Our town: Flowery Branch Library brings dead to life for geneology buffs


Basic Building Blocks of Genealogy

10 a.m. Wednesday/5-8/at Hall County Library Spout Springs branch

6488 Spout Springs Rd., Flowery Branch

Free admission

www.hallcountylibrary.org; 770-532-3311, ext. 116.

It could be the theme of a new Ben Stiller movie: After two versions of “Night in the Museum,” how about “Night in the Library?” The location and extras are already in place at the Hall County Library’s Gainesville branch, where locals and visitors can be locked in until the witching hour for a less-than-spooky night of ancestor hunting.

Every time a Friday the 13th rolls around, genealogy and local history librarian RondaSanders hosts an after-hours library lock-in for family historians who want to sift through the library’s collection of records from Georgia and the southeast. Dubbed “Sitting up with the Dead,” the event usually draws around 30 who come not just from around Hall County, but as far away as Florida and Alabama. The event has been a regular feature at the library for about six years, and the last one was held April 12 - as close to the 13th as Sanders could get.

“Theoretically, we do it when a Friday the 13th rolls around, but this year we just went ahead and created our own,” said Sanders, who jests that her job puts her in charge of the “dead and moldy” in Gainesville.

At last month’s gathering, 26 people from the metro area paid $12 to have exclusive access to the library’s archives. At 5 p.m., the doors were locked to the public. Dinner was brought in from a local deli, and Sanders and a team of reference librarians and volunteers spent the next several hours making suggestions and pointing researchers in the right direction.

“We had a very self-sufficient crowd; once we got them into the right counties’ or states’ databases, they went to town,” said Sanders. “Several people found relatives they had not been able to find anything on. One lady even found relatives in Canada. The evening is also a chance for the people to talk about the families they’ll be researching. They can compare notes and strategies. It’s a great way for people to network.”

Though the lock-ins are geared toward more seasoned researchers, the library also hosts information sessions to get those interest in genealogy started on their search. On Wednesday, a free introductory workshop will cover the fundamentals of finding a family tree. After learning the basics, participants will be ready for the next lock-in, scheduled for Sept. 13.

“We start with the absolute beginning,” said Sanders, “from how to talk to your relatives to how to dig through the attic and basement for boxes and trunks that might have old photographs, birth certificates or baby books. Family Bibles are huge treasure troves, too. We’ll explain how to make a road map that makes it simple to find relatives. And we’ll cover the basics of how to find birth and marriage certificates and other documents. All people need to bring is a notebook, pencil and curiosity.”

Each Saturday, we shine a spotlight on a local neighborhood, city or community. To suggest a place for us to visit, e-mail H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or call 404-514-6162.