Category Archives: Get Informed

Update On Hancock Courthouse Fire

Editor’s Note: As many of you know, the historic Hancock County, Ga. Courthouse in Sparta was completely destroyed by fire on August 11. Most of the records contained in the courthouse (thought to date from the 1960s until computerization) were lost.

The oldest records, of course, were filmed by the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormon) and are available in many places, including the Georgia Archives. The Archives also houses other older Hancock records.

The fire was a disaster for Hancock County, as well as researchers interested in this historic county, which was organized in 1793.

Please see the Heritage Emergency Response Alliance blog for more background.

http://heraatlanta.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/update-from-hancock-county/

Vivian Price Saffold

Following is an update written by Christopher Davidson, Director of the Georgia Archives:

On Friday September 5, Doug Rollo, Christine Garett, Kim Norman, Kayla Barrett, and I traveled to Sparta, Ga where we met with Ben Carter (Architect), Andy Crosson (Executive Director of CSRA Regional Commission) and Sistie Hudson (Chairman Hancock County Board of Commissioners).  We looked into the rubble, and Ben explained the building layout and design and what happened.  We then examined the records in the tax office, which was a former creamery.

There are almost no paper records remaining of the County Board of Commissioners.

The remaining paper records of the Court Clerk not at the Archives are in plastic bags at the Creamery and are in terrible condition. Some were still hot enough to melt holes in the bags when they were placed in the bags.  The Clerk says they have copies on microfilm or digital so they are not worried about the paper.  The County Commission had these records moved from the rubble to prevent complete loss.  We later met with the clerk and gave her a hard drive with digital images of several rolls of microfilm that we scanned for her.  These are the only images they needed immediately.  Other images will come from their vendor or Family Search.

Most of the paper records now at the Creamery belong to the Probate Court. Many of these are related to marriages or taxes.  Some are in bad shape and others are just wet and may have mold.  We identified two volumes in good shape with apparently the only issue being they are damp.  I spoke with the Probate Judge on the phone and asked her if we could take these two volumes with us so we could stabilize them.  The probate judge denied my request.  I offered that we could schedule with her to come back soon and meet with her.  She seemed pleased with that.

According to everyone we spoke with, there are no plans for the insurance company to provide funds to restore records.  It is estimated that restoration of permanent records that survive would be around $30,000.  Based upon the conditions of the building, mold will get worse.

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New Research Material Added To Georgia Archives Website

The Georgia Archives announced today that all documents relating to the Names portion of File II are now online.

Genealogists and historians will recognize this important resource. Original documents indexed in the file are the most-often pulled for viewing by genealogists at the Archives, according to Archivist Steve Engerrand. Putting scans online will reduce handling of many fragile items.

Following is the description from the Archives Website:

File II is an artificial record series created by Georgia Archives staff beginning in the 1930s and arranged for easy alphabetical access by personal name to Archives records. The series includes: original documents removed from their government record series; typed transcripts of original documents made during WPA transcription projects during the late 1930s and early 1940s; Archives reference correspondence; clippings; and printed secondary research material.

This online collection includes only images of the original documents and transcripts. Because of the size of the collection, reference correspondence and secondary research material are not included.

Source location was not cited in File II. Original documents were removed from their context and all evidence of provenance has been lost. The collection includes correspondence to and from early governors, administrators and legislators and is particularly strong in antebellum Georgia records. Passports through Indian territory issued by Georgia governors are also filed here.

File II also has a number of segments that have not yet been scanned including pre-1800 File II, File II subjects, and File II Counties.

Funding for this online collection was provided by the R.J. Taylor, Jr., Foundation.

Vivian Price Saffold

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Archives Expanded Hours Begin July 15

The following was released on June 11 by the University System of Georgia, concerning expanded hours at the Georgia Archives:

The Georgia Archives will expand its hours of operation one additional day per week. Beginning July 15, the Archives will open on Tuesdays, in addition to operating Wednesday through Saturday. Hours of operation on all days are 8:30 a. m. to 5 p. m.

The Georgia Archives identifies, collects, manages, preserves, provides access and publicizes records and information of Georgia and its people and assists state and local government agencies with their records management.

The Georgia Archives was established in 1918 and was first housed in the State Capitol Building. The Georgia Archives moved to its current home at 5800 Jonesboro Road in Morrow in 2003.

In 2013 the Georgia Archives was transferred from the Georgia Secretary of State to the Board of Regents.

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Archives Update: Bigger Budget, Exciting Changes Ahead

Big changes are on their way to the Georgia Archives, thanks to the budget approved by the 2013-2014 session of the Georgia General Assembly.
House Bill 744 – the budget for Fiscal Year 2015 – includes an increase for the Archives of $476,041. Some $460,000 of that will allow the Archives to open to the public an additional day and to hire five full-time employees and three part-timers, according to Archives Director Christopher Davidson.
In addition, amendments to the Fiscal Year 2014 budget have allowed the Archives to get a head start on providing more services.
Following is a look at some of the improvements to expect.

• Long distance reference (e-mail and postal mail) – a service that was discontinued due to budget cuts – will be resumed “to some extent.” Staff will answer “reasonable requests.”

• A “real education program” will be developed, with a full-time education coordinator. Educational opportunities will be provided at the Archives, as well as in schools around the state.

• The Archives will be able to take in and process more records, including electronic records, and staff will be able to better advise agencies on how to manage electronic records. The Archives currently is accepting applications for an electronic records manager.

• The portion of the document-scanning project not funded by the R. J. Taylor, Jr. Foundation (a sister organization to the Georgia Genealogical Society) that has languished in the recent past will pick up steam, providing more material for researchers in the Virtual Vault. For-pay services, such as providing scans and other format copies of materials, as resources become available.

Of course, it will take time to get staff hired and programs in place. However, some improvements already have been completed or are underway.

• The University System of Georgia information technology staff has improved the Archives Website, and the Archives now has a Facebook page. A Twitter account also is being considered.

• The USG now is responsible for maintenance and improvements to the building and grounds. Additional funding from a National Endowment for the Humanities grant has paid for updating lighting, the improvement that will be the most noticeable to the public. The change will save costs on operation and purchasing light bulbs. Lighting improvements have been completed in the Original Document Reading Area and are underway in the reading room. Improved lighting and climate control measures for the downstairs classrooms also are on the drawing board.

• Landscaping around the building has been improved, and the sprinkler system has been repaired.

Davidson cautioned that the Archives budget probably will not continue to increase at the pace set by the 2013-2014 legislative session, but that the agency’s budget should be stable in the coming years. Overall, he said he is “happy” about the Archives’ financial situation and “excited” about prospects for the future.
So many people are responsible for the dramatic turn-around – from Gov. Nathan Deal, Rep. Terry England, Sen. Jack Hill, USG Chancellor Henry Huckaby and the Board of Regents to Director Davidson, the Archives staff and the many supporters of the Archives. They deserve congratulations and thanks.
The last few years have proved that much can be accomplished when determined people act. Archives advocates now can breathe easier, but can never fail to be vigilant. The most supportive action now is to use the facility that almost was lost.

Vivian Price Saffold

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Legislative Session Should Be Good For Archives

This time last year Georgia Archives supporters were working hard to get much-needed funds back into the budget.

What a difference a year makes.

The 2013 Georgia legislature restored some funds, allowing the Archives to open four days a week. The Archives also was able to hire three new employees: a conservator, Kimberly Norman, most recently at Emory University; and two archivists, Allison Hudgins, most recently at the Cobb County Public Library System; and Jill Sweetapple, most recently at the DeKalb History Center.

Gov. Nathan Deal recently released his budget requests for Fiscal Year 2015.

The governor requested an increase of $476,041 for operating the Archives. The sum includes $460,000 to allow the Archives to open to the public five days a week and to hire six additional employees. The remaining funds would be used for adjustments to employees’ retirement, insurance and salaries.

In addition, the governor recommended an expenditure of $957,910 for maintenance of the Archives building. Archives director Christopher Davidson said he did not know whether the sum was a one-time expenditure to “catch up” with maintenance or an annual amount. He said the money would be used for energy and labor-saving measures, such as replacing outdated lighting.

The director said he anticipated that some of the funding would be appropriated through amended the FY14 budget and some included in the FY15 budget.

The budget still must go through the legislative process, which generally does not end until near the end of the session.

In his report, the governor stated that the purpose of the appropriation is “to maintain the state’s archives; document and interpret the history of the Georgia State Capitol building; and assist state agencies with adequately documenting their activities, administering their records management programs, scheduling their records, and transferring their non-current records to the State Records Center.”

The situation at the Archives will improve in the coming months, thanks in large part to the diligent actions of Archives supporters. However, everyone knows what can happen if advocates forget.

Contact your legislators at least once during this session, just to let them know we are still watching. Thank the lawmakers, Gov. Deal and the Board of Regents for their support. They will be watching, too. Now that the Archives will be open five days a week, it is important that researchers use the facility we all have worked so hard to save.

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Archives Needs More Researchers

This time last year the Georgia Archives needed the help of everyone who researches Georgia history and genealogy.

Thanks to the people of Georgia and around the world, the Archives has come light years in one short year. From the brink of closure to extra budget and extra public hours, the transformation has been dramatic.

The Archives is now open to the public four days a week – Wednesdays through Saturdays, from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Experts in Georgia history and genealogy are on hand to help. Additional staff has been hired. The permanent history exhibit, closed since last October, is now open again.

However, the budget challenges likely will never end.

The Archives needs your help again. The Archives needs researchers to visit the facility in Morrow. The Archives is now a part of the University System of Georgia. Officials of the USG and state lawmakers are monitoring Archives usage numbers in preparation for budget negotiations during the upcoming legislative session.

Responding to the need has mutually beneficial results. Even with all the ever-growing online services, only a tiny percentage of available records is on the Internet. The key to knocking a hole in your Georgia genealogy brick wall is more likely to be at the Archives than anywhere else.

The Archives collection includes all kinds of county records, – tax digests, wills, estate inventories and deeds, just to name a few – as well as books, manuscripts, personal papers and much more.

Plan a trip to the Georgia Archives today. The Archives will benefit. You will, too.

For more information on the Archives, visit http://www.georgiaarchives.org. Help in planning a visit can be found here: http://www.georgiaarchives.org/visit/.

Please note that the Web site currently is undergoing renovation due to the shift from the Secretary of State to the University System.

Vivian Price Saffold

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WDYTYA at the Archives

Every genealogy enthusiast is eagerly awaiting the return of the television series, Who Do You Think You Are?

The show features celebrities who, with the help of professional researchers, discover fascinating things about their ancestors. This year’s celebrities are Christina Applegate, Kelly Clarkson, Cindy Crawford, Zooey Deschanel, Chelsea Handler, Chris O’Donnell, Jim Parson and Trisha Yearwood.

Once aired by NBC and picked up by The Learning Channel, the eight new episodes will begin on Tuesday, July 23. Hopefully, TLC will air complete online episodes — as did NBC –  for those who do not have cable.

In previous years the Georgia Archives has hosted Spike Lee and Paula Deen. In preparation for the upcoming season singers Kelly Clarkson and Trisha Yearwood spent time at the Archives.  Yearwood, a Monticello native, discovered records at the Archives proving that she has Georgia ancestors dating back to the 1700s.

WDYTYA will air at 9 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.tlc.com.

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