Saturday, January 22, 2011

3 Tips for a Successful Research Trip to the Cambridge Registry

I recently made another trip to the Middlesex South Registry of Deeds in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  This registry can be one of the more challenging to get to and to research in.  Here are a few tips to make your trip more successful.

1) If at all possible, take public transportation

Being located in a city, the Cambridge registry is more challenging to drive to.  If at all possible take public transportation.  The registry is a very short walk from the Lechmere MBTA subway station (Green Line).  Either park at one of the outer lying subway stops or take the commuter rail in and the switch to the subway.

If you do drive in (I admit I always drive), be prepared to circle like a hawk to find on-street parking.  The streets around the registry have parking meters, however, it is a very busy area and spots can be hard to find. If I can't find a spot close by I will park as far away as Charles Street and walk the 4 or 5 blocks.  Have lots of quarters handy.  It will take 8 quarters to park for two hours.  The down side of metered parking is that you have to interrupt your research every two hours to move your car or add more quarters.

There is a parking garage available nearby.  I don't know the cost (probably in the $10-$20 range) or the exact address (I believe it's on 2nd Street).  There is also the mall parking garage a bit further away on First Street. I prefer the game of feeding the meeting to paying loads of money.  

2) Don't Wear Your Finest

Most of the deeds books are located in the basement (aka the dungeon) of the courthouse.  There aren't any staff down there to impress or to help you, so you will be on your own to find what you need.  The shelves are tall and generally a mess.  The books are dusty, musty, large and some are falling apart.  It is best to wear comfortable, durable clothes that won't tear or otherwise get damaged by handling big books.  You will use a lot of exertion to get the books so if you have any physical limitations bring a "volunteer book shelver" along on your trip.

In the wintertime it feels like they keep the heat at a tropical 75F.  This poses a challenge if you are dressed for a blizzard.  If you park close enough, leave your heavy coat in the car and wear just a single layer of clothes with a light jacket.  If you park further away you'll have to measure your tolerance for the long cold walk versus the hot house temperatures of the courthouse and find a balance somehow.

3) Take Very Careful Notes

If you need to use the indexes in your research be sure to take very careful notes!  The indexes, both bound books and computerized indexes, are located on the 4th floor.  Most of the deed books are located on the first floor.  If you make a typo and write down the wrong book and page number, you will find that you have to make a lot of time consuming trips up and down the elevator.

The Middlesex South Registry of Deeds is located at:

208 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA 02141
Tel. (617) 679-6310
Fax (617) 494-9083


  1. Good tips, Marian. The first time I went there I was so stressed out! This would have helped me a lot!

  2. I would also like to add that the venue is also an active courthouse, so be prepared to go through security screening and don't bring too many electronic devices.

  3. Is that near the courthouse where I went for jury duty? Glad you wrote this, I really need to go one day.

  4. Thanks very much for the information on the Registry. I have a ton of work to do there and have been putting off ordering films in anticipation of a research trip to MA this summer. In the interim however, I've heard a few horror stories about this place and I was starting to worry about what I was going to find when I got there. So thanks for the heads up!