Mount Airy News

Family Trees Grow at Swap Meet

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Every one of the more than 100 people who attended a genealogy swap meet Saturday in Mount Airy had their own reasons for being there, but Suzanne Settle was on a special mission.

“My husband passed in July,” the West Lebanon Street resident explained while seated in front of a computer logged into the website, as a member of the Surry County Genealogy Association accessed information for Settle.

“I feel like my husband and I are still one,” she said, describing their relationship as the classic “soul mate” situation.

And now that he is gone, Settle said she feels a need to honor his memory by researching her husband’s family tree. This was the kind of situation tailor-made for Saturday’s free family history and genealogy swap meet on the third floor of Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.

Among other pro bono services, the event allowed Settle and others to tap into the website, normally a paid service, for key information.

In her case, Settle was accessing local cemetery records as part of the quest for information on her husband’s family. Whereas she has lived all around the world, he had deep roots in Surry.

“I came here (to the swap meet) because my husband was born and spent many years in Surry County,” said Settle, who added that Saturday marked her first time exploring genealogy records in such a way. “I’m here to see if there’s any facts I can glean about his family,” the city resident added while making entries in a small notebook.

Meanwhile, the museum’s third-floor conference room was a beehive of other activity as participants pored through family history information and exchanged tidbits of information. Genealogy swap meets are only held every few years locally, and on Saturday everyone seemed to be making the most of the occasion.

Surry Genealogy Association President Esther Johnson estimated that at least 50 family histories were on display Saturday. “Some have brought published books,” Johnson reported. “Others have just brought stuff they’ve run off the computer.”

Such a family history helped one Mount Airy couple, Tim and Lannie Edwards, establish a link they didn’t know about beforehand, through their meeting with another local resident, Harold Mooney.

“We didn’t even know each other in the beginning, and found out we had common relatives,” Lannie Edwards said of their encounter with Mooney. “We just started doing our genealogy research about two years ago.”

Tim Edwards is proud of his Irish heritage, and said he has always referred to a great-grandfather of his as “the leprechaun.”

Providing attendees such as the Edwards couple and Mooney a forum to network and discover previously unknown family links seemed just as important Saturday as the mountains of written information available.

“Oh, it’s just a lot of fun,” Tim Edwards said. “Just exciting and fun to find out where all your folks came from.”

From Near And Far

While most of those at Saturday’s family history and genealogy swap meet were from this general area, Emily Holmes journeyed from Virginia Beach, Virginia, where she is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Though she has visited Surry County before, Holmes said Saturday’s event was the first of its kind that she has attended here.

Holmes said her roots include 11 local families. “All originated in Surry County in the 1700s,” the Virginia resident said. Included are such surnames as Nichols, Myers, Weatherman, Fleming, Young and Robinson.

“This is very exciting,” Holmes said while surveying the goings-on in the museum at the time. “I really like the concept.”

Similar to Holmes, Stephen Harris attended Saturday’s gathering seeking details about a particular family line of his locally, the Franklins, “which I know nothing about.” So far he had not put his hands on any such information, but was continuing to search and still having fun.

“It’s been an enjoyable trip up here from State Road,” Harris added.

The station, manned by Don Edmonds, recording secretary of the Surry County Genealogy Association, was a popular stop.

Edmonds said it was enabling swap meet participants to access birth, marriage and death records — and in some cases, pleasant surprises regarding their forebears.

“Sometimes you get pictures — and pictures (of ancestors) they’ve never seen before,” Edmonds said.

Despite the different ancestral lines being explored Saturday, everyone at the swap meet shared a common bond related to the family of man.

“All of us want to know where our ancestors came from, where we got all the little quirks we have — whether we’re short or tall,” said Dean Brown of Mount Airy, who has been researching his family links for more than 20 years.

Brown said the long search has produced some revelations about his forefathers he is proud of and others which he is not.

“And that’s true with every family.”

Genealogy swap meet takes root Saturday

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A genealogy swap meet scheduled this Saturday in Mount Airy offers a rare opportunity to explore one’s family tree and also to fuel interest in genealogy itself, according to one local expert involved.

When people are bitten by the genealogy bug, they can grow obsessed with wanting to learn all they can about ancestors who have long passed.

“You become like a detective and go out and do all this research,” Surry County Genealogy Association President Esther Johnson said Wednesday, describing the process as similar to assembling the pieces of a puzzle.

The free family history and genealogy swap meet set for Saturday at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History at 301 N. Main St. could supply some of those pieces. It will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the third floor of the museum, which is sponsoring the gathering along with the genealogy group.

Such a swap meet has not been held locally for several years. “Everyone is invited,” Johnson said.

“If they’re into genealogy, fine, if they’re not into genealogy, that’s OK, too.”

A variety of resources will be available, including personnel to help information seekers look up names on the website. Someone also will be there to explain, another Internet resource.

Family histories that have been assembled by area residents additionally will be displayed, and those attending are asked to bring and share any information they have with others in order to establish valuable connections.

Representatives of other historical or genealogy organizations also are expected to be part of the event along with authors.

Services provided Saturday will be free, except for copying costs. Participants with laptop computers are encouraged to bring them.

“I think we’ll have a good-size crowd,” Johnson added Wednesday. The local genealogy group holds its regular meetings at night, when some older folks can’t drive, so Saturday’s daytime event will benefit them, she said.

Journey Involved

Johnson, a longtime genealogist, did offer an observation about how the swap meet fits in with the big picture of family history research, which she has heard is now the world’s most-popular pastime.

It has been bolstered by the emergence of television shows such as “Genealogy Roadshow,” along with various Internet resources.

But sitting at a computer is a small facet of genealogy, Johnson said, which should go beyond collecting cut-and-dried facts.

“One of the reasons I wanted to have a swap meet is to teach people that there is more to genealogy or family history than names and dates,” Johnson explained. “I want them to know that you have to do research that you cannot always find on the Internet.”

This can involve seeking out old homeplaces, traipsing through family cemeteries and picking up a variety of information from facilities boasting resources not found elsewhere. These include the Carlos Surratt research room at Surry Community College, register of deeds offices, public libraries and others.

The Surry Genealogy Association, which meets at the college on the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m., also hosts special speakers who supply research tips.

Collectively, a person might learn the kind of life an ancestor led, such as his or her occupation, military service and interesting tidbits.

The ultimate objective for people tracing their roots, Johnson said, should be “putting the meat to the bones.”

Press Release: Museum Awarded Grant from Duke Energy Foundation

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January 28, 2015

The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History has been awarded a $2,500 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation in support of the annual changing exhibits program.

Each year the museum develops and displays three changing exhibits on topics relevant to our areas history, art or culture. For 2015 the Museum will host “Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America,” This exhibit is part of the Smithsonian Institution Museum on Main Street program that is designed to bring high quality traveling exhibits to smaller rural communities. It is a collaborative project between the Smithsonian Institution, the North Carolina Humanities Council and six museums around the state. Mount Airy will be the statewide launch site for the 2015 tour.  

In addition to “Hometown Teams” the Museum also is planning for two changing exhibits, one for the spring and one for the fall of 2015. “The changing exhibit program is an important part of our mission to collect, preserve and interpret our shared history” says the museum’s Executive Director Matt Edwards. “These exhibits give us a chance to delve into parts of our collection that aren’t normally on display and to work with local collectors to tell unique and interesting stories from the past” he adds.

Duke Energy is a long-time supporter of the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History with capital, program and operating support dating back to the museum’s establishment in 1993. “Duke Energy is proud to be a supporter of the Mt Airy Museum for Regional History and to help enable new exhibits. It’s important to understand the history of our region. The museum is an important part of the community, providing an educational experience for both young and old,” said Jimmy Flythe Director - West Region, Government and Community Relations of Duke Energy Carolinas.

The Duke Energy Foundation actively works to improve the quality of life in its communities, lending expertise in the form of leadership and philanthropic support to charitable organizations. Duke Energy has long been committed to building and supporting the communities in which its customers and employees live and work.

For more information about the museum’s upcoming exhibit and programs visit the website at

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Youths urged to follow King’s example

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Looking around a meeting room containing a number of young faces Saturday night, a moderator for a program honoring Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledged the generation gap between the late Dr. King and some audience members.

“Many of us in the room grew up in the same time period in which he lived and became a leader,” Cheryl Yellow Fawn Scott told a crowd of more than 100 people gathered at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.

In contrast, those who weren’t around when the civil rights icon was assassinated in 1968 seemingly can identify with him only through old film clips or staticky recordings of his historic speeches.

However, local young people have a greater link to King than they might think, Scott and other speakers at the 11th-annual MLK tribute said. This includes realizing his “dream” without possibly knowing it by engaging in community service and otherwise working for a better world, which Dr. King would be proud of if alive today.

Saturday night’s event — which museum officials said drew the largest MLK program attendance ever — served to help bridge the gap by recognizing the importance of young people in perpetuating the lessons he espoused.

“This year we are focusing on our youth,” explained LaDonna McCarther, who helped organize the annual museum program along with Scott and other volunteers. “We thought it was time to recognize our young people.”

This was accomplished by singling out certain youths for their contributions, such as one who tirelessly volunteers every year during a community Thanksgiving meal at First Baptist Church. Young people also played an active role in Saturday’s program by performing song and dance selections.

The multi-racial event additionally featured several soloists — such as Tracy Greenwood, Tony Searcy and Elizabeth Martin — and prayer, poetry and scripture reading.

At one point, a “Let Freedom Ring” responsive reading was held in which audience members were given small bells to jingle at certain intervals. In doing so, they joined others at more than 300 known locations in paying homage to King’s directive to let freedom ring during his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.

Other highlights Saturday night were candle-lighting ceremonies and an audience singing of “Amazing Grace” to end the program.

“Torch Bearer”

Sandwiched between the various activities, the lessons of Martin Luther King Jr. took center stage at the museum, including constant reminders to never forget the truly remarkable place he holds in American history.

“Martin…became the spokesperson — he became the torch bearer,” Scott said of the civil rights movement.

Audience members were reminded that King did so at a time when standing up for equality wasn’t popular, during a turbulent period of segregation when African-Americans were banned from certain restaurants and endured other racist acts.

“It was just really a rough time in our history — but everybody persevered,” Scott said. “That’s what I want you young people to remember.”

The sacrifices King made for his cause in seeking educational and economic opportunity for all can’t be underestimated, Scott continued.

King’s home was bombed and he received numerous threats as he toured racial hot spots around the country, leading to his eventual slaying in Memphis.

Yet during his brief lifetime the civil rights leader chose to battle foes with love that emanated from a deep religious faith. He once admitted that it was difficult to like someone seeking to harm his family, “but Jesus says love them,” Scott related.

“I don’t think there is any way he could have taken this on if he did not have a strong belief in God.”

This was evident until the time King was killed, Scott told the audience, including remarking in a speech the night before his assassination that “I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate myself.”

The spirit of Saturday night’s tribute to Dr. King and others who fought and died to achieve equality also was captured in a prayer by minister Kathy Dobson.

“We thank you for the one we are honoring,” Dobson said, “for the legacy our forefathers have left for us to celebrate and to enjoy.”

The minister said she hopes to one day encounter King in heaven and hear him assess the job others have done to carry on the dream with two simple words: “Well-done.”

Spirit of MLK to be honored at museum

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Organizers of “The Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Surry County Continues The Dream” will focus on youth as the eleventh such annual event is held Jan. 17 at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. The free celebration is open to the public and is slated to be held from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

“Traditionally this is one of our best attended programs,” said Museum Executive Director Matthew Edwards. “This program is almost completely run by volunteers with us providing them a venue. The emphasis on youth this year is a way for the community to honor Dr. Martin Luther King and people who embody the spirit of his legacy.”

Edwards said the volunteers have always delivered a great program. He said light refreshments will be served following the event this year. This year’s celebration will include music, interpretative dance and theatrical performance. He said an awards ceremony is also planned and will honor youth in the community.

“They will be our leaders in the future,” said Program Coordinator LaDonna McCarther, who shares event director duties with her sister, Cheryl Yellow Fawn Scott. “We felt it was important to recognize them. We plan to honor the achievements of youth in a variety of fields such as academics, athletics and community service.” Plans have not yet been finalized, but McCarther said at least several youths would be honored.

She said the theme for the celebration is drawn from the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy, Chapter 4, Verse 12 where the apostle writes “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” In addition to the youth honored being given a call to service, the audience will be asked to participate in a blessing of the youth.

The tentative listing of talent included soloists Tracy Greenwood, Donnie Nicholson, Tony Searcy and Elizabeth Martin. Performers will include the VIP Praise Team directed by Marie Nicholson, Janice Thompson performing the Lord’s Prayer in American sign language and the praise team from the Greater Grace Temple Holiness Church of Winston-Salem directed by Mikki Robertson.

Readers for the celebration will include Sanchez Jarvis and Mount Airy Branch Librarian Pat Gwyn. Walter Jarvis and Deon Dood Cook will serve as candle lighters for the ceremonies. Melva Houston Tucker will do sound for the event and Don Robert Smith will serve as videographer.

“We want to give special recognition to all the help we receive from the museum,” said McCarther, who praised the efforts of staffers Amy Snider, Nancy Davis, Matt Edwards and Karen Nealis. “Each year we honor a Surry County individual who has been a good example of keeping Dr. King’s dream going. We will be doing this again this year.” In 2014, Faye Carter and Alfrida Gaines received this honor.

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