Down within the basement of the Madison County Courthouse is a vault holding a number of hundred years’ value of paperwork – together with marriage licenses, land information, and wills.
A few of these paperwork date again to the times earlier than Kentucky was granted statehood.
There is a dusty scent that may solely accumulate when one thing has been round for a really very long time. Madison County Historic Society President Sharon Graves loves that scent and the vault that comprises it.
She has been volunteering within the depths of the courthouse for roughly 5 years—organizing the numerous variety of marriage licenses which might be saved down within the vault. A number of associates have gone on to assist out—sufficient that Graves refers back to the mission as an historic society initiative.
“A whole lot of us come down right here, and we have taken it on ourselves to place the wedding paperwork so as. With the transfer from the courthouse to the opposite location, it simply appeared like good timing to have them so as as they get moved,” Graves stated. “One among our different members calls it ‘playtime,’ as a result of we now have a lot enjoyable going by these previous information and getting them organized.”
The oldest license Graves has dealt with within the vault was dated at 1787. She famous that there are various intricacies that go into impact when handing hand-written paperwork of that age.
“You actually must get a really feel for the county clerk’s handwriting so you possibly can transcribe it. You might have to have a look at a number of, simply to see what letters he was utilizing to determine what he was writing,” Graves stated.
“I say ‘he’ as a result of there have solely been ‘he is’ up to now,” she added
The paperwork can look vastly totally different from each other, relying on the yr, and the clerks and non secular representatives that signed them. Whereas the calligraphy used on the time is gorgeous to have a look at, the spidery strains of ink dried onto the pages will be troublesome to decipher. “R’s” can appear to be “E’s,” for instance.
The various penmanship has led the volunteers to make use of ancestry web sites as a cross reference to assist with names.
One other problem in breaking down the paperwork is tied into literacy, as not all clerks or ministers had been literate. Some signed with an “X,” whereas others wrote their names out phonetically.
Donna Kavanaugh and William “Speedy” Denny had been amongst these serving to out within the vault on Monday afternoon. The historic society is engaged on placing out a booklet stuffed with the wedding licenses that will likely be organized alphabetically and by yr.
Kavanaugh focuses on discovering and organizing paperwork associated to African-American historical past.
“I am placing a lot of the coloured or Black individuals’s collectively over right here in alphabetical order so we will put them collectively in a booklet kind. Sharon cannot do that by herself,” Kavanaugh stated. “I like historical past and studying a few of these… It will assist me after I’m doing my very own family tree.”
The historic society has shaped the African-American Committee as an offshoot which focuses on researching Madison County’s African-American historical past. Denny has grow to be a part of the committee aiding them find notable cemeteries.
Whereas Denny was initially on the courthouse on different enterprise, the historical past buff got here all the way down to the vault to observe the method and share data.
“You by no means know who is aware of what, or the place, one thing is. You by no means know what somebody will blurt out normally dialog,” Denny stated.
Graves’ organizing of those historic paperwork didn’t begin with marriage licenses. The initiative arose from a special path.
“What acquired me began was a set of coroner’s information that I got here throughout in an obscure location. I believed that, as a result of it was the early 1900’s, that it will be good to place in a e-book kind,” Graves stated. “That despatched me down the rabbit gap, as a result of since then I’ve gone to Frankfort and located a piece there. I’ve gone by different funeral properties, too.”
Graves stated coming down alone will not be useful for organizational efforts and inspired anybody who desires to assist out to contact the historic society by their web site.