Where Are The Records?


This past November, the Houston County, TN. Archives celebrated its 8th year of being an established county archive. On November 15, 2010 the Houston County Legislative Body voted to establish a county archive to manage the county government records and to preserve local historical and genealogical records. I still strive today to do the job entrusted to me as the county archivist/records manager and I love my job!

Each year that passes I am amazed all over again by how genealogical and historical records make their way to the archives. Most of the time these records are transferred from local county government offices to the archives for records management or for records preservation. In October 2011, the Houston County, TN. Highway Department was at the beginning stages of building a new facility and was looking to clean out the loft area of their old building where old records had been stored for many decades.

They called me, the county archivist and records manager, to come over to the facility and see what they had. I must say that I love this part of my job! I love digging around in storage buildings, old office buildings,portable school storage buildings and yes the loft area of the highway department!

This time, however, it was not safe for me to get up into the loft to see what records were being stored. So, the highway department started up their fork lift and it did the work for me. The fork lift, along with help from a few highway department employees, lifted all the boxes of records from the loft area and brought them down to the ground level so that I could assess just what was in those boxes.

I am proud to say that I had help with this particular project. Members of the Archives Committee joined me at the Highway Department on that day and volunteered their time to go through these records. We had such a great time seeing what wonderful county records we might uncover in these boxes and totes. This type of work never gets old for me!

At the end of the day, we had been able to sift through all the boxes of records. We first set aside those records that were of no genealogical or historical value and were designated by the Tennessee Code Annotated rules and regulations to be destroyed. This left the “good stuff” as I like to call it, those records that have local historical significance and also genealogical value. These records were transferred to the Archives Office and have been processed and are ready for researchers!

This type of thing happens every day in archives all over the world! Archives are constantly receiving “new” records to add to their collections and records are being donated. Genealogists should check with the local archive often to see if they have any records that have just been transferred to the facility or donated.

When I am speaking or teaching genealogy researchers, I always tell them to ask themselves the question “Where are the Genealogy Records?” When we ask this question and start looking for the answer, we find ourselves looking in places we would never have thought to find such records. Like the loft area of the local Highway Department.


About Melissa Barker

Melissa Barker is a Certified Archives Manager for the Houston County, TN. Archives. She also lectures, teaches and writes about researching in archives and records preservation. She writes her own blog and has written articles for several publications. She is affectionately known as The Archive Lady. She is also a Professional genealogist that works with clients researching their Tennessee ancestors.

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