Friends of Phelps County Archives was created to help preserve records and to index, extract, copy and publish data valuable for family-history research and to facilitate access to such data.
Friends had plans to transcribe and publish materials of value for family history. (Indeed, some articles were prepared, but the format for publication was decided.)
But major changes occurred at the courthouse. The office of Circuit Clerk and Recorder was divided into two offices. The new officeholders exhibited much less interest in records preservation than did their predecessors. The Archive Room, which was established when the elected officials appealed to the Phelps County Genalogical Society for help with visitors seeking data, was closed. PCGS had to move their materials, now in the Old Courthouse.
For years, Friends volunteers staff and monitored the Archive on Friday afternoons.
Available in the Archive were the Phelps County probate files (back to 1857), many County tax and probate (will) books, marriage license applications, and the entire library of the Society. A new digital microform (microfilm/microfiche) reader/printer and a modest collection of films other than those of official County records. That unit was moved to the office of the Recorder.
Ambitious plans were to obtain grants to film the indexes to the County deed records and to index and film the Circuit Court records. The latter project would have required many volunteers to un-fold the records.
The key leadership people in the Friends were the individuals who
a) first proposed moving the family-history library (which had to be removed from the St. James Library) to the County Archives in the Courthouse to enable simultaneous monitoring of the library and the archive by the few available volunteers;
b) designed the layout of the archives room in three dimensions, to enable all the materials to be retained there, yet be accessible;
c) by arrangement with the then Circuit Clerk and ex-officio Recorder, moved many of the library materials from St. James and emplaced them in the archive;
d) wrote the grant applications that led to the digital microfilm reader/printer and newly completed microfilm cabinet in the archives room;
e) wrote the grant application that funded the equipment and supplies for the marriage-application flattening project; and
f) wrote the grant application that funded contracting with a consultant to evaluate the old (1964) jail as a Phelps County Records Center.
Thus, most of the people who have made things happen regarding family history in Phelps County over the past seven years became the core of Friends leadership.
Unfortunately, as a result of the closure of the archive, Friends is essentially defunct..
Robin Kordes, Phelps County Recorder, is responsible for the County records.
In addition to the Friendly service formerly provided by the Friends of Phelps County Archives on Friday afternoons, Phelps County Genealogical Society volunteers staffed the Archive on Tuesday afternoons.
That group had a goodly collection of genealogical materials, primarily periodicals, in the County Archive. To make practical use of such materials, whether in the collection in Rolla or those in major facilities such as St. Louis County Library or St. Louis Public Library, one needs a master index. Fortunately, there is such an index, called PERSI, which is on CD (best), in print, on line and on microfiche. Do not fail to use the major resource called PERSI.
Phelps County needs an archive. The 1964 jail is a sturdy, secure structure of suitable size, located on the courthouse campus. It appears to be a very good building to modify for use as a County Archive. A consultant hired for the purpose found it fully suitable, but did not investigate the engineering aspects. Thus there remain two caveats. 1. Is the floor strong enough for record storage? 2. Can interior remodeling be designed both to accommodate a proper archive and leave sufficient roof support? The elected county officials are strongly urged to visit the excellent Gasconade County archive at Herman; that is in a converted a bank building, and not nearly as close to the courthouse as is the 1964 jail to the Phelps County courthouse. Remodeling of the jail could substantially be funded by a state local records preservation grant.
In mid-2005 Bob Doerr completed twelve years writing the weekly genealogy column "Phelps County Ancestors" that appeared in the Sunday Rolla Daily News. Originally, it was a benefit provided under the auspices of the Phelps County Genealogical Society. Beginning with the new Millenium, he changed the name of the column to "Phelps County Family History". But the newspaper unexpectedly dropped the column in fall of 2005.
Before the archive room at the courthouse was closed, a volunteer flattened the original Phelps County marriage applications for microfilming. Flattening is not the same as un-folding. Simple un-folding normally causes tri-folded legal-size documents to require 3 times as much storage space as when tri-folded; by flattening, the volume is not increased. This is necessary because of the extreme shortage of storage space in the Archive.
The procedure was to unfold about 36 documents, hang each from a special metal strip on a frame, and place the frame, filled with documents, in a humidification chamber (a large plastic storage box) into which some hot water has first been poured. During an hour, the documents, which are suspended well above the water, absorb a little moisture. They are then placed between blotters and weighted to dry and flatten overnight. It works. While one batch is in the humidification chamber, another frame is loaded with documents. It is easy, sit-down work, but must all be done in the courthouse, from which the documents are not to be removed. The process was slow, and volunteers were available only on Tuesday afternoons.
Some of the records had been glued together and we devised no means by which to separate the glued records. Those records were set aside and, unfortunately, when the records were filmed, those were not included.
The Phelps County Genealogical Society meets on the third Tuesday of each month (except December) at 7 p.m., usually at the courthouse. A meeting notice, with site and program announcement is publicized via various media. The public is always welcome.
It is not intended that this page compete with any other genealogy pages.
Bob's genealogical expertise is on the St. Louis area, not Phelps County.