A comprehensive review of case records at the U.S. District Court of the Virgin Islands uncovered historic documents dating back to 1767 — when Denmark still owned the islands and the American colonies had yet to declare their independence from Great Britain.
"While veteran members of the court were generally aware that 'old documents' were in the file room, the historic significance of those documents was not fully appreciated until we initiated a records management initiative," said Chief Judge Curtis Gomez. "I fully appreciated the historic value when I was asked to put on a surgical mask and gloves before I was shown what appeared to be centuries-old and meticulously detailed Danish ledgers."
The documents are bound together in a book that appears to detail civil, military, and court programs and other policies. Entries are in Danish but continue in English as the dates progress from 1767 to 1880.
"Keep in mind, a Danish king ruled the Virgin Islands, there was no separation of powers," said Omar Herran, AO Judiciary Records Management Program. "The Court was the center of authority and communication. We suspect the book contains one-of-a-kind stories of life from that time period."
"The records reflect the unique role of the judiciary in Virgin Islands history, as well as the rich and varied languages and customs that are a part of that history," Gomez said.
The district court will work with the Administrative Office and the National Archives to restore, preserve, and display the documents and the court's case files for current and future generations. In total, more than 2,700 civil case files are scheduled for long-terms historical preservation.