Illinois Secretary of State, Jessie White, has announced the implementation of Archon at the Illinois State Archives.
Archon is award-winning software for archivists and manuscript curators which allows for easy updates to the descriptions of the documents and records maintained at the Illinois State Archives. The advantage for researchers is that the new database also provides a variety of search options. It replaces the print version of the Descriptive Inventory of the Archives of the State of Illinois.
Note that this database contains the description of records, not digitized images of the records. As in most archives, the records described in this database are arranged to reflect the governmental structures that created them. Administrative histories explaining the structures are included. Records are arranged according to the principle of provenance. meaning that the records from one creating body are not mixed with those from another. Subject Headings provide another access point.
The search tool is a powerful way to find where in the archives you should look for items on your specific topic of interest. For example, a search for the word “tax” provided a list of 29 subject headings that contained the word “tax”. The option for “tax collection” was selected, resulting in a list of records from the State Treasurer’s Office, the Auditor of Public Accounts, Department of the Lottery and Legislative Research Unit. The Auditor of Public Accounts’ records include an interesting series, “Record of Taxes Paid on Land Owned by Nonresidents, 1818-1839.”
Additional information about these tax records is then displayed. The information includes specifics such as the extent and arrangement of the records, any viewing or usage restrictions, a paragraph or two explaining the scope and contents and even a preferred citation. The Scope and Contents note for the “Record of Taxes Paid on Land Owned by Nonresidents, 1818-1839” provides these details:
“Various lists of tracts owned by nonresidents and subject to taxation usually include, for each tract, date land originally purchased; names of original purchaser and current owner; legal description of tract or claim number; number of acres; purchase price per acre; total purchase price; classification of land (i.e., first-, second-, third-rate) for assessment purposes; amount of taxes paid on land or name of county in which located; name of federal land district in which located; and notation that tract was located in military district or notation that tract was a type of state land (e.g., saline, school, seminary).”
The riches of the Illinois State Archives are now much more accessible to all researchers.