Register of Deeds Marc Gravitt said he is aiming to scan all the Hamilton County land transactions dating back to before Tennessee was a state. And he wants to greatly speed up the process.
Mr. Gravitt, a former state legislator from East Ridge, said, "At the present pace we are doing it, I and my staff will all be dead by the time it is finished."
He is making plans to hire an outside firm with expertise in scanning documents and making them available in digital form. The firm would be hired through a Request for Proposals.
Mr. Gravitt said, "Our office has one large, flatbed scanner. The outside firm would have a number of those with a staff that would be assigned just to this project." He expects the outside firm could do it within a few months.
The land records have been scanned in by staff back to the 1970s. But there's a long way to go back to the county's founding in 1819.
There are over 1,400 books still to go at 750 pages each.
Mr. Gravitt said one old record that was found in the archives kept in county storage on Dayton Boulevard "pre-dated Tennessee's founding in 1796."
He said some of the old records "refer to 'the Indian Village near Chickamauga Creek." Others have boundaries that include a tree with a special mark on it or "to the middle of the creek." He notes, "Creeks change courses."
Mr. Gravitt, who was in the auction business for many years, said the cost could be paid from the office data processing fund that currently stands at over $600,000.
He said the online documents would be especially valuable to land title specialists who could work from their offices rather than making the trek to the courthouse and finding a place to park.
It would also be a bonanza for those working on their family tree or studying early county history, he said.