Senior Missionary Couple Digitizes Over 180,000 County Records

  • 21 October 2014

Ann and Michael Packham photograph between 300 and 400 records an hour, an average of 10,000 images a week.  Photo by Michael Packham.

Article Highlights

  • Records from 1824 to 1888 were in need of preservation.
  • The Packhams take an average 10,000 images a week.
  • Images will be available at the county clerk’s office and FamilySearch.org.

“With all the possibilities seniors have today for missionary service in the Church, the Lord can surely tailor a calling to fit the exact needs of each of us.” —Elder Michael Packham, records preservation specialist

Some of Montgomery County’s vital records date back to the 1820s. They are deteriorating, yet the county is required by law to preserve the information. Preserving the actual documents is too costly, and the county doesn’t have the manpower to microfilm them all. To solve this problem, the Montgomery County chief deputy clerk, Valerie Howard, working under the direction of clerk Jennifer Bentley, has entered into an agreement with FamilySearch to digitally preserve these old documents.

During June a team of volunteers, organized by local genealogy expert Stephen Thompson, prepared the Montgomery County probate records from 1824 to 1888 for photographing. Since mid-July two records preservation specialists from FamilySearch have been digitally capturing these records with sophisticated camera and computer equipment. These specialists are a senior missionary couple, Elder Michael Packham and his wife, Sister Ann Packham, who work 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every weekday at the courthouse, taking the approximately 180,000 images.

“My family has very few ties to Indiana history. Yet when we work with these documents from as early as 1825, I feel a closeness to the people. It is especially touching as we see court records regarding adoptions. Perhaps these documents may be the only link to finding birth parents and adoptive parents together. We have had experiences where we have felt a guiding hand in our work,” said Sister Packham.

At approximately 10,000 images per week, the project is now about half done. In addition to the probate records, it will also include large indexes of wills and marriages.

The images will be available through the county clerk’s office and will eventually be online at FamilySearch.org for use by historians, genealogists, and the descendants of the pioneers of the community.

Montgomery County clerks (left to right) Valerie Howard and Jennifer Bentley receive the first 33,000 images from Ann and Michael Packham. Photo by Michael Packham.

The Packhams are also giving presentations about family history and the preservation project to youth, civic, and religious groups, and they are helping individual families get started on their own histories.

“With all the possibilities seniors have today for missionary service in the Church, the Lord can surely tailor a calling to fit the exact needs of each of us,” said Elder Packham. “I feel not only the Lord’s Spirit as we work but also help from those beyond the veil whose documents we are preserving.”

FamilySearch is a nonprofit family history organization. It has the largest archive of historical and genealogical records in the world, over 3 billion documents. FamilySearch has pioneered industry standards for gathering, imaging, indexing, and preserving records and shares these resources free of charge worldwide.