Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lest We Forget

We've finished our first project--the Probate records, Wills, Indexes, and Marriage Records of Montgomery County, Indiana.  It ended up totaling 230,000 images, a worthy accomplishment for the first 7 months of our mission.  We have begun work on our next project in Vigo County, 2 hours to the south.  It consists of similar documents, but is estimated to be over 800,000 images.  That should keep us busy for the rest of our 18-months.
Vigo County Courthouse

Our last 55,000 images in Crawfordsville and our first ones in Terre Haute have been large, old books.  They present an entirely different challenge than do the individual documents from the probate packets.
Some of Montgomery Co. books of wills and marriages

With the books, the size and rotation of each picture stays constant, but the focal length is constantly changing as we move through the book.  It's a handy thing to have a capture table that we can easily raise and lower to match the thickness of the book.  We have different foam wedges and supports that help us minimize the curve of the pages due to the binding.  We have to watch for page movement as the shutter clicks, so we usually end up clamping the pages down so that they don't blur.
Chuck, our field supervisor, showing us his "book" technique

We're grateful for the computer software, keeping track of not only the image, but of "metadata" connected with each image--it's page, book, project, date, etc.  With one click the camera captures both sides of the opened book, separating the pages into separate images--a great two-for-one special.  Some of the more recent books are not permanently bound, allowing us to dismantle them and lay the pages flat.  That's a lot easier.
Vigo's book storage in the attic of the courthouse

With all of this technical attention to the record-preservation process, it's easy to get lost in the "physical" side of things.  I have to keep reminding myself that there are people behind these documents.  Modern revelation teaches us that "the spirit and the body are the soul of man" D&C 88:15.  So it is with these images.  They have a "spirit."  They represent lives--the joy of a marriage, the heartache of death, the pride of worldly possessions, and the desire to provide for loved ones.

Here's little Ida May Largent, 5 months old, being adopted.  Her mother died, probably in child birth, and her father, Leonard, is living in another town and doesn't want to, or is unable to raise her.  William P. Dagget and his wife are asking the court to let them adopt her and raise her like their own child, changing her name to Loretta C. Dagget.  Real people dealing with life's tragedies.
This might be the only document linking little Ida to her past

Here is William Parsons renewing his license as a physician in 1863.  He's 43 (as recorded in the US 1860 Census) and practicing in a little town south of Crawfordsville.  He married as an older man and has a young wife and 2 small children to support.
Dr. Parsons' License

Here's Archelous C. Austin, receiving his inheritance at the death of his grandmother, Nancy Austin.  He and his 4 siblings each received $75.45, the total sum received from the sale of their grandmother's house and property.  All 5 children and their birth dates were listed in the accompanying probate documents--a goldmine for Family History research.
A Grandson's Inheritance

Clicking the camera two to three thousand times a day doesn't give us much time to ponder on the lives of these people.  But the images we are preserving will give SOMEONE the chance to step into the lives and times of their ancestors.  Ann and I are SO grateful to our colleagues who have preserved and indexed so many vital records from England, helping us to discover our roots.  Truly our "hearts are turned to the fathers" and we are assured that their spirits are helping us in our genealogical endeavors.  Likewise, I don't doubt that the spirits of deceased Hoosiers are supporting the preservation of these documents so that their descendants will be able to find them.

Every morning Ann and I passed this statue going into the Montgomery County Courthouse, erected to memorialize those who fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy.  There isn't one of us who is not enjoying blessings in our lives that were earned by the toil and trials of our progenitors.  We have a work to do in linking us all together in that one big Family Tree.
A call for us to do our part in linking together the human family

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