A recent article in the Gainesville (Florida) Sun describes the great work done by Jim Powell. In 1998, Powell visited the ancient records storage area in Alachua County where he stumbled across an old records book from the 1840s while researching his family tree. Finding it difficult to read the handwriting and decaying pages, he started typing out pages of it in his free time. J.K. “Buddy” Irby, the Alachua County Clerk of Court, was so impressed he offered Powell, then a construction worker, a job at the ancient records archive. Powell has been there ever since, transcribing old records and helping others research their family trees.
He even helped Whoopi Goldberg track down information on an ancestor who owned a homestead in the northern part of the county.
Powell and others have now scanned about a half-million documents and posted the images online. About 15,000 records have been transcribed and made searchable at http://www.clerk-alachua-fl.org/archive/.
In their free time, Powell and his family, along with members of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Alachua County Historic Commission, work on the Alachua County Virtual Cemetery Project. They visit cemeteries and hope to have a photograph and information on every tombstone in Alachua County. That project can be found at http://www.wizardofar.org/.
The Gainesville Sun article by Carl McKinney also provides information about Jim Powell's work, along with several anecdotes about Alachua County history, at http://goo.gl/JuumC.
My thanks to newsletter reader Patricia Smith for telling me about Jim Powell's work, as documented in the Gainesville (Florida) Sun.