Texas Historical Foundation Funds Court Records Database Project

The Texas Historical Foundation (THF) has awarded the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) $5000 to create an online reference tool for searching a set of court records held by the State Archives.

At the June 4 meeting of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, State Archivist Jelain Chubb joined with commissioners to accept a $5,000 grant from the Texas Historical Foundation.

THF’s Marshall J. Doke Texas Legal History Preservation Trust grant will support TSLAC’s efforts to transcribe and make available key information from Texas 3rd Court of Appeals case files. Through previous grants from the THF, the Archives and Information Services Division has already converted 2500 Texas Supreme Court case files into digital records that may be searched online.

That ongoing project has involved much more than scanning documents, as many of the original papers need time and labor-intensive preservation treatments before imaging may begin. In addition, the historical records require handwriting and other analyses in order to add information to a searchable database.

Archives staff take preservation measures to prepare these legal documents for digitization. These court records have been humidified and flattened and the adhesive is being dissolved.

The new project focuses on Texas Court of Appeals (3rd) 1891-1923 case file indexes and also entails more than converting paper documents into electronic records. The grant makes possible the development and implementation of a transcription process to improve access. TSLAC will hire transcribers to analyze cursive handwriting from the original records and input the information into data fields, such as appellant and appellee, with the end result a searchable index available online. The transcription component will serve as a pilot project to enhance online access to the State Archives’ extensive collection of handwritten historical documents.

Transcribers will type the names and other information from court record indexes like this one into a searchable database.

Recently, State Archivist Jelain Chubb coordinated and hosted a virtual presentation to the THF with an overview of the important work the Foundation has made possible thus far and plans for the current grant. Presenters included Senior Reference Archivist, Tonia Wood; Reference Archivist, Richard Gilreath; and Archivist, Tiffany Criswell. Those interested in more details about the current and past projects funded by the THF may view a recorded version of the presentation below.

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