Do you ever wonder where you developed an insatiable appetite for literature or a head full of red hair in a family of brunettes? It may be traced back to past generations in a lineage of long ago.
The Genealogical Society of Rockingham and Stokes Counties met on Sunday at the Register of Deeds office in Danbury, and people poured in to learn more about their family history.
“We have four regular meetings throughout the year,” explained Butch Johnson, one of six original members who began the Genealogical Society in 1993. “But it’s been a few years since we’ve done this where we open up the deeds office and give people a chance to look through all the birth, marriage and death records here in Stokes County.”
After its inception, the group grew quickly in popularity although its membership numbers have slipped in the past few years.
“It’s interesting. We started with over 400 people and there is still a lot of interest, but there are other ways to access information. There’s a lot available online these days,” Johnson said. “With sites like Ancentry.com people have become more mobile.”
But what you can’t find with a click of a button are the resources local citizens offer.
“We have two swap meetings a year. People bring in a lot of pictures and research they’ve done and share it with others. We have it at the library in Madison, and there’s a copy machine available so people can make copies and go home and keep working to put the pieces together.”
The Genealogical Society also publishes a quarterly journal chockfull of pictures, stories and maps.
“People that are interested in their family tree enjoy it. We also did two volumes on marriage licenses this year in Stokes County going back to the 1800s which include several thousand,” Johnson said. “We looked at each marriage license, abstracted the bride and the groom, their age, parents and witnesses present.”
For those just beginning a genealogical quest, Johnson suggests starting with a grandparent.
“Who is my grandfather’s father? I know we’re kin to this family, but how? It’s a lot like a puzzle. You may have some family traditions, but where did they come from?”
Johnson’s passion for genealogy peaked at a young age.
“I have letters I wrote the register of deeds when I was 12,” he said with a smile. “It’s always been fascinating to me.”
Today, he uses that knowledge to help others.
“Some families are easier to trace. I have an ancestor who was a captain in the Revolutionary War. There’s information about him in history books. Some in my family were poor and when that’s the case, they don’t have an estate which makes it more difficult to find information. People are really surprised to find out they can go back as far as they can,” he said.
Editor of the Genealogical Journal, Jane Wade, said learning about your history makes it more personal.
“For our little ones, if they can learn about their family connection, they’re going to remember it,” she said. “With the curriculum in schools these days, it short-sights a lot of our local history. This makes it so much more valid than just reciting dates.”
Wade, a charter member of the Genealogical Society, remembers scouring through records from local courthouses and day trips to Raleigh.
“It was exciting for me. I’m thankful for the opportunities we have online, but I do miss plotting out those trips,” she said.
Even with innovative technology and instant access to records, Wade is confident the Genealogical Society will always be a strong asset to the community.
“When you can ask questions and hear stories, you don’t forget them. It’s more than just what you see on a computer screen. It’s people sharing their lives and their family’s lives and passing that on.”
For more information about the Genealogical Society of Rockingham and Stokes County email Butch Johnson at email@example.com or Elvin Perkins at firstname.lastname@example.org. Membership opportunities are available beginning at $20 per year.
Amanda Dodson can be reached at 336-813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.