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You can always ask a librarian at the Reference Desk when you are in the library. The best times to visit are Tuesdays from 11 to 1 or Wednesdays from 4 to 6. Since there is not a staff member permanently assigned to the Local History Room, we may not be able to provide in-depth assistance at all times. Please consider contacting us in advance (617-972-6436 or email@example.com) to make an appointment or tell us more about how we can help.
The Local History Room is on the second floor of the library at 123 Main Street. It is open to the public during regular library hours, and accessible via elevator and ramp. Some of the rarest materials are stored in locked cabinets, but can be retrieved upon request.
Our collection consists of family histories, resident lists, photographs, maps, town records, a variety of Watertown histories (as well as histories of other towns in Massachusetts and New England), and much more. Print materials are cataloged and searchable in the online catalog.
The library has vital records on microfilm from 1630 through the 1980s. Other sources for vital records include the Watertown Town Clerk’s office (617-972-6486) and the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records & Statistics in Dorchester.
The library owns almost every copy of The Annual, Watertown’s high school yearbook, from 1925 to the present. Every yearbook we have has been digitized. See the Yearbooks page for a listing by year, or to browse by last name. We would love to complete our collection of yearbooks. If you own a copy of the 1928, 1929, 1960, or 1961 Annual, we would greatly appreciate a donation (or a loan long enough for us to scan a copy).
Rev. Edward A. Rand, president of the Historical Society of Watertown, collected newspaper articles, photographs, postcards, handwritten notes, letters and speeches, etc. concerning the history of Watertown Massachusetts and the surrounding area. Everything was pasted on paper in what came to be known as the Rand Scrapbook. Other highlights include sculptures and personal effects of artist Harriet Hosmer, some of the books that the library owned when it opened in 1868, and a selection of titles by local authors.
The best place to start is the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS), a database of historic properties and areas maintained by the Massachusetts Historical Commission. You can also view digitized photographs of houses from the library’s collection, or consult resident lists, town directories, maps, and valuation reports. Beyond the library, you might continue your research at Town Hall (ask about zoning records, building permits, and assessment records) or the Registry of Deeds for Southern Middlesex County.
The library offers free access to several online resources that normally charge a fee. You’ll find links to these resources, along with other helpful sources, on our genealogy page. When researching local ancestors, keep in mind that Watertown used to encompass areas that are now Weston, Waltham, Lincoln, Belmont, and Cambridge. It is possible that information you are seeking about former Watertown residents may be found through libraries and historical societies in those communities.
Yes, depending on content, format, and condition. Please see the library’s current Local History Collection Development Policy, and contact us (617-972-6431 x17160 or firstname.lastname@example.org) with questions.