Preserving history

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County clerk awarded $12,200 to save 180-year-old records

By The Staff

Books containing the recorded history of Spencer County residents have led a dangerous, yet charmed life.

These leather-bound volumes, containing court and marriage records beginning over 180 years ago, have survived not one, but two courthouse fires. Their yellowed pages reveal water damage from the Great Flood of 1937.

“This data can easily be lost,” said John Lilly, a collector of local history. “The bindings of these books are broken. Their strings are popped. They have to be repaired or we’re going to lose pages.”

Recently the Spencer County Clerk’s office received a $12,200 grant from the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives that will help restore and protect historical records.

“We’re trying to get these (records) on microfilm,” said Spencer County Clerk Judy Puckett. That way researchers, like Lilly, can easily search family histories.

Not long ago, Lilly was perusing through the old, hand-written volumes in the back room at the courthouse. He was looking for information about the Normandy family that moved to the area in 1783 – about 39 years before Spencer County was created.

“This is one of the largest, unknown hobbies there is,” said Lilly, referring to individuals who trace genealogies through ancient public records.

His hopes were to write an article on the family’s influences in the area for Spencer County’s Historical and Geneological Society.

Unlike Lilly, Puckett said most people who come into her office wanting to look through old records are researching their own family history.

“They want to track back their family as far as they can,” said Puckett.

Puckett hopes that in addition to copying pages of records on microfilm, the grant will cover rebinding some of the two century-old books. Plans are to store the microfilm copies for public access in Frankfort, while the original copies remain in her care at the county courthouse.

“I won’t get rid of them. I don’t have the heart,” said Puckett.

The Spencer County Clerk’s office is one of 28 public agencies that have been awarded grants from the Local Records Grant Program, according to Jerry W. Carlton, manager of the program. Nearly $500,000 has been awarded so far this year. In the program’s 25-year history, more than $15.1 million has been distributed throughout Kentucky for the management and protection of vital records.