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Safeguarding history

Register of Deeds department in process of digitally cataloguing its inventory, making records available online

 

By Eric C. Deines

edeines@independenttribune.com

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

 

CONCORD
– The Cabarrus County Register of Deeds department is doing more than
maintaining public records. It’s preserving history.

The
department is in the midst of digitally cataloguing its land and human
records – the former of which date back to the county’s birth in 1792 –
and will be made available online. The move is one of preservation and
disaster protection, Director Linda McAbee said.

“If something were to happen to this building, we would still have everything,” McAbee said.

But
putting them online also means that some of the more fragile land
records from the 1790s will not have to be handled by human hands
often, making for less wear and tear.

All
the department’s land records will be made available for free online.
Land records dating back to the 1980s are already online.

While
other records such as birth certificates, death certificates, marriage
licenses and military discharges will be digitally recorded, they will
not be available on the Register of Deeds Web site.

“They
are not now, and I don’t think I will (put them online),” McAbee said.
“There’s too much fraud out there today. If somebody wants to do
something wrong (with this information), I’m going to make it hard of
them.”

That’s
OK with Roger Mullis, 68, a Concord private investigator, who was
matching birth and death records at the Deeds office Tuesday.

“I
like to get it online, but I like to see it written down on paper,”
Mullis said. “When you can see it in these old books, you know it’s
right.”

Peggy Faggart, 74, of Concord, is often in the Register of Deeds office doing genealogy research on her family.

“It’s
in the blood,” Faggart said of the itch she’s gotten for family
research. “It’s been surprising how many sets of twins I’ve found.”

The
Register of Deeds is a fee-based department. And the contract with
cataloguing company Logan Systems for up to $184,000 is being paid with
the N.C. General Assembly-approved  Automation Enhancement and
Preservation Fund.

It’s
made up of 10 percent of the fees collected annually by the department.
Last year, McAbee said the department collected about $5 million in
fees.

“When
I came into the office, I wanted to preserve all the land records,”
McAbee said. “We saved our money for the big projects. I’m just excited
to get it all done.”

The entire department, McAbee said, should be digitally catalogued by June 2008.

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