on September 7, 2016 by in Golden News, Comments Off on Jeffco’s archives celebrate a quarter century

Jeffco’s archives celebrate a quarter century

Property tax appraisal cards, aerial maps, Justice of the Peace dockets, county commission minutes and marriage applications, all going back to the 1860s.

These are just a handful of the materials visitors can get lost in at the Jefferson County Archives.

“When working on our two books about Lakewood, and West Colfax property research, the archives have proved invaluable,” said Bob Autobee, of the cultural resources firm of Autobee & Autobee in Lakewood. “It’s a great resource that deserves more attention than it gets.”

The archives celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, which makes it a perfect time to learn about the little-known resource, said Ronda Frazier, county archivist of the past seven years.

“We have all kinds of people come through here,” Frazier said. “Students working on research projects, genealogists, historians, environmental firms and historical societies.”

The archives are located in the Laramie Building, 3500 Illinois St., Ste. 2350, and are open by appointment. Researchers cannot check out any of the material, and are supervised to ensure documents are not damaged or removed.

“There is some really interesting stuff here, and because it’s the 25th anniversary and October is American Archives Month, we’ve launched a social media campaign to let people know what is here,” said Jeremy Fleming, outreach program manager with the county. “We have Jeffco employees who have worked here for years and didn’t know we had the archives.”

The county’s old documents were kept prior to 25 years ago, but not carefully maintained, managed and cataloged like they have been since. Records were spread around in the courthouse vault, basement closets of various county buildings, over the garage of the Lakewood Library, in a warehouse on Violet Street, and in a cell block in the former jail, Frazier said.

There has been a noticeable uptick in interest since the county started its social media campaign, Frazier said, with many people interested in learning more about their genealogy or the history of their property.

“It’s up to me to know how the records work,” she said. “It really is like playing detective sometimes.”

Some of the most sought-after items include tax appraisal cards, which the archives have for almost every property in the county, and tax lists, which are special because they don’t exist in any other form.

“These lists put a person at a specific place and time,” Frazier explained. “There are all kinds of uses, from fun stuff to important things like establishing someone’s rights.”

When the Autobees and other volunteers were doing research on the history of buildings along West Colfax, they found tax appraisal cards that were believed to have been lost forever.

“A lot of of property owners had gotten rid of this information due to space constraints,” Autobee explained. “That this information still exists is going to be an immense help to people doing historical research.”

Some of the most notable items in the collection include gifts from the county’s sister counties in Asia, Adolph Coors’ marriage certificate and the first state census book from 1885. The Justice of the Peace dockets provide interesting reading for those curious about the kinds of laws enforced in the county throughout the years.

At some point, Frazier hopes to begin digitizing some of the documents. But right now, she said, there isn’t enough time or money to launch a project of that scale.

“The greatest feeling is when you’re helping someone find something, and you find something unexpected that answers their question,” she said. “I call that the research find –; and giving them a piece of the puzzle like that is the best feeling.”

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