Down within the basement of the Madison County Courthouse is a vault holding a number of hundred years’ price 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 incorporates it.
She has been volunteering within the depths of the courthouse for roughly 5 years—organizing the numerous variety of marriage licenses which are stored down within the vault. A number of buddies have gone on to assist out—sufficient that Graves refers back to the undertaking as an historic society initiative.
“Loads 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 mentioned. “One in all our different members calls it ‘playtime,’ as a result of we’ve a lot enjoyable going by way of 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 lots of 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’ll be able to transcribe it. You could have to have a look at a number of, simply to see what letters he was utilizing to determine what he was writing,” Graves mentioned.
“I say ‘he’ as a result of there have solely been ‘he is’ to this point,” she added
The paperwork can look vastly totally different from each other, relying on the 12 months, 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 may be troublesome to decipher. “R’s” can seem like “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 filled with the wedding licenses that will likely be organized alphabetically and by 12 months.
Kavanaugh focuses on discovering and organizing paperwork associated to African-American historical past.
“I am placing many of the coloured or Black folks’s collectively over right here in alphabetical order so we are able to put them collectively in a booklet type. Sharon cannot do that by herself,” Kavanaugh mentioned. “I like historical past and studying a few of these… It’s going to 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 change into a part of the committee helping them to find notable cemeteries.
Whereas Denny was initially on the courthouse on different enterprise, the historical past buff got here right down to the vault to observe the method and share info.
“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 on the whole dialog,” Denny mentioned.
Graves’ organizing of those historic paperwork didn’t begin with marriage licenses. The initiative arose from a special path.
“What received 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 might be good to place in a guide type,” Graves mentioned. “That despatched me down the rabbit gap, as a result of since then I’ve gone to Frankfort and located a bit there. I’ve gone by way of different funeral properties, too.”
Graves mentioned coming down alone just isn’t useful for organizational efforts and inspired anybody who needs to assist out to contact the historic society by way of their web site.