Pre-Civil War unveiled: Fulton County's push to preserve historic archive

A lucky group of metro Atlanta residents got the chance to hold a piece of history in their hands at an event hosted by the Fulton County Probate Court.

Court officials called it "A Night in the Archives." It was a chance for attendees to get up close and personal with the documents that pre-dated the Civil War.

"This is an opportunity to open our records room, so that people can see living history," Chief Probate Court Judge Kenya Johnson said.

Wills, marriage licenses, and property records including slave bequests were all on display inside the Fulton County Probate Court on Wednesday, where residents were able to take a tour of the records room.

"What was shocking to me was how far back these records go…I saw records from 1886," Fulton County Commissioner Natalie Hall told Fox 5. 

The pages were frail, but the feeling it gave attendees like Sandra Lee Williams was one of empowerment.

"We know that in this country slavery existed, but to actually see the records and be able to take pictures and see how we’ve come so far in many ways…it’s extraordinary," Williams said. "Many of us had ancestors that were here in Georgia but don’t have a real connection with their history and with their records…this is that opportunity to archive and preserve those records, so they go in the future."

It is history Commissioner Hall said could aid in research the county’s reparations task force is doing to make a case.

RELATED: Fulton County task force begins research to make reparations reality for some Black families

"These are the type of documents that that task force will need," she stated.

Johnson said after finding the documents last year, their focus has shifted to finding a way to restore them and making them widely available to the public.

"These are pre-Civil War records,so they’re very important for genealogy research. And just for historic purposes in general," she explained. "The goal is to digitize our records."

That process will come with a hefty cost, but Johnson and others who attended said preserving Fulton County’s history is priceless.