Ensuring yesterday is around tomorrow
Expanded county
archives expected to
reopen in November

By gloria stravelli
Staff Writer

Ensuring yesterday is around tomorrow
Expanded county
archives expected to
reopen in November
By gloria stravelli
Staff Writer

VERONICA YANKOWSKI  Monmouth County Archivist Gary Saretzky stands among the historical records he oversees for the Monmouth County Archives and Records Center.VERONICA YANKOWSKI Monmouth County Archivist Gary Saretzky stands among the historical records he oversees for the Monmouth County Archives and Records Center.

A patriot’s last will and testament and a court decision upholding the right to trial by a jury of 12 peers are among the records held for posterity in the Monmouth County Archives. Information in the Archives not only reveals local history, but attests to the principles that our country was founded on, according to Gary Saretzky, Monmouth County archivist.

"Revolutionary War documents contain constitutional rights issues," said Saretzky. "Legal traditions like free speech, seizure of property of suspected loyalists — a lot of it was argued during that era.

"One of the most important components of our government, the principle of judicial review, arose out of a case that began in Monmouth County during the Revolution," he said.

That 1779 decision by the chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court determined that trial juries should have 12 jurists and will be among the documents displayed in "Celebrating New Jersey’s Archives: Documents of the American Revolution." The exhibit will be part of Archives Day, a public event that will take place Oct. 12 at the Monmouth County Library Headquarters, Symmes Drive, Manalapan.

Saretzky, who oversees 10,000 boxes of historical records and documents pertaining to the history of the county, is chairman of Archives and History Week 2002, an annual event he was instrumental in founding as a member of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference seven years ago.

"Monmouth County has such a wonderful history, and this is a way of educating the public about this history because organizations that take care of that history will be here. People can come and talk to them about their communities," he said.

"Archives Day is also an opportunity for historians to visit with each other," said Monmouth County Clerk M. Claire French, whose office directs the Archives. "They can share with each other and take advantage of seminars.

"It’s a fun day, a family day," added French. "There will be people here in period costume. I look at it as a present-day gift to future generations."

For professionals, Archives and History Week will include two workshops on archival management Oct. 10, with sessions on "Managing Archival Collections and Photographic Conservation," and a symposium, "Oral History Today," Oct. 12.

"Preserving History for the Future" is the theme of Archives Day, which will take place from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the library’s exhibition hall. Last year more than 300 members of the public attended the free event, whose sponsors include the county clerk, the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders, the New Jersey Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference and the New Jersey Historical Commission.

Some 68 history-related organizations, agencies and archives from throughout the state will offer exhibits of historical artifacts, literature and folklore.

Among the exhibitors scheduled to participate are the the Monmouth County Genealogy Society, Historical Association and Historical Commission; the Moss Archives; the N.J. Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution; the Sons of the American Revolution, Monmouth Chapter; the N.J. Civil War Heritage Association; the State Archives; and Rutgers University, New Brunswick;

French will present the Jane G. Clayton Award, named for her predecessor and archives founder, to Gail Hunton, principal historic preservation specialist for the Monmouth County Park System.

Eatontown author and historian Helen C. Pike will receive an author award from the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance for her book on vintage tourism photographs, Greetings From New Jersey: A Postcard Tour of the Garden State.

Among the notable historians who will be speak at the events will be Benjamin Franklin, portrayed by Dean Bennett. Video presentations and special programs on local history throughout the day will be geared toward children and adults.

The Monmouth County archivist since 1994, Saretzky oversees the preservation of archival materials including American Revolution pension requests, records of African American births in the county from 1804-1851, building contracts from 1847-1946, Civil War records from 1861-1866, census records from 1850-1915, election records from 1775-1935, coroner’s inquests from 1786-1915, deeds and deed books from 1722-1955, manumissions from 1791-1844, marriage records from 1790-1887 and naturalizations from 1809-1942.

The Monmouth County Archives and Records Center, which Saretzky heads, has been based at the library headquarters since its inception in 1987.

The Archives contains the permanent records of Monmouth County dating as far back as 1665 when the county was established. The collection includes the deeds showing the sale of land by the Indians to 20 people from New York, Saretzky said.

And the Archives keeps expanding.

"We keep getting new material when government offices are ready to transfer materials to the Archives," he said. "The Archives doesn’t stop at a certain date."

The Records Center stores and retrieves inactive records for state and county agencies and provides microfilming and other document reformatting services for the agencies.

Microfilming, Saretzky said, not only saves space and creates a backup in case of disaster — three sets are stored in separate locations — but helps preserve documents by minimizing their handling. The Archives also contains two donated collections.

One collection consists of 200,000 newspaper clippings dating from 1971-1988 from the Red Bank Register filed by subject. The articles have been put on microfilm with the help of grants from the New Jersey State Library.

Another collection comprises 1,000 news videotapes from Monmouth Cablevision’s TV-34 News with about 15,000 news stories dating from 1982-1996. The tapes are being duplicated with a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission.

According to Saretzky, over 1,300 people per year use the Archives for genealogical and other historical research while writing books, articles, and films.

"The most frequent users are people doing family research," he said, adding that another common research use is to establish the provenance of houses whose owners are pursuing historic designation.

The Archives has been accessible to the public via telephone, fax, mail and e-mail and on site, where staff will help jump-start the search for family history.

Due to an extensive expansion, the Archives has been closed to the public since mid-August but is scheduled to reopen in late November. Mean-while, researchers can visit the Archives’ Web site at www.visitmonmouth.com/archives.

Saretzky said archives remain relevant in the face of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

"Archives Day last year came soon after 9/11, and people were questioning if this is really relevant," he said. "I decided, yes, maybe more than ever. It’s important that people know their history and where we come from.

"You really see that in the Revolutionary War documents because there was a civil war going on between the loyalists and patriots, and you see the pain of these individuals in these documents. People were being arrested; families were split.

"We have to keep in mind our country really was founded in conflict and that we had things like terrorism going on right here in Monmouth County 200 years ago. Raiders were coming over from Staten Island, N.Y., and burning people’s houses.

"Throughout our history we’ve had these things to deal with. Some were very local, like the Battle of Monmouth which was fought just down the street. As a nation, we’ve come through it and we’ll come through it this time."