A Letter From Register of Deeds John L. O'Brien
I am honored to have the opportunity to share with you the most culturally significant
documents ever recorded at the Essex County Registry of Deeds. We refer to them as the "Native American Deeds". These deeds link us directly to the Native Americans who lived on this land.
This collection of ancient land transfers is the only "evidence" we have of land dealings
between the Native American and English cultures in the 17th Century. These records also document that every town in Essex County has a Native American heritage.
It is a fascinating story about property rights, the Massachusetts Bay Colony and how the first American nation was replaced by another. I hope that you will find it as interesting and exciting as I did.
Some time ago, I asked Tom O'Leary ( the Registry's former GIS Director) to put the pieces of this historical story together. He used our Native American Deeds, early town records and maps to place these documents in a new cultural context.
The purpose of this website is to stimulate the interest of the public in general and local schools in particular to our heritage--linking our 21st century life to our 17th century roots.
After reviewing these ancient original-source documents, one will be able top make a stronger connection between the ancient Native American names and places and today's names, places and lifestyles. When I look at old maps or travel the main highways and back roads of Essex County, I can imagine the narrow Native American trails that connected their villages to hunting and planting grounds. Today, as I drive along the coastline, or near our rivers, it is easy to think of Native Americans who might have fished, camped or celebrated there long ago. I invite you to take this journey with me over our landscape in the moccasins of our Native Americans, who had to sell their lands in order to survive. The "Native American Deeds" will lead the way. 
The Essex County Registry of Deeds has been maintaining a chain of land ownership records since 1639. I especially commend my predecessors for their diligence in taking custody of all the records, particularly for preserving the Native American Deeds to make this project possible.
I would especially like to thank Secretary of State William Galvin, without whose constant support and encouragement I would not be able to provide you with this historical journey through time.