County’s oldest deed records soon to be online

Messenger photos by Kristy Zurbrick
Ben Bonilla (left) and Isaac Alcala scan and photograph pages of Madison County deed books dating from 1810 to 1920. The digitized information soon will be accessible to the public via the Internet.

(Posted Feb. 2, 2017)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Soon, deeds from Madison County’s first 110 years will be accessible online, joining the other 97 years’ worth of records filed at the county recorder’s office.

In late January, a two-person team from Conduent, a business process services company, set up a scanner and cameras in the former municipal court room in the basement of the county courthouse.

Over the course of a week, they created digital images of each of the 600,000 pages contained in the 90 deed books, five grantor books, and five grantee books dating from 1810 to 1920. Another Conduent team is now working “digital magic,” lightening and darkening the digitized pages where needed to make centuries-old handwriting as legible as possible.

“When they’re done, all of our deed records will be online from 1810 to up-to-date,” said County Recorder Chuck Reed. The cost of the project is $35,000.

Madison County Recorder Chuck Reed stands among the racks of old paper records kept in his office at the courthouse. Even after the information contained in the books is digitized, Reed said he plans to hold onto the oldest of the county’s paper records for historical purposes.

The recorder’s office started computerizing records in 1994 and has been paperless since 1999. The office staff handled the scanning of the paper records dating from 1921 forward.

The pre-1921 records were another matter. They presented challenges the staff could not handle in-house—one being size and the other being binding. Many of the pages measure in the neighborhood of 13×18 inches, too big for the office scanner. And of the 90 deed books, 34 are bound volumes that cannot be disassembled and, therefore, cannot be scanned. (The other 56 volumes are loose-leaf.)

The county turned to Conduent to meet the challenges. The team used cameras to shoot digital photographs of the bound pages and brought in a special scanner to process the loose-leaf pages. All the while, they handled the documents with care.

“I think of it as a baby, in a way,” said Ben Bonilla of Conduent. “The records are so precious, you don’t want to handle them roughly because you don’t want to hurt the baby.”

Once the project is complete, the records will be uploaded for online accessibility to the public. They also will be backed up in multiple places, including Conduent facilities in Syracuse, N.Y., and Dallas, Texas.

When requests come in for records from the county’s earliest years, office staff will no longer have to heft the giant deed books—many weighing some 20 pounds—to and from their storage racks. The computerization will cut down on wear and tear on both the staffers and the books.

Reed said he plans to keep the old record books around, though, for posterity’s sake.

“To me, this is the starting of the history of Madison County,” he said, standing among the records racks. The county was established on March 1, 1810. The first deed was recorded on July 5 of that year.

To access records kept by the Madison County Recorder’s Office, go to www.uslandrecords.com, click on the state of Ohio on the map, click on the “select a county” tab, then choose “Madison.” Or visit the recorder’s office in person for help from a staff member. The office is located on the first floor of the county courthouse in London and is open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The county’s online records are constantly updated and include deeds, mortgages, liens, leases, powers of attorney, partnerships and plats. Last year alone, a total of 6,022 records of various types were filed at the recorder’s office.

For more information, call (740) 852-1854.

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