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.
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.