A couple of years ago, I was planning a long weekend trip to the mountains for a wedding anniversary celebration.
The fastest way seemed to be from Orlando to Charlotte, N.C. It occurred to me that it was close to where I needed to research, but I needed to forget that, since it was my anniversary.
However, I couldn't help checking the map, and sure enough, only one hour east was my research town.
I needed to go "west" with my husband, not "east" to the library, right? But it was so close! Oh well, the courthouse would be closed on Saturday, and the library probably would be, too. Better forget it, but it was sooo close!
It happens that my father's family and my mother's family both lived in Richmond County, N.C. between 1790 and 1836, completely separate from each other. Then, each family moved on in completely different directions.
I knew the courthouse would be closed. I checked the library hours. Almost any North Carolina library has a great genealogy section and most have separate genealogy rooms with lots of local history.
The library was open until 5 p.m. on Saturday. I could land in Charlotte, rent a car, drive to Rockingham, and be there by 4 p.m. One whole hour in the library, then we could head west.
Fortunately, I have the most understanding husband in the world, and he doesn't mind researching, and likes cemeteries as much as I do.
He said, "Go for it" and so we actually pull up to the library in Rockingham, N.C. at 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. It has a huge genealogy room and he takes one side and I take the other. We spend the next 45 minutes going through local history material. At that point, I head to the copy machine to copy the few things we have found that might mean something at a later date.
While standing in line at the copy machine, I glance at a hand drawn map Vernon has found in a thin little book. It has all the churches in the county marked. The booklet is the history of the churches in the county and has an index at the back. In the index is listed Knight's Chapel.
Quickly looking this up (remember, all this is being done in one hour) I find that Knight's Chapel was founded by Moses Knight in 1790. Moses Knight! He's mine, and the chapel is marked down at the state line right where he would have lived. This is a great find. I copy the map and the page on the brief history of the church and we are kicked out of the library at closing time.
There is still lots of daylight left on a summer day in August, so we start visiting cemeteries looking for my mother's family, stopping to talk to neighbors, and taking all their directions to the little cemeteries in the out of the way places. This search brings no results and so I reluctantly decide to give up and continue on with our original plans.
Knight's Chapel is calling. It looks like it is right on U.S. 1, a few miles down the road at the state line. Of course that was in 1790. Before we leave town, I say to Vernon, "Why don't we just drive down the road. Who knows, maybe there will be a big sign with Knight's Chapel written on it?" And so we do.
There is no sign and no Knight's Chapel, but after we cross into South Carolina we pass a little white church sitting far back on the road.
"There's a church with a nice cemetery, do you want to look?"
As we pull in, I look at the church sign, New Hope Methodist Church. That sounds familiar. I check the copied pages to see exactly what it says.
"Moses and William Knight founded Knight's Chapel in 1790, which later became New Hope Methodist Church."
Along the side there is a nice cemetery, and at the front, and probably sitting next to where the original church would have been, is a fenced-in section. Most of the stones remaining are of the Knight family, some are Moses' children. This is "our" family plot. It is Saturday night, tomorrow is Sunday service at the church and there is no way I am going anywhere! We are going to church.
Sunday morning we walk into church, and all five elderly attendees turn to stare. Service was over, the minister had gone to his next sermon, and they were having Sunday school. They were friendly and polite, but had no idea how or when the church was founded and didn't really seem to care. The Knight family is long since gone and they were only interested in their own families and were anxious to tell me about them. The rest of Sunday school was spent on family stories.
My little out-of-the-way trip to spend one hour in a library turned into a memory of a lifetime. This is the way genealogy is; one chance meeting, one quick stop, checking just one more source, can change the whole direction of your research, or give you your own memorable experience. So, take the chance, and the time, and go for it!
Send an e-mail to BrendaKSmith@prodigy.net for Treasure Coast Genealogical Society December meeting information.
Volunteers are at the Fort Pierce main library, 101 Melody Lane, every Tuesday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. to help with research.
Indian River Genealogical Society is giving classes on beginning research. Classes will be held on Thursdays, from Jan. 15 through Feb. 19, in the large meeting room of the Indian River County Main Library, Vero Beach. Each class will start at 9:30 a.m. and end at noon. Please register no later than Jan. 9. The class is limited to 50 people and fills up fast.
For questions and information, send an e-mail to email@example.com or call (772) 770-5060, Ext. 5. Visit www.irgs.org and click on education to download a copy of the registration form. The cost for the six-week class is $35, which includes handouts.