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GDRHS Students Preserve 16,230 Pages of Precious Groton Historical Records, Including Butler’s Indian Roll

Lindsay Koza and Ethan McNamara

A sample page from Groton's "Indian Roll:" earliest town records, 1662 to 1702.

[Note: see related story, on the Indian Roll, in this same Features section of this week's Groton Herald.]
by Connie Sartini
Two students from Groton-Dunstable Regional High School spent their summer vacation months cataloguing information on the precious historical records of the Town of Groton, ensuring access for current and future generations to the irreplaceable information about the history of the town, the people who founded it, nurtured it and who lived here.
     Students Lindsay Koza and Ethan McNamara responded to a request sent to the GDRHS principal Mr. Woodlock from the Groton Historical Commission seeking volunteers to conduct an inventory of historical archives from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. The archives are in bound volumes; including town records of Birth, Marriage, and Death; Property Deeds, Town Meeting Articles, and the like. Inventory requires details of each volume be recorded onto forms and a bookmark tag be placed into each volume.
     Groton Historical Commission member Michael LaTerz said, “The volunteerism of these two young students is a great example of what Groton is all about.”
     The Commission estimated that it would take four to eight weeks at 10 to 15 hours per week during the months of July and August 2019; with the schedule being flexible. Amazingly, the students completed the projects two weeks ahead of schedule and resulting in the inventory of 240 volumes containing 16,230 pages.
     Inventory of the paper volumes included identification, condition assessment, page count, and related data. All volumes have been tagged for trace back to inventory index.
In addition, there are 42 optical discs containing the inventory including identification, matching to paper volumes, and discovery of a small fraction of corrupted files (none are critical).
     The Digital Town Hall Archives, equaling 12.3 Gigabytes of scanned images, have been organized and uploaded to the Town website, as indicated below.
     The work was conducted under the direction of Groton Town Clerk, Michael Bouchard; the project was administered by the Groton Historical Commission members Michael D. Danti, PhD, RPA, FSA; Paul W. Keen, PhD; Michael F. LaTerz II.
     The Town Hall Archives were located in the vault in the Groton Town Clerk's Office and date back to the late 17th century. They include Births, Deaths, and Marriage records, Land and Property records, Town Meetingand Warrants, Select Board Minutes, Taxes, and other records.
     Of special interest, the Historical Collections section includes Caleb Butler's handwritten copy of the Indian Roll (the earliest Groton historical narrative), The Revolution War era (including papers related to Shays’s Rebellion), Militia Enrollment, and the Civil War.
     LaTerz said, “I am so impressed by Caleb Butler’s faithful record of the Indian Rolls, which otherwise would have been a lost document.” He added, “Past
preservation efforts have enabled access to this information today. Without this, they would have turned to dust.”
     He noted that when he first joined the Groton Historical Commission, he put on his interest form, “No time like the present to preserve the past for the future.”
Over the years, multiple efforts have been made to inventory, preserve, and scan the Town Hall archives. The preservation efforts have de-acidified and encapsulated many of the oldest documents. The encapsulated pages have been bound and the volumes titled.
     OCR (Optical Character Recognition) has not been applied to any scans. There is no comprehensive index, save for the inventory completed during the summer of 2019. 
     The available scans DO NOT include all the paper archives. Some of the paper records have never been scanned. Some of the previous scans have since deteriorated and will need to be rescanned.
     What the online materials DO include: - Historical Collections - including 1) Caleb Butler's copy of the Indian Roll, 2) The Revolution (including some papers relating to Shays’s Rebellion) 3) Militia Enrollment, and 4) The Civil War - birth and death records up to 1901 - marriage records 1670-1743 (limited due to incomplete scans - go to state archives) - Land, Property, Select Board records, Town Meeting and other Town records, and Voter Registration documents (limited, due to incomplete scans)
     “We intend as the next steps, that we will transcribe this history into readable historical texts, says LaTerz.
     Some archives are restricted from public access; such as, latter- day birth, death, and marriage records. You must contact the Groton Town Clerk's office for a certified copy of these records:, 978-448-1100.
     Scans of these historic documents can be found here: drive/folders/1QscTu78YfES- 8MdEvRMcnjDyg0_mF2UD.   
     These documents can also be accessed by going to the Historical Commission page on the Groton Town website. From there, click on the link, Town Hall Archives.
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