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.
May 4, 2004
Does MS have a state archives?
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.
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:
Library - Grants are available.
Local Historical/Genealogy Society
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.
Willow Springs MO
May 4, 2004
Thank you for your reply.
I would also be interested in assisting with funds for the preservation of the endangered records.
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 !!!
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was speaking with someone with the LDS today and asked them about what was involved getting records on
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
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)
Includes some cemeteries from neighboring counties and one cemetery from Fayette Co., Alabama.
Mississippi, Attala - Cemeteries
Mississippi, Carroll - Cemeteries
Mississippi, Choctaw - Cemeteries
Mississippi, Leake - Cemeteries
Mississippi, Montgomery - Cemeteries
Mississippi, Winston - Cemeteries
Alabama, Fayette - Cemeteries
Call Number - Location
976.2644 V3a - FHL US/CAN Book
Format Books/Monographs (With Fiche)
Publication [S.l. : s.n., c1988?]
Physical 403 p. : 1 folded map.
Subject Class 976.2644 V3
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.
May 5, 2004
Thanks, Julia, for the good info.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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?
May 6, 2004
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
I know you have to put your name and address on letters to the editor or they won't publish them.
May 6, 2004
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.
County coordinator, Ripley Co MO GenWeb
May 7, 2004
Does The Star Herald have a website also?
May 7, 2004
Yes they do.... (Star Herald Newspaper web site)
Star Herald Newspaper web site
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
I hope that this will be helpful
David & Ilene Wiggins
July 8, 2004
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