Cambridge City Clerk, Donna Lopez, holding the City’s copy of the Declaration of  Independence, July 1776.

For the last session of our Beginner’s Genealogy Workshop Series, we met at Cambridge City Hall to tour the City Clerk’s records.  Cambridge City Clerk Donna Lopez opened the vaults to show us 171 years of birth, marriage, and death records.  We saw rows upon rows of neatly bound volumes marked with the year and stacked to the ceiling on shelves accessible by a library ladder.  In the temperature and humidity controlled vault, we saw boxes lined on shelves noted by year and type of vital record (i.e., birth, marriage, or death).  Lopez even dared to show us the bowels of the basement, where more records are kept in less optimal conditions.  It was a wonderful tour, showing the complexities of organizing, preserving, and storing vital records.

A highlight of the visit was Lopez’s recent discovery:  a copy of the Declaration of Independence.  It’s not the official version or even one of the 200 broadsides published at the time and distributed to the 13 colonies that were at war with the British.  The city’s copy of the Declaration of Independence is a transcription of either a broadside or an article that was published in a local newspaper.  The transcription was officially entered into the Selectmen of Cambridge record book for July 1776 with the following instructions:  copies of the Declaration of Independence are to be distributed to all the churches in Cambridge and read aloud to the congregants.

The first page of a copy of the Declaration of Independence recorded in the Cambridge Selectmen minutes, July 1775.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society is sponsoring a day-long workshop on Italian family heritage on Saturday May 20th at the Dante Alighieri Society of Massachusetts.   The keynote speaker is Mary Tedesco, co-host of Genealogy Roadshow.    NEHGS’ Jeanne Belmonte, who was a guest speaker at the CPL’s Beginner’s Genealogy Workshop last month, will be giving a talk on how to apply for dual American/Italian citizenship.  The description of the workshop, including the day’s schedule and cost is available at AmericanAncestors.org.

Beginner’s Genealogy Workshop Series
Join us for a 4-week, beginner’s genealogy workshop.  For an hour each week, we will demystify the overwhelming process of sorting through online records as well as give tips for how best to make use of research visits to local repositories.  We will help you find ancestors, organize your research, and start a family tree.  Come with a new question every week and leave with an answer and something tangible to bring home, such as a copy of a birth certificate. Attend all four classes and receive a certificate of completion.

Registration is mandatory and you must attend the first class as the workshop series is cumulative. Please note, we will be offering an evening workshop series in the fall.

To register, please call 617-349-7757 or e-mail apacy@cambridgema.gov.

Class Schedule
June 5
10:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Computer Classroom

Session 1: Introduction Resources
Discover what an archive is and what kinds of records will you find there.  Learn about vital records, military records, and immigration and naturalization records, and obituaries.  Learn how to use city directories, church and religious institution records, and cemetery records.

June 12
10:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Computer Classroom
Session 2:  Document Your Research
This session teaches you to think like a historian.  We will show you how to document your research and help you decide how to organize your physical files and online research.

June 19
10:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Computer Classroom
Session 3:  Online Resources

We will delve into Ancestry.com and offer tips to maximize your searches.  We will explore Family Search, Heritage Quest, and African American Heritage Quest, as well as genealogy portals.  Learn how to search online newspapers for free and get a Boston Public Library ecard to search their online genealogy resources.

June 26
10:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Computer Classroom
Session 4: Build Your Family Tree

We will go over a variety of options that are free and for sale, including web based family trees, software, printable forms, and custom-made family trees.   We will help you start your family tree.

For those interested, you can view the presentation from our Beginner’s Genealogy Workshop, Session 4:  Build Your Family Tree.  We will post presentations after each class.

Genealogy Workshop Series – No Registration Required
April 26
6:00 – 7:30 p.m.
William A. McEvoy, Jr., Local Historian “The Forgotten Irish of Mount Auburn Catholic Cemetery”
Location:  Community Room

William McEvoy has embarked on several ambitious research projects involving local cemeteries, such as Mount Auburn Cemetery and the cemetery at Rainsford Island in Boston Harbor.  His most recent project, documenting those buried at the Catholic Mount Auburn Cemetery in East Watertown, was the result of a four-year, 7,000+ hour, in-depth study of the 23,000+ people buried there, the vast majority of whom were Irish fleeing the Great Famine of the 1840s.  McEvoy will present his findings, including a complete statistical analysis of those buried at the cemetery. No Registration required.

Maps and drawings of the Inner Belt Expressway that was planned for Cambridgeport in 1964 in the Cambridge City Documents Collection.

We are pleased to announce that the Cambridge City Documents, 1910-2012 are now available for research.

Collection Overview

This collection contains reports and other documents pertaining to various aspects of Cambridge government and life, mostly prepared by or for various City of Cambridge departments and agencies. Some documents pertain to Cambridge but were not prepared by or for by a city department or agency. Some documents pertain to Boston or Massachusetts more broadly.

Bodybuilders, 1984, from the No Easy Roses series, Olive Pierce Photographs (045), copyright Olive Pierce

Documentary photographer and political activist Olive Pierce spent the better half of the 1970s and 1980s photographing Cambridge.  Her first project in the early 1970s was to document the turbulent Cambridge City Council meetings that polarized the community around issues like rent control and police brutality, in particular 17 year-old Larry Largey who died in police custody.  Later in the decade, Pierce photographed the children of Jefferson Park, a housing project in North Cambridge, capturing their daily lives.

Pierce founded the photography program at Cambridge Rindge and Latin, and in 1986 published No Easy Roses: A Look at the Lives of City Teenagers, featuring photographs she took of students during her tenure.

Moving beyond Cambridge, Pierce photographed a rural Maine fishing village in the 1990s and Iraqi children during the interwar years.

The 78 photographs that Pierce donated to the Cambridge Room in 2014 are now available to view online.  The description of Pierce’s collection, along with her biography, is available here.