Attala County, Mississippi

                     


Attala County Records Being Rapidly Lost

The Attala County Court House has burned on three separate occasions. The first fire on 28 July 1858 was the most devastating as all records were destroyed. For this reason, no records exist prior to August 1858. The second fire was in July 1860 and although the records on hand were somewhat meager, none were lost. The third fire occured on 26 July 1896 and some records were lost including the county marriage records.

Marriage records from 1896 forward are maintained by the County Clerk and are available at the County Court House on center square in Kosciusko. The Marriage Record Books have been microfilmed. The Courthouse is also the repository for criminal records, police records and other miscelllaneous court proceedings.

The Clerk of the Chancery Court has divorce, probate, land deeds, wills and Indian records beginning in 1858. The land records and will books are maintained in good order in a vault in the Chancery Court building.






The reference to the loss of records refers to old records stored in the attic above the main Court Chambers in the Attala County Courthouse. The discussion began with a posting to the MSATTALA Mail List on May 4, 2004 by Edward Hutchison a resident of Madison, Mississippi. Ed's message and those that followed on the subject of the rapid loss of Attala County records are shown below:

I went to the Courthouse in Kosciusko today in search of some police court records dating from about 1900.

The specific records that I was seeking, if they are yet extant, are to be found in the attic above the main court chambers. Alas, this area is not only unlit and gloomy but there is ample evidence to suggest it is also home to many rats and pigeons. To further discourage researchers the records are scattered and in no discernible order.

I have been searching through the records available at the Courthouse and in the Chancery Clerk's office for many years, so I was not surprised to see the sad state in which these records repose. Still, I can't help but wonder if there is not something that can be done to preserve these old records of our ancestors.

I wish there was someone to blame. We could then rise up in righteous indignation and acting collectively we could perhaps bring about a change. Unfortunately, there is not anyone we can point to as the culprit. The public officials that I have met have been uniformly helpful and courteous. They seem as unhappy about this situation as I am. Like me, they are not eager to rummage through records that are not only crumbling but which, given the bird droppings, have come to pose a health concern.

There is always the tendency to ask who is to blame when very often the better question is what's to blame. Many problems simply result from a flawed system. I think this is such an instance.

As we live in an era in which the national government is often the court of first resort, perhaps it is possible that federal funds could be obtained for a preservation effort. Given the tenor of the times, it may be that we could make the case that funds should be allocated to remove the ledgers and records because of the threat they pose to the poor pigeons. I suspect we could also prove the indigenous rats are being seriously inconvenienced by the presence of such thick books. Thus framed, I feel sure the government would not only encourage our efforts but would probably mandate them.

Anyone have a better idea? Or should we just resign ourselves to the inevitable loss of this part of our heritage?

Edward Hutchison
Madison, MS
Attala County Genealogy



A sad state, indeed. I have great affection for Attala County, since my Stuckey, England and Boyett ancestors lived there for many generations. I don't know about funds for such a project, but in other counties where I have done research, these old records have been microfilmed and placed in the local library. Kosciusko has a very good library and it might be possible to find room for microfilm of these records. Finding someone or some entity who would do the work at an affordable price will probably be difficult, but it has been done in other places. I'll do my share in funding such a project.

Martha Boggs
Abilene, TX
May 4, 2004



Edward: A similar situation went on here in Tennessee in Maury County. The solution here, tho it took time, was for the local Historical Society/Genealogy Library to take over the records older than a certain date and clean things up and organize. They first removed everything from the pigeons and rats and put them into a clean sotrage location, then sorted through everything and organized it. They are mainly a volunteer group with funding from local businesses helping out. Would something like this be possible? The library was put in the old Sherrifs Dept building/jail which was renovated for this purpose. I have not been to Attala County, so I don't know if the county population would be very interested.

Trish Elliott-Kashima
Lawrenceburg, TN
May 4, 2004



It might be possible to find grants to do this too. Just a thought. I know a lot of places give grants to Librarys.

Vickye White
May 4, 2004



Have the records been filmed by the LDS? If not, contact them to see if they will come and film them. At least, then there will be a permanent record of all of the documents and it will call attention to their neglect.

Julia French Wood
May 4, 2004



Agree that something should be done....and soon. From way out in CA I can't do much except to offer help on funding.

Kathy S.
California
May 4, 2004



I have heard that if LDS film old records they copyright them and then you have to access them through LDS. This may not be correct. I don't think they leave the microfilm in the county. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Martha Boggs
May 4, 2004



Yes, but it is no big deal. You may order the film to be sent to a LDS Family History Center near you. There is one in, almost, every city. The cost of $3.40 for the postage is certainly less than a trip to Attala Co., MS for most of us. The film can be kept for about 3 weeks to be viewed at your convenience for free on the microfilm readers. And the pages can be copied for a small fee. We have a new computer system at our LDS so the pages can be saved to disk for no charge or the copies are only 5 cents each.

If the LDS microfilm the documents, they will be preserved forever and easy for everyone to view. They may give the courthouse a copy, too, I don't know more than what I have stated.

I do know that researchers had made trips to the Attala County courthouse and had been told that they didn't have or couldn't find the Will Books for the mid 1800s and I found that the LDS had filmed them and got my gggrandfather, Hardy Bridges', Will and Probate records from the film.

Julia French Wood
May 4, 2004



Years ago when I was doing some research in the Courthouse in Attala County, a lady told me ab out a room in the basement that had some old records in it and was welcome to go and look at them. I went down stairs and it was as though someone had stood at the door and threw them in. I was hoping by now that those records had been given to the library.

What would be wrong in the county giving those records to the library and them being filed in the library. I don't live in that county but I bet you get people from the Historical Society to donate their time and get the records filed so they would not be lost forever.

Marilyn Dickson
May 4, 2004



I suppose my opinion doesn't count for much, but I feel that the records should be given over to the Attala Historical Society, and that they should be responsible for cleaning them up, microfilming them, placing them in an orderly fashion and putting them in some building (or room in the courthouse) in Attala County for anyone wanting to research. And, no, I don't live in Attala County. I have never like the idea that we GIVE our records to any group, and they in turn SELL them back to us. For what it's worth, that is my opinion.

Mozelle P. Chason
May 4, 2004



Microfilms ordered through the LDS library can be kept on a temporary or permanent basis. The cost for keeping the film permanently would be about $10. Sounds like LDS charges different prices for different cities. The cost for Mesa, AZ is $3.25 for 3 weeks, $6.50 for 6 weeks & $9.75 to keep the film permanently. Still cheaper than a trip to Attala Co.

Donna Lowery Drake
May 4, 2004

*Note: The reference above to keeping the film on a permanent basis refers to the LDS Family Center keeping the film on file for use by local researchers on a permanent basis.   Everette Carr



Many thanks Martha and Mozelle for your input, at times it may seem one is crying in the wilderness and no one hears.

Doug Cummins
May 4, 2004



I believe you are correct. I don't think they remove the actual records. Just take the films and charge for their use.

I am trying to contact Ann at the library to see if possibly there is some kind of grant that can be applied for to microfilm them.

Also, though not a member wouldn't this be a great project for the local Historical Society to take on. Perhaps place the documents in a better place at the Cultural Center? Again, I am not a member and this is just a thought I had.

When I was recently in the basement of the Chancery Clerk Building I was amazed at how many records were missing. I wondered at the time if people just took them. No One watches you down there and it would be easy to just walk off with them. That would be a shame as others will eventually want to access them. Maybe the board of Supervisors could donate them to the local library genealogy room.

Just a few thoughts,

Gigi Tanksley
May 4, 2004



I spoke with Ann at the local library. She said that she was unaware of any grant program that might cover microfilming the records. She added that there might be one but she was unaware of it.

She suggested letters to our local newspaper to the editor showing concern for the state of the records. Also, for the state of some of the cemeteries located in the county that have been allowed to deteriorate.

Also, I learned from my conversation with her that the local Genealogy room at the library is funded by donation. I was unaware of this but I feel that those of us who use it should contribute something no matter how small to helping keep it going.

She said that her space was very limited but that she would be glad to take any records that would fit in her space.

Gigi Tanksley



Guess I should have read all your replies before weighing in on this.

I will add this. I would be glad to chip in a little money to see these records saved.

Gigi Tanksley
May 4, 2004



Does MS have a state archives?

Jackie
May 4, 2004



I know that Attala County and Kosciusko are not as large as Spartanburg, SC, but there is where my first experience with microfilmed public records came. All of the oldest records are on microfilm in the genealogy and local history department of the public library. This is also true of Anderson County, SC, and most likely a lot of other places. Wish we could get it done in Attala. Let me know what I can do to help.

Martha Boggs
May 4, 2004



I have sat and watched these messages unfold with interest. I think we are all appalled at the condition of the sacred records of our ancestors. Especially when so few are available already. The question is, what to do. I feel there is enough support here to make a difference.

The goal is to get these records preserved and quickly, damn the cost.

A list of ideas:

LDS
State Archives
Library - Grants are available.
Local Historical/Genealogy Society
Volunteers
Money
Organization
Donations

Someone needs to take charge, make assignments, and kick some booty.

Let me know what you think,
Thanks Everette for setting up the website and mailing list.
Good start

Jackie Wood
Willow Springs MO
May 4, 2004



Everette,

Thank you for your reply.

I would also be interested in assisting with funds for the preservation of the endangered records.

Rayedene
May 4, 2004



I have done a bit of research at the Huntsville AL Library in the past. I was there about 3 years ago and found a similar situation to the one described by Edward , although they were probably a bit more orderly. I was in the basement , unsupervised , handling original documents and was alarmed to know that I or anyone else could have walked off with them without any notice. Quite a few of the files on my particular ancestors are missing. I can guess what has happened to them...............

Anyway , I am happy to report that since then , the records have been moved to the genealogy room of the Huntsville Public Library and a team of volunteers are carefully and lovingly getting them set up in that facility as well as posting many to the local website for all of us to use and enjoy. I live very far away or I would volunteer my time to help Attala County with the same process. I will gladly contribute funds. We must not let these precious records be lost !!!

Molly Pere
May 4, 2004



I wonder if we couldn't establish a fund among ourselves to at least undertake the first round of sorting of materials and developing a plan and budget for converting these things into an archive. If there were somebody now in Attala who could undertake the work, for a stipend, that would help at leat to know more than we do now. Then we'd be in a much better position to seek money from relevant county/state funds or maybe even, as one subscriber suggested, external grants, to fix this problem. I personally would be glad to contribute to this.

Linda Oldham
May 5, 2004



To all that are concerned about the condition of Attla County records, I must say that the majority of the county records are maintained in very good conditions. Although small, the Circuit Clerks office is will arranged and it is very clean and well kept. All of the marriage records that survived the Court House fires are there and can be accessed on line at the Attala County web page. I haven't looked into the land records in the Chancery Clerks office but they are in the new courthouse. I can understand the volume and conditions that the Police Records must be in but I haven't looked into that. I plan to go to the Library this afternoon and talk to Ann about them.

We have the best Library in central Mississippi here in Kosciusko, with the most information in the Genealogy Section that you find anywhere. Lots of the old News Papers that are in the basement is on micro-film in the Genealogy Section.

For any of you that haven't been here yet, don't plan a fast stop-by to see it all, but plan on about a week here to get a feel for all that we have available in just the Genealogical Section of the Library...

O.D. McElroy

G/G/G/Grandson of John Curtis one of North Attala County's early settlers in the 1840's...



We need to find away to keep the records local. So that anyone one who wants to see them can. Why should the LDS have control over these records. There is a genealogist in Winston County Ms who could be of great help with this.

The genealogy group there is very active. I will try to find his email and forward some of this to him.

Holly Whitney
May 5, 2004



I am truly happy that so many people are concerned and willing to help in various ways to preserve our Attala County records. This question has arisen on another LIST I am on, and some discussion has concerned LDS microfilming the records. It seems my concern that they would copyright the materials is correct. A lady who does research in Alabama records said that she was reminded by a librarian at the Family History Center that the records she ordered could not be copied (I suppose except by hand) because LDS held the copyright. Because of this, the LDS filmed and copyrighted records in the Alabama Archives could not be copied in any media. I assume she knows what she is talking about.

Martha Boggs
Abilene, TX
May 5, 2004



She does NOT know what she is talking about. The copyright laws only apply to Books that they have on microfilm. They allow copies of them, also, but state that the "Entire" book can't be copied or any part for sale or distribution.

All the court documents can be copied and, after being filmed, the original documents are left where they were found. Microfilming doesn't take them away from the residents of the original location, it makes the films available to "EVERYONE" who lives near a LDS family history library. Reading and copying from the microfilm is so much easier than reading from the old large volumes and the filming makes it unnecessary for the old documents to be handled over and over again, which will eventually destroy them.

Anyone who hasn't been to a LDS Family History Center, hasn't even begun to do genealogy research.

My opinion.

Julia French Wood
May 5, 2004



If you go to www.familysearch.org

and do a search in the Family History Catalog, you will see that many of the Attala County documents have been microfilmed. But I believe this thread was begun by someone talking about documents that were in about 1900. Only the earliest to about 1870 have been filmed.

Family Search

Julia French Wood
May 5, 2004



Thought I would throw in an offer to help sort out the records. I live just outside Kosciusko and will be glad to volunteer to help if someone wants to organize a group to go in the attic and straighten out what we can.

Gigi



Hi All,

I was speaking with someone with the LDS today and asked them about what was involved getting records on film.

What I was told is that someone in authority must authorize the material being filmed and request it. They would be placed on the list and when their turn came up, the LDS would come record the information (at no Cost), leave a copy of the microfilm at the Courthouse, place a copy in their valt and have copies that would be avalible to anyone around the world to reserch.

You can go to
http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Library/fhlcatalog
search for Attala Mississippi to find a list of the records that they already have.

The following information is the record of one of the titles that they have:
Title Attala County, Mississippi cemeteries
Stmnt.Resp.[Marymaganos McCool Fenwick]
Authors Fenwick, Marymaganos McCool (Added Author)
Notes
Includes some cemeteries from neighboring counties and one cemetery from Fayette Co., Alabama.
Copyright pending.

Subjects
Mississippi, Attala - Cemeteries
Mississippi, Carroll - Cemeteries
Mississippi, Choctaw - Cemeteries
Mississippi, Leake - Cemeteries
Mississippi, Montgomery - Cemeteries
Mississippi, Winston - Cemeteries
Alabama, Fayette - Cemeteries

Copies
Call Number - Location
976.2644 V3a - FHL US/CAN Book

Format Books/Monographs (With Fiche)

Language English

Publication [S.l. : s.n., c1988?]

Physical 403 p. : 1 folded map.

Subject Class 976.2644 V3

Film Notes
Note - Location [Film]
Also on microfiche. Salt Lake City : Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1992. 5 microfiches. - FHL US/CAN Fiche [ 6100956 ]

2002 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

You don't have to be a member of their church to use the Family History Centers.
Just thought that I'd let ya'll know.
Tim
May 5, 2004



Thanks, Julia, for the good info.
Martha
May 5, 2004



I have followed the discussion of the Attala County records with interest. A number of intriguing and interesting proposals have been put forward as to what could or should be done. The number of people that offered to step forward and assist with funding is encouraging and very generous.

It is not my intent to diminish the enthusiasm nor to dampen the "let's get it done" spirit but, there are a few things that all involved in this discussion must keep in mind. As O. D. McElroy pointed out, the records in question are primarily criminal court records, arrest records and matters that principally deal with the not so pleasant side of Attala County in the early years. Now, that is not to say that some genealogical information might not be gleaned from this material, nor do I wish to suggest that these original records do not have value. They do. All historical records, irrespective of the subject matter, have value and should be preserved. But, as Mr. McElroy pointed out, the vast majority of the records, at least those that survived the courthouse fires are maintained in an orderly fashion and are reasonably well maintained. And as he pointed out, many of the Attala County records have been microfilmed and are available through the LDS Family Centers, the Attala County Library or on the Attala County MSGenWeb web site. Could the county do more to protect original records? There is no doubt that they could. And, the condition of the criminal court records is certainly deplorable and inexcusable. So, a concerted effort on the part of the citizenry is certainly in order. And funding to restore and store records will be an issue, for it is most likely the lack of funding that has created the problem in the first place.

It is not likely that the library has room for the records in question. Perhaps the historical society might be able to provide some assistance in that regard. Certainly, the historical society has the expertise to determine if grant funding might be available through various federal and state grant programs. They are well experienced in this regard. But, before anyone goes marching into the courthouse with the idea of organizing and removing the records stored there, one must acknowledge that the county government is charged with the responsibility of maintaining and housing the records that are generated in the normal day to day course of business with the county courts. As well intentioned as a group of citizens might be and as worthy as their cause might be, none the less, the records are under the jurisdiction of the county government. No one, no matter how well intentioned, can simply decide that they are going to take charge of the records. And certainly, no one has the authority to remove the records without the knowledge and consent of the county officials.

So, it seems that the first order of business is to determine how the county officials will react to any suggestion that they should relinquish control of the records in question. And, if any of you has ever dealt with a governmental agency, you will be prepared for a long drawn out process.

The project is obviously going to require individuals in Attala County with local connections and influential friends in high places would certainly be a benefit. If the county agrees, then you can proceed to the next step which is to reclaim the records, organize them and then search for a new home for them where they will be maintained, preserved and accessible.

No easy process. But certainly one worthy of attention.

Everette Carr
Allentwon, PA
May 5, 2004



Again Everette is right. The records belong to the county. It was suggested to me that letters to the editor might prompt the Board of Supervisors to respond to the concern for the state of the papers in the attic of the courthouse.

I am acquainted with only one of the supervisors, Eddie Womble, who I believe to be the head of the board although I am not sure. I intend to speak with him about it. I feel like we need to at least get the matter before the board. Perhaps then if it is a matter of funding or something else a resolution can be found.

The records in the Chancery Clerks' office are well maintained. It was a pleasure to search there for me. However, the older records in the basement are unguarded as I said earlier. They should not be walking off. Even allowing for some deterioration there are way to many records just simply not there.

When I spoke to Ann at the library she said she had very limited room to store anything but would love to see the Confederate Pension records turned over to the library for safe keeping.

Again I volunteer to help however I can when a resolution is reached. Perhaps cleaning up the area and changing the storage containers might be allowed if nothing else. Someone here with the clout to get something done needs to get involved.

Gigi Tanksley
May 6, 2004



Hi, There appears to be some misconception of the LDS and the records they have. They have been for years microfilming records and are housed in Salt Lake City. The many centers across the US have limited space and cannot house all these records so that is why there is a cost to order copys of what they do not have to view. The LDS center does not charge for anything they have in the library except copying, and you can spend countless hours viewing anything they have. I have found priceless marriage records, etc. there. I for one, appreciate all they have done to preserve the records. And they may have, and most likely have filmed the old records that are being discussed. They do however need to be preserved as, there is a desire for all of us to be able to view the original records when available. I have personally paid for 3 reels of land records from Grainger Co. TN. to be kept in the local library in Mesa, AZ. They copy and keep them or otherwise return them to Salt Lake.

Ruby Sharp
May 6, 2004



I wanted to second what Everette and Gigi have written.

When I lived in NY, I served two terms in our local legislature and I can attest to the fact that government officials at every level tend to be very protective, even jealous, of those things that fall within their purview. So, of course, Everette is right, the consent and advise of the local supervisors must be sought before we have any reasonable expectation of "fixing" this problem. Needless to say, most politicians want to be pictured on the side of historic preservation--especially if it doesn't cost them anything--so there is reason to believe that we can obtain their cooperation in making the needed changes.

I feel that the issue Gigi alludes to is already a clear and present danger and likely to become even more problematic in the near future. One can go on eBay and find many old documents for sale. What do you suppose the first issue of the Star-Herald or any newspaper following December 7, 1941, would be worth? Every day that passes, by definition, means that the records in the basement of the Chancery Clerk's building grow older. Being older translates into greater value in the marketplace, so the problem can only become worse as the temptation to pilfer these records necessarily becomes greater.

No doubt the readers of this missive, motivated as genealogists always are by the purest of goals and motives, will not succumb to the opportunity to make a buck. (Incidentally, there is not the least sarcasm in this remark. It is crafted of the purest logic and sincerely meant. Many of us feel wonderfully repaid and enriched for the investment we have made in genealogy, but I know of no one who was ever adequately compensated, much less enriched, in a material way for their genealogical endeavors. )

However, recall that the basement of the Clerk's office is open to the public--not just you and me. As long as I see banks putting bars on their windows and otherwise separating their money from the public, I'm going to assume that they have reason to believe that the absence of such deterrents might result in a problem for them. Well, we are at the point that many of the old records and documents in the Clerk's basement--which do have monetary value--are free for the taking. I shant be surprised if some people take advantage of this opportunity.

I fear I have done a better job at raising problems and issues than I have done in suggesting solutions. Perhaps, though, the solution to this problem is just to identify the records (such as the oldest land records and court dockets, old newspapers, etc.) which are particularly valuable and place them in the hands of the library or the historical society or any group which has the resources to provide some degree of oversight. Certainly not all the records in the basement are valuable in a material sense, but others are and the time to protect them is now.

Edward Hutchison
Madison, MS
May 6, 2004



I have read all the sugguestions on how to preserve and protect the documents. I agree we need to ask first. It might be worh our while to think along the lines of fund raising to help the court house and or the library with storage cabnets, maybe even their own machine so the records can be copyed on to micrafilm or CD. I see all the time where Genealogy sociatys do fund raisers by selling books on their county. Maybe some of the oldest records can be put into book or CD form, not only to save them but for resale. This way the funds raised will be an on going sorce of preservation funds. When we ask about organizing the documents they may not have the money for cabnits etc. So it could go over better if we can offer to help with the expence. Just an idea. I am glad to hear so many people want something done.

Holly Whitney
May 6, 2004



If your taking count. Count me in. I live too far away to be of any on site help but will help monitarily where I can. If there is any hope of breaking through my brick wall in Attala county I fear it lies in these old negelected records.

Jackie



Does Attala County Government(Board of Supervisors, County Commissioners?) have an e-mail address where we could complain about the situation with the records storage?

James Watkins
May 6, 2004



James,

I was unable to locate an e-mail for the Board of Supervisors.

However, I did locate some information on the community newspaper for those interested in letters to the editor.

The Star Herald
207 North Madison Street
Kosciusko, MS 39090

E-mail: Star Herald

Editor is Mark Thornton
E-mail: mthornton@cnhi.com

I know you have to put your name and address on letters to the editor or they won't publish them.

Gigi Tanksley
May 6, 2004



Everette,

Been there done that Everette. Dealing with the local government on preserving records that is. Not an easy task and can be a delicate one in these small towns were the local politicians and heads of governmental departments got there a lot of times due to their egos. I have written the local paper and asked that they do some investigating. And dont worry, I referred them to you!...lol At least you can tell them what is going on to this point and may be able to give them some good ideas. Most of all you can relay our concerns.

Not to be discouraging but, a reality check here. I managed to help preserve an 1890s platt map of our county that was in the vault at the courthouse and marked microfilmed by the state archives. It was never microfilmed. We did manage to get this oversized map copied and all land owners transcribed and placed online. A quality copy has to be done on one of those big blue print copiers due to it's size or the state archives has to make a trip and microfilm this one document to get an actual copy of the map saved. My copy is in two copies per page so is not usable in book form. If we ever get it copied professionally, I plan on having it printed in book form along with the transcription to benefit the local historical society. This one project has covered 3 years of work and I could not have accomplished it without the support and work of many people who are members of the Ripley Co MO GenWeb site.

Also a note on criminal and court records. I have found them to be the best interpretor of live in the times. They give us a look at the real world within the time span they were recorded. I have learned more about my family in Ripley Co from these types of records than many other sources I have checked. And not because they were criminal elements either.

Jackie Wood
County coordinator, Ripley Co MO GenWeb
May 7, 2004



Does The Star Herald have a website also?

Jackie
May 7, 2004



Yes they do.... (Star Herald Newspaper web site)

Star Herald Newspaper web site

Gigi Tanksley
May 7, 2004



I think all of those who have the resources to donate funds to this cause of preserving the records should write a check to Ann Breedlove, our genealogy librarian in Attala County so that she will have the support she needs to maintain the genealogy room. Maybe she can start a fund in anticipation of launching a project to get these records preserved. And write to the Star Herald as she has suggested.

Jim Fullilove
May 8, 2004



Dear Friends in the Attala County area,

I made my first trip to Attala and Carroll Counties last year for genealogical research, traveling from Huntsville, Alabama. I am very pleased that so many have taken interest in preserving the old records. I can see the time coming when officials won't see the need to keep old paper records at all if the information is microfilmed. If I might, I'd like to put in my "two cents' worth", having some experience with organizing community projects and human relations.

An organized, diplomatic, strategic approach is called for-----the key words being "organized" and "diplomatic". The project could get off to a bad start if individuals independently and haphazardly approach county officials about this issue, or some reporter do an "expose". It would take only one over-zealous person or "loose cannon" to shoot the project in the foot before it even got through the door.

Along these lines, publicly addressing the problem (i.e. letters to the editor, etc) might be premature at this stage...running the risk of some unforeseen negative impact. Public attention to the records' attic room might encourage curiosity-seekers and increased traffic to the attic area. Maybe even "scalawags" with a notion of removing a few to put up for sale on Ebay---you never know. Public attention at this time could inadvertently solicit public comments or complaints which are perceived by county officials as criticism. It goes without saying that it's important that no toes be stepped on or that county staff feel put-upon, even though the records are the county's responsibility.

Hopefully, some brave, local soul (the should of a genealogist, I hope) will step up to the plate and make their mark in history by organizing an ad hoc committee to work with the records' office staff. This committee could make a short-term plan to address the immediate issue...which is to stop the deterioration of the records as quickly as possible.

Working with a relocation plan could take a long time, and may never come to pass. In fact, the idea of turning the records over to another entity could be threatening to county officials now. Although it may appear the county has no concern for the records, any mention of relocation request could still be met with resistance (control and authority issues). For diplomacy's sake, and to address the urgency of the situation, I suggest tabling the relocation idea for now. Instead, focus on immediate improvement of the conditions where the records are now located, before more is lost.

The proposed committee might ask permission organize an attic clean-up, including the records sorted and stored as safely as possible in the attic. (I have not been there, so I don't know what the possibilities are.) If file cabinets are needed, local businesses or groups might donate used metal cabinets for temporary (or permanent, if necessary) storage. These things would need to be done regardless of whether or not the records are relocated to another entity. When the records are better protected in the attic, a longer-term plan can be pursued. The idea of relocation might be better received if the group has first demonstrated to county officials a committment to and respect for these old records.

Should this "clean-up" take place, it might be good to document it, start to finish, with a good bit of video. Afterward, have the the video edited to make a nice little "documentary" for posterity's sake. If relocating the records is still desirable and funds are needed, the video can be used as part of fund-raising efforts. At minimum, the video might even be useful for motivational purposes or loaned to other historical clubs for programs at meetings. ..

My last suggestion is::

If it turns out that later relocation of the records is warranted and approved, send the video to a certain very successful, beloved, and wealthy celebrity of African-American descent from the Kosciusko area. Relocating the records might be something she would help fund. Not build a building, of course, but perhaps remodel a room somewhere to accommodate the records (is remodeling the attic a possibility?). At the very least, she might provide fire-proof filing cabinets, which is no small chunk of change. Last time I priced them, I believe they were around $800-1000 apiece. But my hunch is that she would like to see some local efforts first.

That's my two cents' worth. Maybe it will inspire more and better ideas.

Dianne BLAIN Williamson
Hazel Green, AL.
May 15, 2004



Everette and all list members,

This lady makes some very good points. Obviously she has had a good deal of experience in dealing with people and documents. I think many of us know the woman she is referring to who might help with funding or in some other way. Even if this is not a factor, Ms. Williamson makes some excellent suggestions. I do so wish I lived in or near Attala County. I'd just love to participate in this project.

Martha Boggs
May 16, 2004



There is an article on the meeting of Board of Supervisors in this weeks paper which mentions the old records.

Star Herald   Thursday, May 20, 2004

Gigi Tanksley
May 19, 2004



The following is an extract from the web site of the Star Hearald dated Thursday, May 20, 2004 and reports on a recent meeting of the Attala County Supervisors where the issue of the county records was the subject of discussion. This extract was contributed by Douglas Cummins. To view the Star Herald web site, click on the link shown below:

Supes consider options to preserve courthouse records

By Mark Thornton
Star Hearald Article

The Attala County Board of Supervisors responded to critical letters about record-keeping at the courthouse, saying they may consider building cabinets on the third floor to protect the historic documents.

"Whose responsibility is it?" board president Eddie Womble asked board attorney John Shaw.

Shaw said keeping records was up to the clerks of each office.

"It would have to be a county-wide effort," he said.

Two fires and decades of different officials with different filing systems have contributed to the disarray of the older papers, which are in the third-floor storage area of the courthouse. There, the documents have been unprotected and exposed to pigeon and rat droppings, the three out-of-towners wrote in letters to the editor in last week's Star-Herald.

"Our records are kept as good or better than most counties," Chancery Clerk Gerry Taylor said.

Supervisors said they would consider building cabinets in the unoccupied area of the courthouse. They also asked Taylor about the cost of transferring all of the county's records to microfilm, but no action was taken. Taylor said that storage space would soon be at a premium -- his office has accumulated nearly as many books of documents in the last 12 years as it had in the previous 150 years. Supervisors agreed to spend about $7,500 on cabinets at the chancery building.



To view the article on the Attala County Supervisors meeting where the courthouse records were discussed, click on this link:

Star Herald Article

It would appear that the County Supervisors are taking the matter seriously and are willing to expend funds in order to provide proper storage facilities. Although the article mentions the courthouse attic, the article repeatedly refers to the Chancery Court and quotes the Chancery Clerk in several places.

Although one can not expect immediate action, it would appear that you have the attention of the County Supervisors. It might be that now is the time for those among you that reside in the Kosciusko area to consider forming a 'Citizens Committee' that could offer to provide assistance with cleaning and cataloguing the records when proper storage facilities are provided. I would suggest that the committee, once formed, plan to attend the next supervisors meeting to present a proposal.

Everette Carr
Allentown, PA
May 19, 2004



Note: The following E-mail message provides some informed information on the role of the LDS Family History Library with respect to microfilming county records.

I read your forwarded email with interest. There is some misinformation included in the email.

I forwarded it on to our (LDS) former supervisor in Mississippi. She is no longer the state acquisitions coordinator but is still aware of the filming activity in the state. She is a Mississippi lady and has a long term interest in preserving the state records.

A little more than half of the state has been microfilmed for the second time by the Salt Lake Family History Library. The project will eventually include the entire state.

Filming is restricted to older records that have genealogical value. This is controlled by a combination of Mississippi State Archive rules and the Family History Llbrary acquisition guidelines prepared for each state. There is a long list of counties that are already approved and must be done before additional counties can be added to the list. These are counties that have records that go back to the early 1800's.

Counties have many records of historical value that are not filmed by the Family History Library. Filming of these historical records would need to be a county project.

Each county has the responsibility for their records. Some counties have had their records microfilmed by a commercial vendor at a considerable expense to the county. Some have moved the records into an archive constructed in a library. This is done by volunteers and local funding to pay for the construction of the temperature and humidity controlled archive (Lowndes county). Lowndes county is an outstanding model and deserves study by other interested counties.

If the Family HIstory Library films the records they must obtain approval from the county clerks and/or the Board of Supervisors. The filming project is done with the approval and sponsorship of the Mississippi State Archives. The original records stay under the control and custody of the county at all times. The State Archives recommend which counties should be filmed first based on an assessment done by the State. Final approval comes from each county. If they do not want to be part of the filming project it is their decision.

Some records go through a preservation process and are indexed before filming. This preservation/indexing process and later the filming is done by volunteers that pay all of their own expenses for a 1 to 2 year period while they work on the records. There is always a shortage of such volunteers so the work must go at a pace sustained by the volunteers. Some of the volunteers are residents of Mississippi but most come from other states and live in each county as they do the work.

If the Family History Library does the preservation and filming there is no need for funds. The counties have sufficient funds to pay for the preservation and acid free storage supplies needed. The County Supervisors have almost always paid these expenses when a project is approved by them. The cost is a few thousand dollars. Counties have a budgeted item for record preservation. The film processing costs are born by the Family History Library at no cost to the county. Copies of the films can be purchases by the county at a cost only basis at the time of the filming. The Mississippi State Archives receive a reproducable master microfilm copy at no cost. Microfilm masters are maintained by the Family History Library in a granite storage vault in Utah as a protection against subsequent loss of the original records by any number of possible causes including theft. The county must give permission for copies of the films to be loaned to Family History Centers around the world. These loan fees cover duplication and mailing expenses only. No profit is ever made by the Family History Centers on these films or loans. The original record access is controlled by the county. Some counties limit access after microfilm copies become available to preserve the original records.

Concerned folks should ask their County Clerks to work with the State Archives to develop a plan for preservation in compliance with Mississippi State Law and in compliance with State Archive professional guidance.

I hope that this will be helpful

David & Ilene Wiggins
July 8, 2004

Back to Main Page




Last Modified On
Tuesday, 5-May-2004 11:20:12 CDT

copyright © 2004 by Everette Carr. All rights reserved.

Email Attala County Mail List
(Must be subscribed to the MSATTALA Mail List to post a message)

Attala County - MSGenWeb