WUFT News

Acclaimed Records Project Celebrates Alachua County History

By on April 2nd, 2014
While transcribing for the Ancient Records Project, photographs are taken of each individual page or document before being digitized and transcribed onto the website.

Lawrence Chan / WUFT News

While transcribing for the Ancient Records Project, photographs are taken of each individual page or document before being digitized and transcribed onto the website.

After 15 years, thousands of transcriptions and nearly 200 years of history recorded, the Alachua County Clerk of the Court’s Ancient Records Project received national attention on March 29.

The project was awarded the Florida State Genealogical Society’s  2014 Preservation Award.

The ongoing project transcribes court records from the Alachua County Clerk’s office dating back to the 19th century. Those documents include marriage records, county commissioner minutes, mortgages, wills, deeds, probate records, land and more.

“My job was to find out what we had and then make it accessible,” said Jim Powell, the records coordinator. “We haven’t even come close to finishing.”

Powell, who began working on the project in 1999, said it has unearthed history and stories from the county’s past. The story of Joseph Valentine is just one example.

Valentine, a free African-American, sold himself into slavery only to be appointed constable after the Civil War and eventually elected as county commissioner.

The process of transcribing the records is a timely task that requires Powell to take page-by-page photos of historical documents.

Powell said the images are then digitized in an online form where he and a small team of volunteers transcribe and index the county’s history.

On average, he and his volunteers transcribe seven pages of documents a day. Of the half million pages of documents on record, Powell and his volunteers have digitized about 19,000 as of March 31.

According to Alachua County Clerk of the Court J.K. Irby, the county leads the state in making court records and county commission meetings available on the Internet.

Irby said Alachua County’s records date back to before Florida gained statehood in 1845. He said he wanted to digitize and make those records easily accessible to the general public.

“Jim and I teamed up on this about 15 years ago,” Irby said. “It was something he had an interest in and something I had an interest in, and we were able to get together and start working on it.”

Irby said he is happy to be preserving the history of Alachua County and notes the project has come as far as it has due to the dedication of the volunteers.

The award recognized the work of Irby, Powell and the project’s volunteers for their efforts in preserving, protecting and making historical records easily accessible.

The clerk of the court is the second organization to be awarded the society’s preservation award since the first was given in 2012.

According to Kearby Parker, the award chair, the sheer scale and size of the project merited the award.

“The amount of records that they have transcribed and digitized and posted to the web is huge,” Parker said.

The project is also notable for its direct collaboration between citizen volunteers and the county government in accomplishing its goals.

“Many areas have preserved and transcribed indexes of records on the Internet, but not to the scale of that the Ancient Records project has,” Parker said.

 


This entry was posted in Local and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Defend Liberty

    Despite conceited claims by those opposing liberty, we cannot change our morals, customs, and traditions without risking irreparable damage to the civilization that relies upon them.

 

More Stories in Local

Preserving History Through Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Recipe

The Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Park exists as a way to remember Florida history… But the workers there are doing something extra to “preserve” memories. WUFT’s Marie Edinger reports.


CMT’s “Gainesville” docu-series will premiere Aug. 20 at 10 p.m. This “coming of age” show will focus on a group of 20-something year old’s as they try to make it on their own. Photo courtesy of CMT

Gainesville Reality Show Set To Air Aug. 20

Country Music Television’s new docu-series “Gainesville” is set to air back-to-back episodes on Aug. 20 at 10 p.m. Some residents are worried that the show will not accurately portray Gainesville.


Midwife Talks About Life Experiences

Former midwife, Glenn Cameron, gives a glimpse into her years as a midwife in the 70s and the challenges the practice presented.


FDOT Cuts Funding For Active Streets

The FDOT cut funding for Gainesville’s Active Streets event, which offers free pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly activities twice per year. The organization and its supporters are trying to overturn the decision and look for new ways to fund the event.


Amanda Norman and two other Grace Marketplace residents wait outside the kitchen doors as it rains heavily. Norman has lived in Dignity Village for more than two months. photo by Thomas Lynn

The Grace Marketplace Debate Over Improvements

Gainesville’s City Commission approved a $585,525 budget for improvements that will make 10 campus buildings at the Empowerment Center livable. Residents and volunteers look forward to the changes, but some are concerned by the nearby chaos at Dignity Village.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Underwriting Payments