Behind the walls of the Shelby County Museum & Archives in Columbiana rests a treasure trove of information about the people and events that shaped Shelby County.
The museum, which is maintained by the Shelby County Historical Society, houses a large and rare collection of research materials that bring genealogists from near and far to research their family’s Shelby County roots.
But time can take a toll on these documents, some of which are close to 200 years old. In an effort to make certain these records are preserved for all time, as well as make them available worldwide, the Shelby County Historical Society has joined forces with FamilySearch in a program that will digitize these records for all to enjoy.
FamilySearch.org provides access to birth records, marriage records, censuses, death records, probate records, wills, and much more. The partnership between the Shelby County Historical Society and FamilySearch will allow people to access old records dating back to 1815, all of which are stored in the archives at the museum, said Alice Muck, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as LDS.
FamilySearch, which is the largest genealogical resource in the world, is owned by the LDS. Muck explained that the project with the Shelby County Historical Society is entirely funded by the FamilySearch.org.
Muck said that digital photographs of the documents and records will be made by program volunteers, then transmitted to FamilySearch.org in Salt Lake City where the images will be organized. The digital images are then sent back to volunteers to be indexed. After the indexing process is complete, the records will then become available through FamilySearch.org.
Alice Muck’s husband, Clem Muck, has helped to spearhead the partnership. As a member of the board of directors for the Shelby County Historical Society, he understands the importance of preserving the wealth of information found within the museum archives. He feels the digitizing process helps the community get involved in its history.
“Everyone at some time or another wants to know more about their ancestors. Learning how to digitize and index records is a fun way to start the process,” he said. Most noteworthy, in his opinion, is that these records will now be available by computer for free to anyone interested in genealogy.
Volunteers have already started training on the process of digitizing, but additional volunteers will be needed for the project, which is anticipated to take about two years.
There has been a great deal of support from the community, with members of Columbiana United Methodist Church, First Baptist Church of Columbiana, and the LDS ward of Columbiana showing support from the beginning stages.
As Executive Director of the Shelby County Museum & Archives, I want to encourage members of the community to contact me at the museum at 205-669-3912 to learn how they can become involved.
Original article by columnist Jennifer Maier published in Shelby County Reporter on April 5, 2016.