Fairfax Circuit Court Awarded State Grant to Preserve 18th and 19th Century Historic Records

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Image of Historic Record Preserved


The Library of Virginia has awarded Fairfax Circuit Court Clerk John T. Frey a grant for local historic records preservation through the Circuit Court Records Preservation Program (CCRP). The funds -- totaling $20,877 -- will be used to conserve:

  • Fairfax Court Order Book, for cases from 1783-1788
  • Fairfax Court Order Book, for cases from 1791-1793
  • Sheriff’s Docket Book 1799-1802
  • Rule Docket 1793-1795
  • Fairfax Record of Roads 1860-1904
  • Late 18th century Will Books E-1, F-1, and G-1

Historic Records Preservation

Preservation of the court records aims to prolong their life for continued access by the public. How they were originally bound, their storage conditions, and the amount of handling these documents have endured over 250 years affects the preservation approach. For example, prior to the invention of air conditioning, court records were generally stored in humid, moist conditions. Impurities collect over time, such as dirt from people handling the pages. Iron gall ink, used by the Clerks for writing in the 18th and 19th centuries, is naturally highly acidic and can eat through paper. The documents, like those that will be preserved with this grant funding, are placed in a chemical bath to remove impurities that have accumulated over time, and carefully dried flat. The dried pages are each placed in a neutral Mylar sleeve, so that today’s researchers can easily flip the pages, without pulling the page from a fixed binding or touching the pages with bare hands. Once the documents are repaired, they will be digitized to be made available online to the public through the Court Public Access Network (CPAN) .

“We are grateful to the Library of Virginia for this generous support of Fairfax, which we will apply to our comprehensive Historic Records Preservation Plan. The reach and relevance of these original 18th and 19th century records are particularly powerful today. As we simultaneously preserve and digitize these treasures, we allow even more people to access them. While nothing beats the convenience of high-resolution images online, I love the heft of these volumes housed at the Historic Courthouse. Now, customers can choose which method of access they prefer, making research easier,” said Deputy Clerk Gerarda Culipher.


Library of Virginia’s Circuit Court Records Preservation Program

Since 1990, the CCRP program has awarded over 1,100 grants totaling more than $25 million. This year, the program awarded $4.7 million to 101 localities to assist Virginia’s court clerks with their preservation efforts.

The CCRP is a collaborative program between the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Court Clerks Association (VCCA). Funded through a $3.50 portion of the clerk’s recordation fee, the CCRP provides resources to help preserve and make accessible permanent circuit court records stored in the 120 circuit courts and at the Library of Virginia. For more information on the Circuit Court Records Preservation Program’s resources and services, please visit www.lva.virginia.gov .

Historic Records Center

Anyone interested in getting a closer look at historic records are welcome to visit the Historic Records Center (HRC) . Officially opened in 2013, the HRC is the court’s archives, housing the court’s historic records from Fairfax County’s founding in 1742, through the mid 1900’s. Research may be conducted in person, or by utilizing online indexes. Please note that visiting to the HRC requires an appointment. To make appointment with the Historic Records Center staff, call 703-246-4168 or email CCRHistoricRecords@fairfaxcounty.gov .

The HRC also publishes a monthly blog entitled “Found in the Archives.” To sign up, visit the Historic Records Center website and enter your email in the “Subscribe to Department” box on the left side of the page; follow the prompts.

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