Is History Rotting Away in Your Archives Storage?
If you were lucky enough to listen to the presentation by the Honorable Judge Mark Davidson (joined by the Honorable Marilyn Burgess) during the afternoon of June 8th, 2021 at the CDCAT Summer Conference, you were presented with a wealth of knowledge about the importance of rotting paper. Judge Davidson has been an avid promoter of historical court records preservation for decades and eagerly shares his passion with all who will listen.
Every county has a treasure trove of historical records – cases that reference important figures in Texas History (i.e. Jim Bowie, Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor or William Marsh Rice), or important events (i.e. the first case in a county where a woman was seated on a jury or a case tried by the first minority lawyer). Many of these records lie unknown and secret in your records storage. Unfortunately, large amounts of them are slowly deteriorating with heat and humidity, their importance lost for future historians and genealogists to never realize.
Since Harris County has the great fortune of Judge Mark Davidson living within its boundaries, the Honorable Marilyn Burgess (Harris County District Clerk) has partnered with the Houston Barr Association for preservation assistance. They have an established 501c3 for tax-deductible donations. Donations can be made for a broad project, or they can be tagged for specific projects/restorations. This unique partnership can be replicated in other counties and Mrs. Burgess is happy to provide guidance/help.
There are other avenues for preservation monies that you can tap into as well.The Texas State Bar Historical Documents Trust was founded in 2011 to provide grants to preserve historical records.Donations to the trust fund are tax deductible.The next round of applications is due November 20th, 2021.Local participation is encouraged and it’s important to get your County Commissioners on board. When people can see their name in print as a donor to a project that has historical significance to them (perhaps their grandmother was one of the 14,000 Harris County Women who 1st voted on November 2, 1920), it’s not that difficult to get private donations. It’s all about how you market/promote it. You might need to get creative. Harris County, for example, showcases a “case of the month” on their website (scroll to the bottom of the page to view Historical Documents).
Judge Davidson recommended several dates for starting points, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know what might be “important”. He said Probate Records as they relate to slaves and their value when they were inherited in the 1865 era would be a good one. He also recommended finding the first trial date after December 4, 1954 and looking at the juror list. It will be the list of the 1st women jurors after they obtained the right to vote. From there, you can perhaps track family members who might want to preserve their family history. He also mentioned, specific to Dallas County, the 1840s -1850s and records relating to the French Colony on the Trinity River. Reunion Arena’s name hails back to this settlement. Perhaps your county has something similar in significance.
Data Preservation Solutions has worked hand-in-hand with Harris County and provides a copy of the preserved record to the donor for posterity. What a fun historical piece to pass along to future generations! If you’re interested in learning more, you can reach us at 844-779-1756 or email@example.com.