Genealogical Society helps unearth family histories

McDonough resident, Pat Rosser, told the story of a retired educator who was born and raised in Texas, knowing he had lineage somewhere in Georgia.

The man and his wife, Rosser said, settled in McDonough and joined a local church. At the church cemetery, the couple began to notice grave stones engraved with names similar to those of his ancestors.

"Turns out, they were," said the librarian, at The Genealogical Society of Henry and Clayton Counties, Inc.

Rosser volunteers at the non-profit organization on Wednesdays, helping people like the McDonough couple discover their family histories.

The two-county society was born in the early 1990s, from the merging of a historical society, based in Henry County, and a genealogical organization, based in Clayton County. "It's just a group of people that decided to band together to preserve the history of Henry County, and along with that is preserving the history of families here," said Rosser.

The group houses many volumes of reference books and periodicals in The Brown House, near the historic downtown McDonough Square. The house was built in the 1820s, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its plastered walls, tall ceilings, and old, wooden door frames and floors add an aged ambiance to the research facility.

The society's president, Richard McBrayer, and his wife of 52 years, Kay, come and go, taking in bits and pieces of Henry County history through its century-old families.

Rosser said the society has garnered attention from many interested in researching their family histories, including those from other states. Some visitors from out of town, she said, stop the facility and research their families, while on vacation.

To date, there are 54 families throughout the Southern Crescent included on the society's membership roster, she added.

Rosser's family is one of those —the Sowell Family of Henry County. Her friend, Diane Blalock, who researches at the society, is a descendent of the Bond Family from Butts County.

Blalock, who became a volunteer with the society two years ago, is Rosser's old high school classmate. She said the two got together years ago and decided to utilize the society's facilities in researching their individual family histories.

Blalock had been researching her family for five years, online. "I started down here, just a few months before she did," said Rosser.

At the society, Rosser added, people are able to research online and get assistance in going through the volumes of reference books and bound texts at The Brown House.

"We work real hard to try to serve the public," said Blalock. Rosser noted that most of the society's 20 volunteers are well-versed in researching family histories.

"We have the knowledge to help get people moving," she said.

The volunteer librarian said the society offers a day of research for $5 for those interested in visiting The Brown House. She said a one-year membership, at $30 for individuals and $35 for families, will give members of the society free access to the organization's historic volumes, on days when the location is open.

"We're trying to make this the most user-friendly genealogical society around," said Rosser.

The society is located at The Brown House, at 71 Macon Street in McDonough, a block south of the McDonough Square. The non-profit organization is open on Wednesdays and Fridays, from 10 a.m., to 3 p.m., and appointment on other days. To learn more, call (770) 954-1456.