Digitizing court records

Documentation of the first land purchases in the settlement of Marietta and a detailed case of a man being prosecuted for trying to purchase a slave in Ohio are just a few of many things being found while digitization is progressing on records inside the Washington County Courthouse.

Salt Lake City-based FamilySearch, a nonprofit company which specializes in genealogy, has been working on getting the court records digitized. The work is part of a large project by FamilySearch to index all records from each of the 50 states’ counties.

The Clements, of Provo, Utah, are finding many interesting doodles and stories while going through each book and taking pictures of the pages.

David, 69, and his wife Karen, 66, are on mission work for the Church of Latter Day Saints and have been working in the courthouse since June 5.

“We have been doing roughly 6,000 pages a day,” said David. “We take turns doing the imaging. It was (hard) at first, but it’s very rewarding work.”

The Clements did about 22,000 images last week, totaling 44,000 pages.

“There’s a lot of history and stories in this courthouse,” David said. “(In one book) this gentleman died in the state hospital in Athens, by himself.”

In addition to that, Karen said she’s finding unique drawings in a few of the books, like detailed court seals and birds.

“Most books are just plain; there’s nothing that differentiates one case from another,” she said. “(In this one) there are two birds, that are love birds (for marriages), and another is a woman chasing a man with a broom. It’s just kind of funny; you just don’t see that in any other books.”

David said some of the court cases he’s found seem unique.

“A man was prosecuted in the state of Ohio for purchasing a black woman and her child (as slaves),” he said. “In 1810, a man was prosecuted for playing cards. It didn’t say ‘gambling.’ There’s so many great stories.”

Carolyn Grammer and her husband Dan have been working to sort records for many months now, preparing them to be digitized, and Dan said the work is far from over.

“We’re presently finished with the two rooms we’ve been (working on) upstairs,” he said. “As far as books go, (FamilySearch is) trying to decide whether we’re doing the Common Pleas Court packets…It’s hard to decide…We’re making a lot of progress and finding a lot of interesting things.”

Among those things, Dan said some of those are Ohio Land Company records showing the first landowners in the county, records of accidents and voter poll lists, which include who was running for office and who won.

Work on records in the courthouse does not currently have an end date, said John de Jong, FamilySearch field relations manager for Ohio.

“It will take as long as it takes,” de Jong said, adding, “It’s actually proceeding…faster than we anticipated.”

Carolyn said with the digitization of courthouse records comes another opportunity.

“(FamilySearch) will copy all church records in Washington County while they’re (in town),” she said. “Any records…you sign an agreement with FamilySearch.”

So far, about two churches are lined up to have “genealogically significant” records digitized, including birth, death and marriage records. The Grammers are the contact for the project.

De Jong said it’s another great opportunity for the area.

“We would love to work with churches and help them preserve their records,” de Jong said. “This kind of call out is great.”