From The Boston Globe:
Locked away in town vaults and basements for years, the historical records date to 1620 and include the scribblings of town clerks from days of yore and the names of Clara Barton, Paul Revere, John Hancock, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.
The old public records are slated to go online Tuesday, and for the first time ever, people will be able to browse through millions of them and search for their ancestors by name and location – for a price. The records, totaling approximately 17 million, represent decades of work by a former Massachusetts couple who spent 30 years traveling from community to community, collecting old documents from city and town halls across the state.
“We knew exactly where to look,’’ said Jay Holbrook, 75, a retired researcher who began the project in 1982. “The clerks always have a basement. That’s where the good records are.’’
Holbrook and his wife, DeLene, recently sold their microfiche collection of vital records to Ancestry.com, a for-profit genealogical website based in Provo, Utah, for an undisclosed price. Ancestry.com representatives say the Holbrooks’ trove is the most complete collection of Massachusetts vital records known to exist.
Most of the records are, of course, already public and free, a point that Secretary of State William F. Galvin emphasized when told of the Ancestry.com sale. His spokesman said that vital records and other documents can be made available to anyone who asks for them at their local city hall or town hall. Vital records from 1841 through 1920 are also available at the Massachusetts Archives.
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