PARKERSBURG - The Wood County clerk will receive a grant of $10,000 effective July 1 from the West Virginia Records Management and Preservation Board for records management and preservation projects.
The funds will be used for back indexing and scanning deed records, County Clerk Mark Rhodes said.
"We have scanned back to December of 1985. Everything is microfilmed, but we want to have it scanned so it can be pulled up on the computer," Rhodes said. "It will mean less wear and tear on the actual documents that way."
Photo by Pamela Brust
Wood County Clerk Mark Rhodes looks over some of the older record books in the first floor records room.
Scanning older record books is an ongoing project, he said. Repairs to older record books are done as funds are made available through the county commission.
"We are always working on scanning, but the grant funding will enable us to move a little more quickly by paying for overtime for staff to work on the project," Rhodes said.
The microfilmed records are stored off-site in a secure location.
"That way if there is a fire or other disaster affecting the courthouse, those records would not be lost," Rhodes said.
Images the office has are backed up at another county-owned facility.
Last year the preservation board awarded $427,540 to 30 counties for records management and preservation projects, including a $12,000 grant to the Wood County Circuit Clerk's Office.
The board was created by the Legislature in 2000 to develop a system of records management and preservation for county governments.
Funding for the program comes from filing fees collected by county clerks and deposited in the Public Records and Preservation Account.
The West Virginia Archives and Preservation Office has offered its services scanning the older books dating back to the late 1790s. Those books are bound; the pages cannot be removed from those books like they can from more recent ones.
The state office has a specialized scanner that makes it easier to copy the records without damaging those books.
"I can't say enough about the state office and how much of a help they have been. They agreed to help us long before we applied for the grant, but they are also helping the other counties so it takes a while," Rhodes said.
"They have done some of the smaller counties already and I've talked with the clerks there and they are very pleased with the results," Rhodes said. "They are also working with a number of the counties that are seeing the higher volume of oil and gas researchers, but we hope they will get to us as soon as possible."
The state looked at the microfilm to see if the images could be converted, but Rhodes said while the quality of the images is fine for viewing on microfilm the experts felt it was not good enough to convert those images.
Rhodes said he would like to have the records not only scanned, but also indexed by name.
"If we start getting really busy again, I'm just going to scan the books and make it available by book and page, so they can just pull that up on the computer without going to the book. This is an ongoing project. Jamie (Six) talked with the state archives department a few years ago about converting the microfilm to images," Rhodes said.
Rhodes said because books cannot be removed from the courthouse without order of the county commission, the commissioners will have to enter an order to allow the books, 20 at a time for a week, to the state archives department for its work.
"These will be our first records, the late 1790s to about 1850," Rhodes said. "If someone needs one of the records in the books that are removed, we will notify them, they can copy it and email to us so they will still be accessible while they are in Charleston."
The clerk said the next step will be estates, wills, appraisements and settlements.
Rhodes said it took two employees about 10 hours to do 820 pages, including proofreading.