Monday, December 12, 2005

LowellDeeds Blog has moved

This should be the last post to the Blogger interface for the LowellDeeds Blog. We've completed our transition to a new blog interface that's an integral part of our website. All prior postings from here have been successfully imported into the new blog although we are still fine-tuning its appearance and functionality. If you have this blog bookmarked or stored in your "favorites," please change the link to which is our new home. Thanks to Blogger for the wonderful service it provides.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

New Blog Format

Thank you to our readers for your patience over the past few days. We've been transitioning to new software for our blog. The new format will provide many new features and will allow us to categorize our postings, so if you're interested in electronic recording, for example, you need only click on the "electronic recording" category and all postings pertinent to that topic will display regardless of when they were posted. There's still some fine tuning to be done, but it might be live as early as tomorrow. If not then, we'll unveil it early next week. If you'd like a peek at it, follow this link - - but remember, it's still under construction.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

1630-1855 Records

The Middlesex North Registry of Deeds opened its doors in July of 1855. Prior to that all records for our ten communities (Billerica, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Dracut, Dunstable, Lowell, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, Westford, Wilmington) were held in the Middlesex Registry of Deeds in Cambridge (we now call this registry Middlesex South). When Middlesex North opened, these records were copied by hand and sent to the new registry here in Lowell. These old “Middlesex South” records contain documents from 1630 to 1855. Recently we began to explore possible ways of digitizing these records and making them available both on the Internet and CDs. Their value to genealogists and historians particularly can’t be overstated. They are organized in an unconventional manner for registry records. The records consist of thirty-eight index books (Grantor & Grantee) and 244 “record books". The record books are organized and labeled according to “town”. So if you were looking for a deed from John Trull to John Kittredge on a parcel of land in Tewksbury you look in the main index for the title reference but would find the deed in a “Tewksbury Record Book”. Each town’s books start with “one” and the series usually contains about twenty books. Lowell is the exception; it has eighty books. We estimate that these records consist of approximately 150,000 images. We will keep you informed on developments regarding scanning these historical records.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Lowell Sun Reports on Foreclosures

The Lowell Sun ran a front page above-the-fold story today on rising foreclosure rates in the greater Lowell area, a topic we have frequently visited on our blog (full disclosure: I was interviewed for the story and am quoted in it) . While showing that the numbers are up significantly as compared to last year (Lowell’s foreclosures are up by 18%, Tewksbury’s by 22%, Dracut’s by 25% and Westford’s by 69%), the story also explained the dilemma facing many homeowners. Taking advantage of historically low interest rates and greatly relaxed lending practices, many folks have acquired homes by financing almost the entire purchase price. Others, who bought homes when prices were lower, have exploited the increased value of their homes by repeatedly refinancing, each time drawing out more and more cash. The problem with both of these situations is that heavily-leveraged homeowners have no equity cushion – they owe an amount that is almost equal to the value of the home. If they get laid off or suffer a medical setback or some similar bad event, they might be able to sell the house and receive enough money in return to pay back the amount owed on the mortgage. But what happens when the value of the property goes down? Unfortunately, the amount owed is not reduced proportionately, so the homeowner finds himself owing more than the house is worth. If he’s forced to sell, he must come up with additional money to pay of the balance of the mortgage. Realistically, most people don’t have this kind of money in savings. If they did, they wouldn’t have borrowed so much in the first place. Anyway, congratulations to the Sun for writing about this important issue.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Perfect Gift

“It’s the most wonderful time of the Year” or at least it is when your holiday shopping is done….I really don’t mind the gift giving…it’s the gift “picking” that I find tough…deciding on the right gift for the right person is difficult…my wife is easy…”expennnnnsive Jewelry” but everyone else is another story… I am hoping this year will be a little easier…I purchased a subscription to the techie magazine “Wired” and happily found this month's edition loaded with gift ideas…So I have made some decisions with help from Wired

For Bill & Deb- a “Pocket Phone Excuser”…Just press the button and this device plays a doorbell ring, a baby crying, a police siren or a number of other sounds that make it easy to tell an annoying caller…“Gotta go”.

For Rich & Chris- These two love sitting by a camp fire toasting Marsh Mallows… guess what Wired has for them?…an electronic Marsh Mallow toaster…This three pronged toaster rotates Marsh Mallows rotisserie style …it’s faster than a twig(healthier too) and there is much less chance of Marsh Mallows being lost to the fire (according to the manufacturer).

For Warren & Linda- It's called “Water Talkies”… It allows you to speak clearly underwater. No more of those irritating gurgling sounds. Swimmers can hear you as clear as a bell from as far as fifteen feet away.

For Liz & Eric-a Darth Vader Voice Changer…It allows you to take command using your own words or... you can press a button and hear some of the bad guys most memorable lines...”Luke, I am you stop arguing with me”.

Lena & Frank- The “Drivers Anti-Doze Alert”… This device rests on your head and senses shifts in the angle of your head. Nod too much and the darn thing screeches at you…"wake-up!" Thank you Wired...this is perfect for these two.

Henry (the family dog)…It’s a ball… no it’s a Frisbee… wait its both. Just toss it into the air and it will randomly change from a Frisbee to a ball…poor Henry, he’ll never know what he is trying to catch…It doesn't matter... he thinks he's a cat anyway.

And what do I want?… A Bluetooth Snowboard Jacket… yes, “Bluetooth enabled” snow clothes (just what everyone needs)... This waterproof jacket toogles seamlessly between an MP3 player and a cellphone… the phone's speakers are mounted in the hood and the microphone is embedded in the collar. Mounted on the sleeve is a “control panel” that even has Caller ID. This same controller shuffles through songs on your iPod, also . Cleaning?…don’t worry…Just pull out the control panel and drop it in the washing machine...the remaining intregrated wiring is water proof...sure... after washing...I think I'll have Henry try it on first.

Hope this helps your quest for the perfect gift for the right person...

Friday, December 02, 2005

Population of the Northern District

Yesterday, someone asked how many people lived in the Northern District of Middlesex County. I didn’t know, but I promised to find out. First, the Northern District is made up of ten communities with the city of Lowell in the geographic center of the district and the towns of Dracut, Tewksbury, Wilmington, Billerica, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Westford, Dunstable and Tyngsborough (named clockwise, starting at twelve o’clock). According to the 2004 census estimates (which are almost identical to the actual 2000 census results, 296,947 people live in the Northern District. Here are the 2004 population figures for each town along with the percentage of the Northern District’s population represented by that town’s residents:

-Billerica – 39351 inhabitants (13% of the district’s population)
-Carlisle – 4830 inhabitants (2%)
-Chelmsford – 33769 (11%)
-Dracut – 28681 (10%)
-Dunstable – 3101 (1%)
-Lowell – 103655 (35%)
-Tewksbury – 29130 (10%)
-Tyngsborough – 11387 (4%)
-Westford – 21475 (7%)
-Wilmington – 21568 (7%)

Besides these most recent figures, I have also located US Census statistics for 1990, 1980, 1970 and 1960. Next week I’ll write some more about how the population of these communities has changed during the past 45 years.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Whole World's Watching

In case you have missed it…the Eyes of the World are on Massachusetts…Well, at least the Technology eyes. Massachusetts recently became the first state to adopt a plan for government agencies to begin storing documents in a non-proprietary format. Currently, most state computers run Microsoft software (proprietary) as does most of the world…Free "open-source" software is available online to anyone from Sun Microsystems…and it is compatible with all other office programs. This "open-source" software is called OpenDocument and offers applications such as text, spreadsheets, charts and graphical documents. Open-source is in direct competition with propriety software. If Massachusetts follows through on its plan to go open-source it means removing Microsoft Office software from tens of thousands of government computers. Governor Romney’s plan is to embrace an open-source format for state government computers in 2007. How big would this be?…well let me say this…Google News displays articles about this topic from news sources as far away as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Australia and …of course Redmond, Washington (home of Microsoft). To steal a phase from the 1960’s “the whole world’s watching”…but, it appears Microsoft is up for the battle…the computer giant has decided to seek approval for Office 12 software to be rated as an international standard. Office 12 is Microsoft’s next generation of office software due out next year. It will use a different format and be readable by other “outside” programs… in other words it will function like an open-source, non-proprietary software. Massachusetts’ decision will have a huge impact on the computer world…but for now “the whole world’s watching” …and waiting.