Got History? Get Archives

A true treasure is  located in a small room in the basement of City Hall. Gloucester Archives houses a wide variety of research tools including maps, directories, military records, property records, photos, books and stories.  The heart of the Archives is in the 10-12 dedicated volunteers taking turns manning the room from 9-noon weekdays ready to assist with various requests or to continue their work indexing records.

A friend recently mentioned they were curious about the history of their house.  I suggest going to the Gloucester Archives.  Anyone working on their Gloucester related genealogy should stop by.  The city’s history is well documented and preserved here in three vaults also located in the basement, which are a treat of their own.

Sarah Dunlap graciously gave me a tour of these vaults and described the services available (you do not need to be a city resident to take advantage).  The volunteers in attendance today included Sue Hall, Judy Silva, Peggy Calkins, Lois Hamilton and Sandy Williams.  A variety of personal interests drew them to become volunteers and they clearly enjoy their work.

I asked what was the most surprising or exciting discovery they had made and Sarah responded that they were inspired by a speaker who indicated it was information that couldn’t be found.   Sarah and staff took this as a challenge and labored to track down and verify  FitzHenry Lane’s name change from Nathaniel Rogers Lane in order to provide previously unavailable information. Dilly, Dilly to the staff!

In response to my question about what the Archives needed or hoped for, Sarah indicated that funding is always being sought. Even more importantly, climate controls for the vaults is a dire need as records are beginning to deteriorate.  This is an example of one of the storage vaults.  You can clearly see the need.


This is the main research room, easily accessible via City Hall’s handicap entrance on Dale Ave.  It’s pretty clear they are making good use of the space allotted–look at those jammed bookshelves!

Some additional vault pictures:

Gloucester Archives began in 1987 to organize and maintain these city and town records.  It’s pretty amazing it’s “only” taken these last 30 years or so to sort, organize and index this vast collection.  They provide services in person, by phone or email.  They accept donations and especially appreciate monetary donations.  Katelyn Vance is the current Archivist and is working to improve the collection and services.

If you aren’t tired of the pictures of the basement, please enjoy the following additional pictures to give you an idea of the “ambiance” in some areas.  Thanks to GMG Jimmy for his photography work.

6 thoughts on “Got History? Get Archives

  1. What a fascinating post! Thanks, Pat and Jimmy. This is an important place and deserves more recognition and funding. I’d say it deserves more staff but it looks like they must already be bumping into each other in those cramped quarters. I hope there is a strategic plan somewhere that gives the archives a safer, permanent, climate-controlled home!


  2. Sarah Dunlap was of tremendous help to me while I was writing a family memoir. I grew up in Gloucester in the 1940s and 50s, but haven’t lived there since. Still, the archive was ready and willing to respond to my requests for information. I am very grateful.
    Christa Sammons


  3. The Archives are an incredible resource and the crew is great! Sarah has answered so many of my questions. I am looking forward to open access to many of the resources at the Sawyer Free. Pru Fish, author of Antique Houses of Gloucester, will do impeccable research and produce a beautiful book about your home. See her blog


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