record, please see Get a copy of your Probate & Family Court record.