"Hawthorne gets a handle on nearly 2 centuries of district clerk records" by: Mike Reddell

Sentinel photo/Mike Reddell

   Scores of documents from the early days of the Texas Republic and from throughout the 19th Century were part of the ten-month reorganization of the district clerk’s records.
   District Clerk Janice Hawthorne recently completed reordering her department’s immense storage of civil and criminal records.
   “There was not much rhyme or reason on what was going on,” Hawthorne remarks over the district clerk office’s civil and criminal records.
   “You didn’t know where to go with boxes marked 2003, 1994, 1995 and 2004 in the same area,” she added.
   There was no sense of purpose in the filing that Hawthorne encountered.
   “You could guess where something was.”
   In addition, criminal and civil files were all mixed and “boxes were scattered everywhere,” Hawthorne said.
   The now-organized files neatly line the hallway of the courthouse’s third floor leading to the clerk’s department – and upstairs – east to west - in the fourth floor, where people seldom go.
   Working with part-time help, Hawthorne went after the boxes and then worked to individually label all of them.
   The main office includes staff and current criminal and civil records – there’s not anywhere near the room in that office to house all of the files.
   Nevertheless, Hawthorne’s reorganization has doubled the capacity for the district clerk’s office.
   Hawthorne is required by state law to permanently preserve all paper records from 1950 and back. Records after 1950 may be digitized. The electronic version will then become the permanent record.
   But the district clerk records for one of Texas’ original counties stretch back before the state became a republic.

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