Indiana State Archives Initiative • FamilySearch (2024)

No-cost digitizing records of Indiana's counties

In a statewide project, counties in Indiana are engaged in an initiative to digitize important archived records that have been stored for decades in offices, basem*nts, and various other types of storage units. The records of these counties are being preserved—at no cost to the state—by  FamilySearch, who will place copies of those records on their own website for the public to access as they seek to find their family’s stories. FamilySearch also returns copies of the images to the state and counties to use on their own websites.

Indiana State Archives Initiative • FamilySearch (1)

“For nearly 40 years, the Indiana Archives and Records Administration, or IARA, has worked with FamilySearch International to preserve records in various Indiana counties and the official records of Indiana,” said Chandler Lighty, executive director of the archives. Seeing the value of this initiative, he sent a letter in March 2019 to the archivists in counties throughout the state encouraging them to use this important free service by contacting FamilySearch. “Participation in the project…will allow our partner, FamilySearch, to digitize…records not currently available in digital format.” The archives have also collaborated with the Allen County library, where more teams digitize records.

As they are founded, state and local governments generate and store important legal documents such as marriages, deeds, guardianships, wills, probates, court settlements, and the like. Churches and communities may have records of births and deaths. These provide concrete evidence of family structures, legal arrangements, finances, possessions, and responsibilities. The records are stored long-term in city halls, churches, and county courthouses in basem*nts, attics, or other places under various conditions. Records such as these tell the stories of those of the past, their lives, activities, and contributions, and they add value to today’s stories.

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Very valuable for genealogical research

The documents serve their designated purposes in the communities and are stored long-term. They are also very valuable for genealogical research since they provide dates of events, names and relationships, and more. Despite efforts to safely store the original copies of these documents, over time they tend to deteriorate.

In an effort to preserve them permanently, counties in the state of Indiana and in other states have opened their various archives to FamilySearch volunteers who digitally photograph them at no charge to the county. Copies of the images are returned to their respective counties of origin and can then be accessible on county web pages, while the original images are stored in the secure Granite Mountain Records Vault of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Copies are also made available online through the FamilySearch website. The mountain vault was built to preserve and protect records of importance.

Full-time volunteers do the work worldwide

Volunteers for FamilySearch run the cameras. Michael and Debbie Bevins, from Nebraska, are among the volunteers who man cameras throughout the world. The Bevins spend each weekday working together at a booth set up in the lobby of the Shelbyville, Shelby County, Indiana, Courthouse in Shelbyville, Indiana, to scan court records. Their goal is to make digital images of 2,000 pages daily. They keep the camera busy all day by taking turns. One prepares the sometimes-fragile and brittle documents by carefully unfolding and flattening them—using black pointers to hold them in place for scanning. The other runs the scanning camera. They review the images to see that they are captured properly before replacing the paper copies in the Courthouse storage drawers.

As volunteers, Michael and Debbie are providing their skills for 18 months. When they complete their service, if the record scanning project is unfinished, another volunteer couple will come fill their place until the project is complete.

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The work they are doing preserves yellowing, aging, fragile, records, making them available online and much easier to organize. Newer images that would include living people are not included in this project. Each week the Bevins send a hard drive copy of the images to FamilySearch where they are checked for clarity, archived, stored in the repository vault, and made available on their website, They send a hard drive copy of the images back to Shelby County. If the images need to be redone, the couple redoes them.

Increasing numbers of volunteers hasten the work

Work has been underway in 25 of 92 counties thus far. According to Karin Page, genealogy and local history specialist at Lawrenceburg Public Library District, local people sometimes volunteer and assist in preparing records for digitizing. This greatly hastens the project. Efforts are underway to expand the project into various counties with the assistance of the volunteers.

Interested in participating in such records-conservation projects in your area? Contact FamilySearch

At FamilySearch we care about connecting you with your family, and we provide fun discovery experiences and family history services for free. Why? Because we cherish families and believe that connecting generations can improve our lives now and forever. We are a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.To learn more about our beliefs, click here.

Indiana State Archives Initiative • FamilySearch (2024)
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