Essex County is the farthest north in Massachusetts, and it was officially established as a county in 1643. That's the year that many local Essex County public records will begin but the state as a whole didn't make such registrations a requirement until 1841. Until then, the recording of births, deaths and marriages was fairly wide-spread but not completely consistent.
In Massachusetts, there are no restrictions on vital records which means you can make a request to get a copy of any records you wish provided that you pay the search fee and fill out the proper request forms. Knowing where to make your order is also helpful considering the length of time involved for Essex County public records.
Anything from 1643 until 1841 is only available through the county clerk's office in Salem. You may even have to contact the specific town office, but the staff at the Salem office should be able to help you out with that.
Between 1841 and 1921, all vital records are stored at the State Archive in Boston. You can go there in person to research these older records and they will do some look-ups for you if you can't be there in person (for a small fee). They have records for all of Massachusetts, not just Essex County public records.
Lastly, recent records after 1921 are available through the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics. They are in Dorchester and you can send your request by mail (one month delay) or visit in person at the service counter (while you wait).
Records at the Archives can be retrieved on your own but you will need to fill out the proper request forms from the Office of Health and Human Services website to make your requests from the clerk's office or the Vital Records department.
Essex County Birth Records
Essex County birth records are going to cost $28 if you place your application by mail, and $18 if you are able to make your request in person. The form will require the full name of the person on the record, their parent's names, the date of birth and location.
Essex County Death Records
To make a request for an Essex County death record, you will have to provide the decedent's full name, date of death and the location where they died. The fees for these records are the same as for birth records.
Essex County Marriage Records
Again, the cost for Essex County marriage records is either $28 or $18 depending on how you make your request. The forms require you to know the names of both parties, where they were married and the date.
Essex County Criminal Records
These records are not held at the county level, but rather can only be retrieved from the state. Requests for Essex County criminal records are sent to the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services in Chelsea. Their website has the proper forms and instructions on mailing in your application. You can get records of your own, and some others are also considered to be public domain depending on the crime and the length of time in their sentence. Unlike the records listed above, the fees for criminal background histories is $30 each.