gets $128,773 in settlement
By: Howard Roden,
Regarded as probably the best-known of American genealogists, very little is
known about Ronald Vern Jackson.
Save for one thing.
He held a special place in his heart for Montgomery County.
When the Salt Lake City, Utah resident died in 1999, he left a percentage of
his business fortune to the genealogy division of Montgomery County's
library system. But it wasn't until 2004 that the county became aware of the
Two years of legal wrangling between Montgomery County and Jackson's heirs
ended Monday when County Commissioners agreed in executive session to accept
a settlement of $128,773. Per Jackson's wishes, the money will be spent for
improvements and enhancements to the county's genealogy division.
Jackson was a pioneer in the realm of genealogy. He was founder of
Accelerated Indexing Systems, the first commercial company to index
genealogical records based on U.S. census data. Before he sold it in the
mid-1990s, AIS provided computer-generated printouts that revolutionized
genealogy searches before the arrival of the Internet.
"He ran a business that extracted records and made the search so much
faster," said Dick Eastman, a noted genealogist from Boston, Mass. "Before
his system, you were faced with going through handwritten census records,
which could take a person days or even weeks.
"He was the first to go out on a large scale and create indexes like
With the indexes as reference, research was streamlined. Those index books
could range in cost from $150 to $500, Eastman said. The books, which
included every county and state in the United States, were updated every 10
years to coincide with the census.
"The major libraries have the entire set of the indexes," he said.
Jackson's generosity to Montgomery County began early on, said Barbara
Franz, genealogy librarian. She said he donated the county a copy of every
index book he compiled in Texas.
"He really wanted to see this section grow and he donated so many things,"
Jackson was a good friend of
Imogene Kennedy, who founded the county's
genealogy division. She, like Jackson, published a number of books on the
subject and was supportive of his efforts.
"He was partial to this department," said Franz, who was appointed to the
genealogy division after Kennedy retired in 1992. "They were very good
friends. She had helped him in many ways in helping him get information.
"He was the kind of person that if you helped him, he'd turn around and do
something nice for you."
But for a man who revolutionized the genealogical searches, almost nothing
is known about Jackson's personal life. All the Internet searches conducted
Courier Monday about Jackson reference his efforts in researching
other people and families.
"I had met him a couple of times," Eastman said. "But on a personal level, I
can almost tell you nothing. That is the irony of his legacy."
County Attorney David Walker said the county reached the settlement through
the efforts of the Salt Lake City firm of Stoel Rives LLP. Walker said there
were times throughout the two-year period he was uncertain whether the
county would receive any of Jackson's gift.
"I do not know what the size of the estate was, but I do know the will was
not probated" by Jackson's six heirs, Walker said. A portion of the
settlement was paid by a Utah attorney, Charles W. Hanna.
Walker praised the Utah firm of Stoel Rives, and assistant county attorneys
Roy Johnson and Cara Wood for reaching a settlement. Wood, now the judge in
the 284th state District Court, started the investigation back in August of
County Judge Alan B. Sadler said all of the settlement money would go to the
Montgomery County Library System's genealogy division. Franz said her
department has various needs, ranging from shelves to more genealogical
"We also plan to do some memorials specific to Ron Jackson," she said.
Howard Roden can be reached at