Project to digitize county records begins

MARSHALL CO. — Deep in storage in the Marshall County Building are records relating to property and road changes, as well as commissioner meeting minutes dating back to the inception of Marshall County in 1836. All the county records are kept in one place, and there are no backups.
“Some of these are handwritten,” pointed out county auditor Penny Lukenbill, holding a book of records dated 1844. “These are irreplaceable documents.”
She said that she discovered a record of county commissioners, years ago, paying someone $5 for a wolf pelt. Although the handwritten records are difficult to read, the near-perfect script is a peek into times gone by.
Last year, county council members approved the use of $50,000 to begin digitizing the records. County commissioners Monday approved a contract with Information and Records Associates for the job. The company will scan each page of the records and documents in color, according to Lukenbill.
“(Information and Records Associates) will start with the most current records,” said Lukenbill. “Eventually, everyone will have access to these old records — this is just the beginning of our record preservation project. It’s been my goal since becoming auditor six years ago to do this.”
Lukenbill said that Tippecanoe County and Elkhart County are also beginning to digitize their records. The job will likely never be completely done, but rather “always a work in progress,” said Lukenbill.
She pointed out that each of the 34,000 parcels of land in Marshall County has its own index card in a file cabinet. Whenever there is a change of ownership, the card is taken out and the change handwritten on the back. These cards will also be eventually digitized as part of the record preservation project.