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Fairfax County court gets grant to preserve and digitize historical records

A glimpse of Fairfax County’s Land Tax Book 1896 (courtesy Fairfax County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office)

(Updated at noon) Fairfax County landowners interested in comparing their current tax assessment with what they might’ve been charged at the tail end of the 19th century will soon be able to find that information online.

Local land tax books from 1891 and 1896 are among the records that the Fairfax County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office plans to preserve and digitize after receiving a nearly $21,270 state grant.

Announced by the Library of Virginia last Thursday (Feb. 29), the award will also be used to preserve marriage license books from 1867-1895 and 1896-1928, an 1880 Federal Census Book, and “Deed Book Liber O-6 1904,” according to the clerk’s office.

“We’re very excited to receive this grant from the Library of Virginia,” Fairfax County Circuit Court Clerk Chris Falcon said. “I am thankful we have such a great collection of records and want to make sure they are properly maintained. It is our collective responsibility to preserve this invaluable resource for future generations.”

The documents are currently stored at the Historic Records Center in the Historic Fairfax Courthouse (4000 Chain Bridge Road, Suite 1600), which houses records dating back to the county’s formation in 1742 through the early 1900s.

According to a spokesperson for Falcon’s office, the records center’s archivist, Georgia Brown, and her team prioritize records for conservation based on their current condition, historical importance, the frequency with which they’re used for research and other criteria.

“These records are very fragile and have never been digitized,” the spokesperson said. “Once our archivist and her team have determined which records best fit the criteria, a representative from the Library of Virginia chooses from the provided records which would be most appropriate for the grant.”

The Library of Virginia awarded more than $3.2 million in grants this year from its Circuit Court Records Preservation (CCRP) program, which started in 1992 to help local courts preserve records and make them more accessible. The Library of Virginia is required by state law to maintain public records created before 1912.

Over the past three decades, the CCRP has given out more than 2,000 grants totaling over $36 million.

Last year, the Fairfax County Circuit Court was awarded almost $22,420 to preserve records that included a map used in the 1950s to determine the boundaries between Fairfax County and Alexandria.

“The process of conservation usually takes approximately six months, and the digitization process will be done simultaneously,” the clerk’s office spokesperson said.

Once digitized, this year’s preserved records will be publicly available online through the circuit court’s Court Public Access Network, a subscription-based database.

Correction: This story originally identified Heather Bollinger as the Historic Records Center’s archivist. Bollinger previously served as the historic records manager but is no longer with the center. Georgia Brown is currently the lead archivist.

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