“But history. . .is not really the story of what happened; it is necessarily the story of what is preserved in the record.”
—George R. Stewart, The California Trail
More than 1600 bound ledger books are housed in the Jeffco Archives.
Archives are critically important to historical researchers. Without them, and the dedicated people who make them available to the public, JCHC and others interested in history would be limited in their ability to capture and share the history of any local area. This year is a great time to express our appreciation for our own Jefferson County Archives, described in this article by our county archivist, Ronda Frazier.
2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the Jefferson County Archives. Surprisingly, many people, citizens as well as county employees, are unaware that Jeffco has a repository for its historical records, but the Archives is here, open to the public, and going strong! As the current Archivist, I am very proud to be a responsible steward of Jefferson County’s history. I welcome the challenge of continuing and building on what was started 25 years ago.
Archivist Ronda Frazier
Jefferson County Archives:
25 Years and Going Strong!
By Ronda Frazier, CA, County Archivist
On February 19, 1991, the Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution to establish the Jefferson County Archives. It would be the policy of the County to promote and encourage the use of its public records by all persons, and to provide for the adequate storage and preservation of its historical public records under the direction of the newly hired County Archivist. The archivist was directed to locate all county public records and to develop a comprehensive plan and program for their management and permanent preservation. At the time, records were being stored in the court house vault, in basements of various county buildings, over the garage of the Lakewood Library, in a cell block in the former jail, and in a warehouse on Violet Street, ironically sharing a building with the Affordable Cremation Society. In 2010, the archives reading room, office, and all of the historical collections were moved to their current location in the Laramie Building at 3500 Illinois Street in Golden.
A variety of records are housed in the county archives.
Today, Jefferson County Archives holds approximately 700 boxes of records, 1,670 individual bound ledger books, 715 maps, and numerous photographs, scrapbooks, artifacts, and other types of media. It is the official repository for all of the county’s permanent records that possess historical or evidential value. The Archives collects and preserves these records and makes them available to individuals interested in the history and development of Jefferson County and its governing body. Additionally, the Archives can accept donations of historical items from citizens or groups outside of county government if the items fall within its collecting scope. The Archives selects and cares for unique, unpublished materials in order to make them available for use now and for generations to come. Every item in the Archives’ collections is listed on the website and is available for use by the public. There is also a small reference library in the reading room which contains published books related to Jefferson County and Colorado history, as well as all Jefferson County Historical Commission publications.
In addition to county records, Archives can accept appropriate records from citizens or groups.
The Archivist answers about 450 requests for information per year, on average. Questions about property or building history account for 50% of those requests. Records in the Archives can help trace the ownership of a property from the present all the way back to the original land patent. Tax appraisal cards contain photos as early as 1949 of houses and businesses throughout the county, even those no longer standing. Other popular research topics include roads, county government history, railroads, and family history. Tax records are used by genealogists in order to locate property owned by their ancestors and to define the time period in which they lived in Jefferson County. Other frequently used historical records include aerial photographs, school census records, commission minutes, marriage records, livestock brand registers, and incorporation records, just to name a few.
For more information about the Jefferson County Archives, how to schedule an appointment to conduct research, and internship and volunteer opportunities, contact Ronda Frazier, County Archivist, at 303-271-8448 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please see our website at Jeffco Archives for a complete listing of records and collections available, or Archival Collections.
A version of this article is posted on the county website. Photos courtesy Archivist Ronda Frazier.