POUGHKEEPSIE – Dutchess County Clerk Brad Kendall and Dutchess County Historian William P. Tatum III announced on Wednesday that an additional 25,000 pages of 18th Century documents are now available through the Online Ancient Documents Portal.
A total of 37,000 pages of material comprising the county’s earliest records is available online; worldwide, freely accessible and keyword searchable by visiting the Dutchess County Clerk’s website at www.dutchessny.gov/countyclerk.
New York State Archives funded the digital conversion through the Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund (LGRMIF).
Long considered to be the cornerstone of the county’s archival holdings, this body of material consists of county court records beginning in 1721 and running through 1789. Future updates will extend the collection further forward in time. Prior to its digitization, the Ancient Documents Collection was a challenge to access. Researchers wishing to consult the collection had the limited options of either struggling with worn microfilm or traveling to Poughkeepsie to access the original documents.
Several paper indexes to the collection exist, the earliest dating from the 1950s when former Vassar College President Henry Noble MacCracken first examined the collection. Organized by the names of people appearing in individual documents, these indices provided limited access to the collection.
The new system offers researchers the opportunity to perform keyword searches, improving usability across a broader range of inquiries. The search portal, developed by the Dutchess County Office of Central and Information Services (OCIS), delivers high-resolution full-color scans that researchers can view and manipulate through zooming. The images and metadata stored in this system also serve as a permanent multiple-redundancy back-up to the original material.
County Historian Tatum stated, “For the first time in the collection’s history, researchers can search across multiple criteria remotely or in the County Clerk’s Office. The new system, which would have been impossible without New York State Archives’ generous support, has expanded access to historians of law, justice, crime, and governance. Since our launch early last year, researchers have accessed the search portal over 30,000 times from across the globe.”
County Clerk Kendall stated, “The breadth of time covered within these documents speaks to their larger significance. The Ancient Documents Collection stands as a testament to a vital and enduring thread of Dutchess County history. We are pleased to offer the online search portal that serves as a premiere research resource, ready for inquisitive minds to explore the early history of Dutchess County.”