It was an evening when “History Came Alive” - all 225 years’ worth - as several hundred people came to partake in the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds’ birthday celebration. The event, which was held on June 20 and free to the public, showcased the notable land records of many prominent people, along with changes to the Registry’s operations throughout the past two and a quarter centuries.
“It was on June 20, 1793 that Norfolk County and the Registry of Deeds came into existence, thanks to a bill signed into law by then-Governor John Hancock,” noted Register of Deeds William O’Donnell. “As some residents of Norfolk County will proudly tell you, next to his being the lead signer of the Declaration of Independence, this was probably the second most important signature in John Hancock’s life.”
Hancock, his wife Dorothy Quincy, and his friend President John Adams greeted those attending the event. The evening was filled with “pomp and parade” as President Adams would say with a stirring rendition of "God Bless America" sung by the Singing Trooper, Dan Clark, among his several patriotic songs. There was also fife and drum music, performed by the Colonial Boys, and an honor guard from the Norfolk County Sheriff’s Office, which led the procession into the Registry’s Great Hall.
People strolled throughout the 113 year-old building to view the 45 notable land exhibits, which include the names of the four U.S. Presidents who were born in Norfolk County: John Adams, John Quincy Adams (Braintree, now part of Quincy), John F. Kennedy (Brookline) and George H.W. Bush (Milton). They also viewed the land records of Norfolk County residents who won Nobel Prizes and others who were elected Governors of Massachusetts.
Additionally, there was a land record of an extraordinary individual from each one of the county’s twenty-eight communities. “This is an eclectic group of Norfolk County people that have made significant contributions in the areas of science, the arts, politics, environment, law, military and medicine,” noted Register O’Donnell. Some of those honored included Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere (Canton), Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (Dedham), astronaut Sunita Williams (Needham), and Helen Keller, advocate for the disabled (Wrentham).
There were also exhibits tracing the history of the Registry of Deeds throughout its 225 years. There were storyboards about the different Registry locations, as well as past Registers of Deeds. “Much has obviously changed,” noted Register O’Donnell. “The Registry operations have gone from the days of scriveners with quill pens to the modern era of computers and advanced document imaging. No longer do people ride by horseback to the Registry of Deeds, but today they can perform many of the same tasks from the comfort of their home computer.”
Those who attended the event received a booklet, which included all the exhibits as well as a pin commemorating the 225th anniversary. Those interested in a free bookletmay email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the registry of deeds at (781-461-6104).