Thursday, November 16, 2006
Volunteers help organize old county records room
By SUE WATSON
The third-floor chancery clerk’s land records office has been reorganized with the help of volunteers, according to chancery clerk Chuck Thomas.
He undertook clearing and organizing the space last spring because there was no walking room and the records were out of order in the upstairs records room.
The organizing and cleaning was made possible with help from inmate labor from the Marshall County jail and county employees. New record shelves made by Ralph Carter of Potts Camp provided valuable space for organizing old records.
Now visitors who want to look back at old land records and deeds, circuit court records, old wills, sectional indices, or copies of The South Reporter have a place to sit and look over materials.
Helping with the job was Sue Thomas, wife of the chancery clerk. The job was a dusty mess with four or five pickup bed loads of unopened, deteriorated and crumbling office supplies, empty boxes and trash to haul down two flights of stairs, she said.
“Before when you came up here, your allergies could hardly take it,” she said. “One of the inmates called me the Warden. He’s out of jail now and he sees me and waves.”
After working in the dust, one inmate told Thomas he wanted rehab.
The chancery clerk asked another inmate if he had time to do this.
“All I got is time,” the inmate replied.
Sue Thomas said some of the old wills provided interesting reading.
The records go well back into the mid-1800s with The South Reporter going back to year 1882.
A lot of the records were in disarray in the third-floor landing.
Now that the room is cleared, the public is invited to come visit and use the records room anytime.
Thomas said the old records room is visited three or four times a month and having this space organized and available will make accessing the old records easier.
Some progress has been made in organizing the third-floor law library. The room is occasionally used for grand jury when the courtroom is not available.
Those interested in genealogy searches visit the circuit clerk’s office on the first floor where all the marriage records are kept, according to Lucy Carpenter, circuit clerk.
“We have someone here almost every day looking up marriage records,” she said.
Sandra Nunley and her sister Susan Bolden have been researching the history of the cemetery at Early Grove United Methodist Church looking for the names of people who may have been buried there but lack markers on their graves. Looking through the old newspapers has been useful in their search and now that the records room is more accessible their visits are more productive, she said.
“It’s the difference between daylight and dark; it’s just wonderful,” Nunley said of the organization that has been done.
“The last time we were there was in early September and we had been there off and on during the summer working on this cemetery project at Early Grove.
“One way to search was to read the old newspapers and we didn’t find much in the obits but did in the social columns,” she said.
The obits in olden days were reserved for citizens of prominence while the births, deaths and marriages are recorded in the community news columns, she said. But the publication date has remained the same since the beginning.
“There’s something magic about Thursdays,” Nunely said.
“We’re still looking for people who were buried in Early Grove Cemetery and don’t have markers,” she said. “The last time we were there we found a little article saying J.K. Wilburn had just returned from Memphis buying wire for the cemetery at the church. That was in the 1930 newspapers. What we’re doing is making images with digital cameras of the articles. We’re not sure where we are going with that. We might offer them to the Marshall County genealogy society - we’re members. Of course, I belong to the one in Benton County, too. We try to keep that open Monday through Friday from nine to two-thirty.”
The Marshall County Genealogy Society meets at the library in Holly Springs generally and sometimes meets at churches to go through the cemeteries in Marshall County - anywhere there’s an interest in something or markers to look for.
Nunley said she is impressed with the open door policy at the chancery clerk’s office.
“My sister Susan Bolden and I love to come visit the records. We really appreciate the open door policy at the chancery clerk’s office. It’s just a welcome in our current project,” she said.
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