In her more than 20 years working for the county's probate court, Judge Pat Hardaway has seen first-hand the importance of historical documents.
"We have an awful lot of people who do genealogy," she said. "We see a lot of people come through the probate court looking for old census records and tax documents."
The Columbia County Probate Court is required by law to keep many old documents, including marriage licenses, and birth and death records, Hardaway said.
Columbia County's Warren C. Gibbs Memorial Library on North Belair Road also holds many historical records and is seeking to expand its collection by putting out a call to residents to donate their family histories, school yearbooks and other documents that might detail a history of the county and its earliest inhabitants.
"Right now, our genealogy section probably consists of 80 to 100 books, which primarily cover Columbia County and surrounding areas," said Sherryl James, head of reference services at Gibbs. "We would like to expand that section to 300 to 350 books and microfilm."
All donated materials will be maintained by the library and put in the genealogy room at the new 50,000-square-foot library and performing-arts center being built behind Columbia County's judicial center on Ronald Reagan Drive.
Gibbs Library reference librarian Sherryl James displays some of the genealogy materials available at the library.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"We will have a room in the new library designated just for genealogy," James said. "Currently, we have four shelves on a back wall."
The larger space calls for additional material, and James said she hopes donations will allow the library to fill that space. Plus, new materials will give those searching for their roots more to draw from.
"People just want that sense of belonging," she said. "Part of it is understanding their past and knowing that what occurred in the past has an impact on the future."
Hardaway, who also is president of the Columbia County Historical Society, said numerous historical organizations, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution, require a person to be able to trace their family history back a certain number of generations.
"A lot of times when someone buys a new home, they are interested in the history of that home and the people who lived there," Hardaway said. "Southerners, I think, are more interested in genealogy because after the (Civil) War, all they had was their history."
James said she has had calls from people, young and old, seeking information about their descendants.
"In the past, I've had people in their 60s, 70s and even 80s come in. Now I see much younger people doing research. It's a way for them to rediscover and reconnect with their family," James said. "This summer, we had a family travel from California to look at our collection. I'd like to be able to give them so much more."
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