We’ve recently had an upsurge in customer requests for assistance in conducting genealogical research. While we’re happy to help, our resources in that area are somewhat limited. The critical issue is whether the researchers ancestors owned real estate. Many Lowell residents through the years lived their lives not as property owners but as tenants and would not have left any imprint in our records. If an ancient relative was a property owner, however, we can certainly be of assistance.
Just this morning I assisted a researcher who knew that her great grandfather lived at a particular address in the 1880s but knew nothing of her great grandmother. After a few minutes of digging, we not only discovered the great grandmother’s name, we also learned that she was the sole owner of the property. As we traced the ownership history of the property through the years, it passed from generation to generation of the same family with enough sales to allow us to keep sight of the parcel. Inferences drawn from the simple language of these deeds painted a family portrait of marriages, deaths and relationships.
For those interested in genealogy or in any historical property research, obtaining an electronic copy of our pre-1976 indexes is essential. The entire index from 1976 to the present is already available in searchable form on our website and all document images and plans beginning with the very first one from 1629 are also on the website, but only by book and page number. The index for documents recorded between 1629 and 1976 is available in electronic form at the registry, but not on the internet. To remedy this virtual gap in our holdings, we provide customers with a free electronic copy of these older indexes. All you need is a 16GB flash drive (aka “thumb drive”) which can be purchased for about $30 from Walmart, Staples or a host of other stores. Bring that drive to the registry and 15 minutes later you have a complete copy of our index.
Another thing that would be helpful (but does not yet exist) would be something like a “lay person’s guide to current and past Massachusetts property law.” Those of us who deal with property law ever day know that it defies logic and easy explanation, so a booklet explaining the basic principles would be most helpful.