The archives may be filled with records, but it is an empty place without people. There are few people more important to the department than volunteers. The archives cannot function at its best without them. If you have an interest in volunteering, an interest in meeting and helping others, an interest in helping preserve old documents, please consider working with us in the archives. We think you will enjoy the experience.
There are opportunities to work in the Reading Room where you can help researchers. Here you will have the chance to meet people from all over the country. If you prefer working behind the scenes, there are many things you can do. Experience some time travel in working with documents from another century.
Tennesseans are not citizens of the “Volunteer State” for nothing. So we hope you will consider volunteering in the archives. If you are interested, please contact Ned Irwin by phone at (423)753-0393 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see photographs of the volunteers and staff at work, click here: Volunteers and Staff
Betty Jane was the department’s first volunteer, beginning in the spring of 2012, soon after Ned Irwin was appointed County Archivist. She helped inventory records found in various county offices, soon being joined by Donna Cox Briggs and Margaret Hougland. Since then, she has been involved in numerous archive projects, including processing of old wills and County Court judicial case files.
She became interested in volunteering because of her years of research in the old county records stored in the basement of the courthouse and understood the importance of preserving and organizing these records. Betty Jane was an early proponent for a county archives in Washington County.
When asked what she enjoys about working in the archives, Betty Jane answered “finding stories.” She enjoys finding documents that will help others in their research. And, she finds it gratifying to know that “the work of cleaning and sorting documents into folders will help researchers” in the future. Among the most interesting documents she has found in her work in the archives is the finding of State of Franklin papers.
Born in the Broylesville community, daughter of Harvey and Floy Steadman Usary, Betty Jane graduated from Washington College Academy and the Greeneville Business School. In preparation for her working in the archives, she attended the Tennessee Archives Institute and became a certified archives manager.
Following tenure with the county’s agricultural extension office, she was hired by her mentor Mrs. Elise D. Barrette and began a 38-year career in the library at East Tennessee State University. She retired as library assistant in Media Services in 2000 and has been a member of the ETSU Retirees Association board.
In addition to the archives, she has been involved in many local history and genealogical organizations, including being a founding member of the Watauga Association of Genealogists, coordinator of the Washington County TNGen website, and the Friends of the Tennessee State Library. For many years, she was active with the Cemetery Survey Team of Northeast Tennessee, identifying cemeteries in Washington County and surrounding counties. She is president of the Friends of the Washington County, Tennessee Archives.
Betty Jane and husband Bob live in Johnson City, where she enjoys such hobbies as knitting, photography, painting, rug hooking, and genealogy. And she always loves working with the flowers in her garden.