Birth Records from Lawrence, Massachusetts


Birth Records from Lawrence, Massachusetts


These records were digitized by the Khayrallah Center in collaboration with the Lawrence Public Library Special Collections. They pertain only to immigrants from the portion of the Ottoman Empire known as Greater Syria (particularly the areas encompassing modern-day Lebanon and Syria). They represent only a portion of a larger collection. To inquire about the records of other immigrant groups, contact the Lawrence Public Library Special Collections Archivist.

This collection contains records from Lawrence, Massachusetts. The records were stored in the Oliver School and accessioned into the Lawrence Public Library Special Collections. This digitized selection from the larger collection contains documents pertaining to immigrants from Syria and Lebanon dating largely from 1900 to 1920.

These records were provided by children and their families in order to verify the ages of young immigrants. This was necessary in order for teenagers and young adults to prove they were old enough to work. Though nationwide laws regulating and restricting work for children 16 and under were not ratified in the United States until 1938, Massachusetts was the first state to create child labor laws in 1836. By the early 1900s, when many families settled in the booming mill town of Lawrence, various state legislation governed the ability of minors to work. Not only were children under 16 prohibited from working in factories, the state also issued fines to people who employed minors who were illiterate in English. This led to the growth of night schools and schools dedicated specifically to teaching immigrant children to speak, read, and write English. Thus, work permits were typically issued by schools. Once age and literacy were verified, teenagers would be issued a work permit. Whie it is unknown how many youth and factory owners circumvented these laws, these records indicate that many attempted to conform.

This collection displays the variety of records that Syrian and Lebanese immigrants used to prove the age of their youth. Because many did not have birth certificates, a large number of the proof of birth records consist of correspondences with clergy in Greater Syria, who consulted baptismal records to confirm age. Other records are from the process of immigration, and include documents from both Marseilles, France, and Ellis Island, New York. Some records were requested from officials or individuals in America, and consist both of missives from immigration officials and from private individuals. The collection also includes records issued by schools, which verify age through years of schooling; included among some of these school records are short documents, handwritten by young immigrants in to prove their literacy in English. In addition to records proving age, some individuals have additional documents; specifically, the Oliver School retained many work permits and physician's certificates of health. Though some individuals have only one document associated with them, other individuals had multiple documents that were kept by the Oliver School and preserved by the Lawrence Public Library Special Collections.

Scope and Content
  • The collection contains digitized records for over 450 individual children and young adults who immigrated from Greater Syria and lived in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in the early 20th century.
  • The majority of these documents were created between 1910 and 1920; however, some were created earlier and several were created later, in the 1930s and 1940s.
  • The documents are in Arabic, English, French, and Turkish.
  • In addition to names and ages, many records contain additional information about young immigrants and their families. Due to the varied nature of the records, the information that can be gleaned from this collection is both wide-ranging and idiosyncratic. 


Lawrence Public Library Special Collections


Collection description written by Claire A. Kempa


Lawrence Public Library, Lawrence, Massachusetts
Oliver School, Lawrence, Massachusetts

Collection Tree

This collection is a part of a larger collection that has been divided into more specific collections.

Miscellaneous Collections
Lawrence Public Library
Birth Records from Lawrence, Massachusetts