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Posts Tagged ‘Cambridge City Clerk’


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.

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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 to 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.”

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