Railroad Commission of Texas works to digitize 1.7 million documents

TRC Documents

KILGORE, Texas (KLTV) - If you’re in business a while, documents can pile up, and that’s exactly what happened to the oldest regulatory agency in the state of Texas. The Railroad Commission of Texas has accumulated nearly two million documents since its inception in 1891, and they are working to digitize all of them.

The Railroad Commission of Texas has about a hundred years worth of filing to do. Of course, it already is filed in rows of cabinets at the Kilgore office. Information Services Manager Roy Philips out of Austin says all that paper needs to be electronic.

“They are pulling out that we’ve already imaged here in Austin that are duplicated there at the Kilgore office, and we’re estimating that we’re going to have about 800,000 to image,” Philips said.

It’s an ongoing process that started about 12 years ago scanning:

“Historical documents here in Austin, and now we’re moving out into the district offices,” Philips stated.

Like the Kilgore office, which he feels holds the story of East Texas oil.

“They show the history of the East Texas oil field, which is unique to the district 5 and 6 area,” Philips revealed.

Some of the paperwork is extremely old. It’s not uncommon to see dates from 1947 or 1959, or even documents written in the thirties that reference dates in the twenties. Philips says they go:

“Back to the 1920s. What’s prevalent is documents from the 1930s up to the present time,” Philips said.

Over at the East Texas Oil Museum, Manager Olivia Moore says when the records are posted online it could help with a genealogy search.

“If he was a landowner you could find possibly that parcel of land that he owned and if there was any oil rights or mineral rights, those type things, and kind of fill in a little bit more about that new name in your family genealogy, and what their life was like,” Moore said.

And the digging will be done online with a click of the mouse, rather than in a file room with your hands.

Of course the Railroad Commission of Texas realized over a decade ago that the documents needed to be digitized before the paper deteriorated. They expect to have all the documents on line by August of 2020.

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