Donna Cox Briggs, left, has been hired as a Washington County Archive Assistant. She, along with Ned Irwin, right, will be given the task of keeping up with the county’s history inside of the newly remodeled office on Main Street in Jonesborough.

Donna Cox Briggs, left, has been hired as a Washington County Archive Assistant. She, along with Ned Irwin, right, will be given the task of keeping up with the county’s history inside of the newly remodeled office on Main Street in Jonesborough.

By JOHN KIENER

Assocaite Editor

 [email protected]

Work on the Washington County Archive is complete except for adjustments to the air conditioning system, according to Washington County Archivist  Ned Irwin.  Irwin also announced during a meeting of the Friends of the Archives in June that Donna Cox Briggs has been hired as an archive assistant. She begins work in July.

A native of the Colonial Heights area of Sullivan County, Mrs. Briggs has an extensive background in genealogical work.  She helped form the Cemetery Survey Team of Northeast Tennessee about 15 years ago.  The team has photographed and transcribed more than 800 cemeteries in the area. As a researcher, Briggs has helped people trace their lineage for the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and Society of Confederate Veterans (SCV).

The new assistant has served in several capacities as a member of the Watauga Association of Genealogists, and is the current secretary of the Washington County Historical Association and the Washington County, Tennessee Friends of the Archives.

The newly remodeled building is located on Main Street in Jonesborough.

The newly remodeled building is located on Main Street in Jonesborough.

Because her position is part-time, Briggs will be able to continue working on several genealogical projects, including photographing and transcribing the cemeteries of the Sullivan and Washington Counties, in addition to transcribing the Quarterly Court Minutes of Washington and Carter Counties. Briggs is a regular contributor to the Watauga Association of Genealogists Bulletin.

Briggs and her husband Mike have been together for 39 years.  They live in Colonial Heights and are the parents of two children and have three grandchildren.  Her background includes working for an environmental company that handles hazardous spills and debris removal from disaster situations.  She spent time working in the Gulf during the BP oil spill. She has been retired from the environmental company for five years.

Irwin said in his speech to the Friends of the Archives that it will require a minimum of two people to operate the Washington County Archive once it is opened.  One individual will supervise the reading room where tables and chairs are available to researchers, while the other staff member will then be available to retrieve material from the archive shelving. Volunteers will help supplement archive staffing.

The next step in preparing the archive for an opening to the public will involve the transfer of county records from various offices and arranging for access the same on two floors of the building which formerly housed county offices such as that of the county mayor and bookkeeping department.  “We have more than 5,000 linear feet of shelving,” Irwin said in his recent speech.  “The shelving is adjustable so that different size materials can be properly stored.”

Irwin expects county records currently being stored at the Archives of Appalachia on the campus of East Tennessee State University to be some of the initial materials transferred to the county archive. The ETSU records date from the county’s early history in the 1770s until the 1930s.

“They are mostly loose court records,” Irwin said. He added, “In addition to their use for genealogists, these records have already been used for research papers and in dissertations at the university.”

Established in 2011, the Washington County Records Management and Archives Department cares for the public records of Washington County, established in 1777.  As the state’s original county, Washington County holds Tennessee’s oldest records.  Irwin said, “It is the purpose of the department to assist officials in the preservation of these records and to assist researchers in accessing them.” The material once transferred to the archive will be stored in a sequence copying the manner in which county officials originally organized their records.

In carrying out this purpose, Irwin provided the Herald & Tribune with the current fiscal year’s statistics.  He said that there are 243 shelving units in the newly completed archive or 1,701 archival storage shelves. This equals 5,103 linear feet – nearly one mile of shelving or about the length of 17 football fields. The archive also has acquired map cabinets and shelving that will accommodate oversize documents.

As the sole archive employee before the hiring of  Briggs, Irwin handled 457 reference inquiries through June 6. The inquiries came from 34 states.  Recent arrivals of materials at the county archive include desks and tables for use by the public.  A computer link is also being provided to the Register of Deeds office, so that researchers can search and copy records from the office without going to the Main Street Court House.  Irwin said that “the deeds for Washington County have been scanned, are online, and indexed, so that no additional indexing of these records will be required by archive personnel.”

Besides the computer terminal used to research deeds, there will be a printer so that people using the terminal can obtain a copy of land records discovered in their research.

People who enter the reading room of the archive will be allowed to bring their laptop computers to record information. Wifi will be available. The staff will also be available to make photocopies of records.  Rules and charges for using and photocopying records have been established by the County Public Records Commission. These guidelines will govern the use of the archive.  Members of the public will not be allowed to visit the stacks themselves or the Archive Annex.

Hours during which the archive will be open have not been established.

“Volunteers will be very important,” Irwin said, stressing that the number of volunteers will determine to some extent the hours that the public can use the facility.

The Friends of the Archives currently has 16 members, many of whom are volunteer archive workers.  When the facility opens to the public, Irwin hopes that additional volunteers will be recruited. He can be contacted by phone at 753-0393 or by email at [email protected] if individuals are interested in volunteering at the facility.  People can also contact Friends President Betty Jane Hylton at [email protected]

Current acquisition rules for the archive indicate that only public records will be stored.  While this excludes private records, non-public materials are being accepted at the Washington County-Jonesborough Library.

Irwin says that there will be cooperative efforts between the Jonesborough Library and his office as well as sharing volunteers and efforts with the Heritage Alliance.  The Chester Inn owned by the State of Tennessee and operated by the Alliance is located directly across the street from the County Archive.

A sampling of the records being transferred to archive shelves include court records from Chancery, Circuit, Criminal and Sessions Courts along with Magistrates (Justice of the Peace) dockets, election, education records, tax assessment materials, marriage records, and county court minutes, among others.

“Modern records will not be placed in the archive building,” Irwin said. The cutoff date for considering records “modern” is approximately 1950 but will vary somewhat by office and record type.  Materials acquired after that date are being stored in the Archive Annex located in the space formerly occupied by the county jail.

The archivist expects to find historic papers tracing significant events in Washington County and in the formation of the State of Tennessee as records are indexed and used for research.  For example, Irwin has already identified papers from the State of Franklin era.

Looking forward to an archive opening in the future, Irwin is excited.  He said that when the opening takes place, “You will have facilities available for historic research and museums within walking distance.  There will also be places to eat. You will never have to leave downtown Jonesborough during the day.”

Work on the Washington County Archive is complete except for adjustments to the air conditioning system, according to Washington County Archivist  Ned Irwin.  Irwin also announced during a meeting of the Friends of the Archives in June that Donna Cox Briggs has been hired as an archive assistant. She begins work in July.

A native of the Colonial Heights area of Sullivan County, Mrs. Briggs has an extensive background in genealogical work.  She helped form the Cemetery Survey Team of Northeast Tennessee about 15 years ago.  The team has photographed and transcribed more than 800 cemeteries in the area. As a researcher, Briggs has helped people trace their lineage for the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and Society of Confederate Veterans (SCV).

The new assistant has served in several capacities as a member of the Watauga Association of Genealogists, and is the current secretary of the Washington County Historical Association and the Washington County, Tennessee Friends of the Archives.

Because her position is part-time, Briggs will be able to continue working on several genealogical projects, including photographing and transcribing the cemeteries of the Sullivan and Washington Counties, in addition to transcribing the Quarterly Court Minutes of Washington and Carter Counties. Briggs is a regular contributor to the Watauga Association of Genealogists Bulletin.

Briggs and her husband Mike have been together for 39 years.  They live in Colonial Heights and are the parents of two children and have three grandchildren.  Her background includes working for an environmental company that handles hazardous spills and debris removal from disaster situations.  She spent time working in the Gulf during the BP oil spill. She has been retired from the environmental company for five years.

Irwin said in his speech to the Friends of the Archives that it will require a minimum of two people to operate the Washington County Archive once it is opened.  One individual will supervise the reading room where tables and chairs are available to researchers, while the other staff member will then be available to retrieve material from the archive shelving. Volunteers will help supplement archive staffing.

The next step in preparing the archive for an opening to the public will involve the transfer of county records from various offices and arranging for access the same on two floors of the building which formerly housed county offices such as that of the county mayor and bookkeeping department.  “We have more than 5,000 linear feet of shelving,” Irwin said in his recent speech.  “The shelving is adjustable so that different size materials can be properly stored.”

Irwin expects county records currently being stored at the Archives of Appalachia on the campus of East Tennessee State University to be some of the initial materials transferred to the county archive. The ETSU records date from the county’s early history in the 1770s until the 1930s.

“They are mostly loose court records,” Irwin said. He added, “In addition to their use for genealogists, these records have already been used for research papers and in dissertations at the university.”

Established in 2011, the Washington County Records Management and Archives Department cares for the public records of Washington County, established in 1777.  As the state’s original county, Washington County holds Tennessee’s oldest records.  Irwin said, “It is the purpose of the department to assist officials in the preservation of these records and to assist researchers in accessing them.” The material once transferred to the archive will be stored in a sequence copying the manner in which county officials originally organized their records.

In carrying out this purpose, Irwin provided the Herald & Tribune with the current fiscal year’s statistics.  He said that there are 243 shelving units in the newly completed archive or 1,701 archival storage shelves. This equals 5,103 linear feet – nearly one mile of shelving or about the length of 17 football fields. The archive also has acquired map cabinets and shelving that will accommodate oversize documents.

As the sole archive employee before the hiring of  Briggs, Irwin handled 457 reference inquiries through June 6. The inquiries came from 34 states.  Recent arrivals of materials at the county archive include desks and tables for use by the public.  A computer link is also being provided to the Register of Deeds office, so that researchers can search and copy records from the office without going to the Main Street Court House.  Irwin said that “the deeds for Washington County have been scanned, are online, and indexed, so that no additional indexing of these records will be required by archive personnel.”

Besides the computer terminal used to research deeds, there will be a printer so that people using the terminal can obtain a copy of land records discovered in their research.

People who enter the reading room of the archive will be allowed to bring their laptop computers to record information. Wifi will be available. The staff will also be available to make photocopies of records.  Rules and charges for using and photocopying records have been established by the County Public Records Commission. These guidelines will govern the use of the archive.  Members of the public will not be allowed to visit the stacks themselves or the Archive Annex.

Hours during which the archive will be open have not been established.

“Volunteers will be very important,” Irwin said, stressing that the number of volunteers will determine to some extent the hours that the public can use the facility.

The Friends of the Archives currently has 16 members, many of whom are volunteer archive workers.  When the facility opens to the public, Irwin hopes that additional volunteers will be recruited. He can be contacted by phone at 753-0393 or by email at [email protected] if individuals are interested in volunteering at the facility.  People can also contact Friends President Betty Jane Hylton at [email protected]

Current acquisition rules for the archive indicate that only public records will be stored.  While this excludes private records, non-public materials are being accepted at the Washington County-Jonesborough Library.

Irwin says that there will be cooperative efforts between the Jonesborough Library and his office as well as sharing volunteers and efforts with the Heritage Alliance.  The Chester Inn owned by the State of Tennessee and operated by the Alliance is located directly across the street from the County Archive.

A sampling of the records being transferred to archive shelves include court records from Chancery, Circuit, Criminal and Sessions Courts along with Magistrates (Justice of the Peace) dockets, election, education records, tax assessment materials, marriage records, and county court minutes, among others.

“Modern records will not be placed in the archive building,” Irwin said. The cutoff date for considering records “modern” is approximately 1950 but will vary somewhat by office and record type.  Materials acquired after that date are being stored in the Archive Annex located in the space formerly occupied by the county jail.

The archivist expects to find historic papers tracing significant events in Washington County and in the formation of the State of Tennessee as records are indexed and used for research.  For example, Irwin has already identified papers from the State of Franklin era.

Looking forward to an archive opening in the future, Irwin is excited.  He said that when the opening takes place, “You will have facilities available for historic research and museums within walking distance.  There will also be places to eat. You will never have to leave downtown Jonesborough during the day.”