Guest Post: Boston Police Strike Project volunteer Kayla Skillin describes research resources available at City of Boston Archives

This guest post was written by Kayla Skillin, Assistant Archivist at the City of Boston Archives.

Shelves of bound volumes of records at the City of Boston Archives.

Street books, tax records collection, City of Boston Archives.

My name is Kayla Skillin and I am a volunteer with the 1919 Boston Police Strike Project. I first volunteered to work with the project after hearing Joanne Riley and Margaret Sullivan give a presentation at the New England Archivists annual meeting in the spring of 2017. I was so impressed with Joanne’s and Margaret’s determination and passion to make sure that these men, who lost their jobs fighting for what they believed in, would not be forgotten that I knew I wanted to be a part of it. And the project fit in very well with my personal interests in genealogy and with the work that I do as the Assistant Archivist at the City of Boston Archives.

Two pages of 1880 real estate tax records from the City of Boston Archives.

1880 tax records of Quincy Street, Dorchester. Tax records collection, City of Boston Archives.

At the City of Boston Archives, we preserve, maintain, and provide access to the permanent historic public records that are created as part of the municipal government of the City of Boston. Some of the most heavily researched materials include the records of the Boston’s governing body, the Boston City Council (previously called the Board of Aldermen); our school desegregation records which cover the era many know as “Boston busing;” and our tax records, which we have going back to the incorporation of Boston as a City in 1822. We even have tax records from towns before they were annexed and became part of the City of Boston, such as Dorchester and Charlestown. The tax records, especially, have been invaluable to me as a researcher on this project. Boston previously required every man of voting age to pay a tax in order to vote, or a “poll tax.” The collection of these poll taxes were recorded in the same books as the real estate taxes, so there is, theoretically, a record of every man of voting age living in Boston every year. These records can help to fill in the gaps between the years of federal censuses, which were only conducted every ten years. If a person moved around between, say, 1910 and 1920, the Boston tax records can help researchers to figure out where the person might have lived along the way.

Working on this project, researching the biographical histories of these strikers, I have learned a lot about the demographics of the City of Boston in the early twentieth century. Also, I have really improved upon my genealogical research skills. With only a 1919 address to go on in order to track these men down, sometimes making sure that you have the correct person can be difficult to confirm. However, with a combination of the online resources through and Family Search, as well as archival resources at places like the City of Boston Archives and the University Archives and Special Collections at UMass Boston, we can usually come away with a pretty good biographical picture of each striker.


Boston Police Strike Volunteer Meet-Up
Friday, January 25, 2019
10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Center for Active Learning and Library Instruction (CALLI), 4th floor, Healey Library, UMass Boston

Boston Police Strike 100th Anniversary Commemoration Event
Saturday, September 7, 2019
Time and location TBD