Jefferson County Circuit Court Loose Record Project Needs Your Help

The Loose Records Project is a national, county by county, volunteer program to make older public court records more available to historians, genealogists and the general public. At the state level, it is coordinated through the Alabama State Archives and locally with the approval of the Jefferson County Probate and Circuit Courts. Gary Gerlach, a BGS board member, coordinates the Jefferson County project.

Over the past few years, BGS has solicited funds to assist with the current project through our newsletter and magazine and of course, word of mouth as well as donating from the club funds. As of the August meeting, our treasurer reported that the account balance for Loose Records was at zero. Help is needed to continue the work of the volunteers. I asked Gary to send me something outlining the project, see the following (my comments are in []):

In 1999 members of our group cleaned, organized, and catalogued the court records of Shelby County.  From 2001 to 2005 our group organized 22,262 Jefferson County Probate Court files (1860s to 1936).  Both projects were funded by the county Probate Court system.  A CD index was created for the Jefferson County records and was distributed free to the courts, local libraries and museums.  The Genealogical Society of Utah microfilmed the Jefferson County Probate Court files (512 reels) to make them available world-wide.

In August 2005, we began working on the pre-1920 Jefferson County Circuit Court cases. T hese records are important to the legal profession, historians and genealogists. Wills, divorces, bankruptcies, business disputes and property settlements name family members, neighbors and business partners.  The maps, newspapers, booklets and pictures included as supporting evidence, bring the history alive.

There is no index for pre-1908 Jefferson County Circuit Court records and only a partial index for the 1908-16 records.  We have identified 90 boxes of approximately 100 files each that pre-date 1900 and 169 more boxes that predate1917.  (Only 6 boxes of files dated between 1916 and 1939 are known to exist.)  The files are slowly disintegrating and the hand written script is fading.  Records are flattened, cleaned and cataloged and will be scanned into an Alabama State Court database located in Montgomery to be made available on-line.

In addition to the 12,000+ hours, this group has expended $4,931.54 for supplies such as archival folders, tape, copy paper, gloves, pencils, etc., half of which has been covered by donations. [The rest out of their own pockets.]   Using acid-free archival material to slow the aging process costs approximately $.39 per file.  We are seeking $2,000 to cover expenses for the rest of the project. [It was noted above that the Jefferson County Probate Court funded the initial phases of the project – there is no funding from the Jefferson County Circuit Court for the current project.]

In addition to the loose records, we are also cataloging the 3,000+ books dated 1850-1960 that are stored at the Jefferson County Operations Center Archives.  These are often the only alternative for researching court records and other County departments.

To support this effort financially, mail your donation to the Birmingham Genealogical Society, PO Box 2432, Birmingham, AL, 35201 [specify that it is for the Loose Records Project].  To work on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 8 and 3 at the Jefferson County Operations Center near Tarrant, call Gary Gerlach 967-3173.



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