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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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