Cambridge City Council Hearing at Rindge Tech auditorium on the death of Larry Largey, young people from the Roosevelt Towers area, October 1972, copyright Olive Pierce.

Thank you to Scout Cambridge for their recent article, From Rent Control to Riot Squads: The Photographs of Olive Pierce, profiling the amazing work of documentary photographer Olive Pierce as well as the work we do in the Cambridge Room.

Corner of Thingvalla Ave. and Ericsson St. in Cambridge, Mass.  Photograph courtesy of Lexplorers (March 10, 2017).

Have you ever wondered if the tale about Leif Ericsson discovering Cambridge is true?  Did the Norsemen really sail up the Charles River?  Well, technically, the answer is no to both questions.  But, there’s a fascinating story about why we might think they did and why there are three streets in Cambridge named after the Norse:  Thingvalla Ave., Ericsson St., and Norumbega St.

Our friends at Lexplorers.com wrote a great article all about Eben Norton Horsford, the Harvard Professor of Application of Science to the Useful Arts and inventor of Rumford baking powder, and his theory that the Norse Vinland Sagas actually took place in Cambridge.  Head over to Lexplorers.com and brush up on some obscure and interesting Cambridge history.


Beginner’s Genealogy Workshop Series
Join us for a 6-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, discover your family history, and organize your research.  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.  The workshop includes two guest speakers with expertise in genealogy and local history and a field trip to the Cambridge City Clerk’s office to tour the vaults and experience in-person vital records research.  Attend all six classes and receive a certificate of completion.  All classes take place at the main library at 449 Broadway in the computer classroom unless otherwise noted.

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

Class Schedule
April 5
3:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Session 1: Introduction Resources
Discover what an archive is and what kinds of records will you find there. Find out about vital records and where can they be found.  Learn how to use city directories.  Locate military and immigration records and obituaries.

April 12
3:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Session 2:  Document Your Research
This session focuses on the importance of documenting research, keeping physical copies of records, making sure copies of newspaper articles and obituaries include the masthead, and knowing what can be thrown away.

April 19
3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Session 3:  Online Resources
We will delve into ancestry.com and help guide your searches.  We will also explore other databases, such as Family Search and My Heritage, and discover less well-known online resources, such as the Ellis Island Foundation and the Zimmer Newspaper Index.  Learn how to search online newspapers for free and get a Boston Public Library e-card to search their online genealogy resources.

April 26
3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Session 4 (Part 1): Build Your Family Tree

We will go over a variety of online and printed options and help you begin to develop your family tree.

6:00 – 7:30 p.m.
Session 4 (Part 2):  Guest Speaker
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.

May 3
3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Session 5: Guest Speaker
Jeanne Scaduto Belmonte, Genealogist, New England Historic Genealogical Society
“Getting Started in Genealogy”
Genealogy is one of the most valuable pursuits you can participate in—learning about who you are, where you come from, and “meeting” the thousands of people who came before you, can be a rewarding and even life-changing experience. But, how do you get started? You may have inherited family papers or research from a relative, have dabbled on a number of websites, or started your research and have already found a few records of interest. What’s next? There are plenty of websites, libraries, and printed sources out there, but access to all that information can leave a beginner feeling overwhelmed.

In this course you’ll learn how to navigate the first steps in tracing your family history and gain basic strategies for researching and recording data. Even if you’ve already been doing research for a few years, I’m sure you’ll learn a new tip or two!

Jeanne assists NEHGS library visitors, both on-site and online, with their family history research. Prior to joining the staff, she served as a volunteer in the library and also contributed to an NEHGS book publication project. Jeanne is an expert in Italian genealogy and is also interested in studying British, Canadian, German, Irish, and medieval genealogy.

May 10
3:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Session 6:  Field Trip
– Cambridge City Clerk’s Office
Meet at the Cambridge City Clerk’s Office on the first floor of Cambridge City Hall (795 Massachusetts Avenue) to learn more about the process of requesting city and town records.  City Clerk Donna Lopez will show examples of birth, marriage, and death certificates as well as historic city documents and Cambridge “treasures.”



A flier for the Primer Foro Latino festival, which can be found in the Cambridge Hispanic Commission Records. 

We are pleased to announce that the Cambridge Hispanic Commission Records, circa 1993 – circa 1995 are now available for research.

The Cambridge Hispanic Commission was a grass-roots, non-profit organization that was committed to serving as a voice for the concerns of the Hispanic community of the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The CHC also advised, provided input, and promoted and assured their participation in all levels of governance and city and school affairs. The CHC promoted, facilitated, and advocated for the development and empowerment of members of the Hispanic community. They also advised Cambridge officials on improving communication between the city and its Hispanic population on issues such as education, fair employment practices, housing, and health care access.

Collection Overview
This collection contains records that cover the Cambridge Hispanic Commission’s commissioners, agendas and memos, meeting minutes, activities, sign-up sheets, committees, information and jobs, media and out-going correspondance. There are also records on by-laws, Cambridge Public Schools, the Immunization Action Project, the Festival “Amaru Alcarza,” and Foro Latino. The collection also contains newspaper articles that relate to the activities of the Cambridge Hispanic Commission. Parts of the collection have been marked as closed due to containing sensitive personal information preventing them from viewed by the public.

Signs at Cambridge City Hall during the Unity Rally on 6 February 2017. Courtesy of the
Cambridge Chronicle.

Did you go to the Unity Rally at Cambridge City Hall on February 6th?  Did you go to the “Not My President” vigil this weekend?  If so, we want your signs.  The Cambridge Room is actively signs and other protest ephemera related specifically to Cambridge protests.  For more information about how you can donate signs please contact us here.  Help us build our collection!

75th Anniversary Banquet Dinner of the Economy Club of Cambridge, 24 November 1947.

We are pleased to announce that the Economy Club of Cambridge Records, 1872-1988 are now available for research.

The Economy Club of Cambridge was a social, debating, and diner club founded in 1872. Its membership was long restricted to men who lived in Cambridge and its original purpose as a “non-sectarian and non-political” group was the study and discussion of economic, social, political, and historical questions.

On November 6, 1872, Clarence H. Blake, William Pearson, Clair Whittemore, and George Whittemore formed a secret society called the Four Socials for the purpose of “social intercourse and also to improve in Literature.” Four Socials was limited to the four originating members who met in each other’s homes. The following year, two additional members were invited to join and the name of the secret society was changed to the Mutual League of Friendship. The fortnight dinner meetings were dedicated to reciting literature, singing, and listening to music. In the fall of 1876, the club held its first “Ladies’ Night”, and in 1878, the club adopted the motto, “Commune Bonum,” meaning the common good.

The club remained a secret society until 1879, when the Mutual League of Friendship became a debating society and meetings took place in halls like the Prospect House or the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) Hall rather than in member’s homes.

In 1885, the society adopted a new name, the Economy Club of Cambridge. The 75th Anniversary Program of the Economy Club of Cambridge (1947) defines the meaning of the club’s new name as: “the word ’economy’ being understood as it is used today in schools which teach Economics.”

Debating became the foundation for the meetings and topics ranged from the local (such as the abolition of Cambridge’s Common Council) to the international (such as the Panama Canal). The club held joint debates with similar, local societies such as the Cambridge Prohibition Club, the Young Men’s Republican Club of Somerville, and the Harvard Democratic Club. Guest speakers delivered lectures and scientists gave demonstrations. In 1911, the Economy Club of Cambridge openly supported the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) move from Boston to Cambridge.

Membership has included state and city officials, judges, academics, business people, and professionals. By 2009, the once large membership (over 100) membership had dwindled dramatically to 15 active members. The club continued to meet six times each year at the MIT Faculty Club for drinks, dinner, and the presentation of a guest speaker.

Collection Overview
The collection contains records of the Economy Club of Cambridge including the organization’s founding documents and subsequent amendments; business records and ledgers; bank checks, bank statements, and check registers; membership applications; meeting programs (that include dinner menus), including anniversary events; book of resolutions (labeled “roll book”); correspondence; minute books; two scrapbooks; and three photographs. It also includes two record books kept when the club went by the name “Mutual League of Friendship.”

Copyright, Jeffrey Dunn.

We’re excited to give you a preview of our newest acquisition, photographs by longtime Cambridge photographer Jeffrey Dunn.  Once the collection has been made available online, we will let you know.