ALACHUA COUNTY – He puts history on display for all to see and uncovers forgotten tales of Alachua County.
Jim Powell is the ancient records coordinator at the Alachua County Clerk of Court. “The Wizard of AR (ancient records)” works his magic by taking the time to go through old documents, trying to decode them and ultimately transferring them onto an online database. Citizens are then easily able to access these old archives, some dating back to the early 19th century.
“We share what the Florida Supreme Court will allow online,” Powell said. “There are a lot of documents that are hard for regular people to find and understand.”
The man behind the monitor, as he calls himself, has transcribed a total of 18,070 pages worth of records. Originally, it started out as a family project. Eventually, once he became a part of the Board of Genealogy Society, he tried to get them involved as well. Powell is a part of the Alachua County Historical Commission, but after his mother died, he said he dropped almost everything and took a break from his volunteer work.
“After some time went by, the historical commission asked that I start again, and promised to help,” he said.
The Alachua Historical Society was initially founded to promote its history, both locally and its surrounding area. It was also created in the hopes of encouraging individuals to preserve its written history along with the landmarks that make the area so special.
Powell is currently working on a cemetery project where he hopes to photograph every grave marker in Alachua County.
“We have photographed 99 percent of them, from little to huge,” he said.
Powell and his colleagues are still in the process of working on 30 or so more cemeteries, with plans to add “Voices over Stones,” where a descendent or historian creates a short audio or video story about the person under the stone. Adding photographs of the deceased is also being considered.
Though the project is in its primary stage, it is definitely going on a fast track in reaching the public, Powell said.
They are sharing their photos with the UF library, and have an index that links back to their site on Ancestry.com, he said.
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