CHATTANOOGA, TN (WDEF) - There were no typewriters, scanners, computers or the internet in 1857.
Most of Hamilton county's history was documented in hand-written files.
And now researchers and genealogists can find those files on-line and available to anyone.
It's the result of a 10 year project at the county clerk's office.
Most of the Hamilton county annex on Dayton Boulevard is taken up written files.
Row after row, boxes of records are stacked three shelves high, with books and papers dating back before the Civil War.
With a little work, researchers, genealogists and family members could find old deeds, birth certificates, marriage licences and even pension records.
That material is now available quickly to anyone with a computer.
BILL KNOWLES, HAMILTON CO. CLERK "You know we had a lot of records and when I came into office the books were lining the wall..and we micro-filmed them, we worked with that for years, but I thought there's an easier way."
Knowles has been moving his department into information technology for years.
In 2007, he was the first county in the state to provide licence plate renewal on-line.
This program is also a first.
BILL KNOWLES "The Chattanooga public library, the research department praises the program..and says it will be a great help."
TERRY SILER, AMATEUR HISTORIAN "Not yet, because for me it was new, I didn't know that was available until just recently..but I will."
Terry Siler is active in several heritage organizations.
TERRY SILER "I don't have many relatives here, or ancestors in the county. But....if you did it would be very helpful in locating information about your family."
At the county annex, Ray Wilson and service technician Chris Ward are taking care of the original documents back to 1857, although time is beginning to take a toll on that material.
Thanks to the copied pages, most of these books will never be opened again.