by Whitney Crouch
While recalling the tornado that ripped through Ringgold in April 2011, Karen Titus found herself pondering what it would feel like to lose pieces of one’s family photos and memorabilia in a natural disaster.
“How would you like to lose 150 years of your family’s history?” she queried during an interview with the Times-Courier.
“We’ve been so fortunate,” she continued, speaking of how Gilmer County has escaped widespread damage from a tornado like the one in Catoosa County two years ago. “(But) that’s not to say we couldn’t be next.”
As president of the Gilmer County Genealogical Society, Titus shared that she lives “in terror” of an event that could destroy much of the community’s historical records.
She went on to explain that the local genealogy organization is charged to “preserve and protect the history of Gilmer County.”
“I take that quite seriously,” Titus stated.
Protecting historic area photos, documents
As part of this mission, the Genealogical Society members have been researching old settlements, schools and churches in the Gilmer County area. Through this project they have become discouraged that the community does not have a strong historic photo archive.
“We have been remiss at scanning (photos) and putting a copy off site. This is an immediate project that we need to do,” Titus stated, adding, “I’ve seriously felt a sense of urgency about this.”
As a result, the Gilmer County Genealogical Society will be hosting a photo scanning session next weekend. The purpose of the initiative is to help preserve the community’s historic images and documents and to create a backup database for use in area research.
Described as an opportunity to “save your Gilmer County ancestors before they are lost to fires, floods (and) tornadoes,” the event will take place Saturday, May 4, from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m., at the Gilmer County Library, located at 268 Calvin Jackson Drive in Ellijay beside Mountain View Elementary.
Volunteers will be on hand at three stations in the library to scan old photos and family Bibles. Scanned images will be archived and catalogued at the library and will be used to develop a digital database of images. Backup copies will also be stored off-site in a safety deposit box for an added level of protection.
Attendees will also have the opportunity to get answers to their photo restoration questions and will receive handouts about how to safely preserve and maintain their photos at home.
“This is a major project for the community and I’m excited about it,” Titus noted. “I feel it will be well received.”
The event is free and open to the public. Participants will keep the original copies of their photos.
While the May 4 event will focus on preserving old photos and documents from the local community, Titus shared there is a possibility the Genealogical Society will host a future scanning session for families whose ancestors are not from Gilmer County.
Other upcoming events, ways to get involved
Looking ahead to the Genealogical Society’s other upcoming events, Titus stated, “We’re going to have a slam-bam year.”
This summer, the organization is hosting a lecture at the Gilmer County Library titled “How to Dig into Your Family Roots,” which will explore how to conduct genealogical research. The seminar will take place Saturday, June 22. For more information about this and other upcoming events at the library, call (706) 635-4528, visit www.sequoyahregionallibrary.org or stop by the Gilmer County Library.
In July, the society also hopes to host a community homecoming event.
Titus further shared that the organization has acquired a camcorder and is looking for people who would be willing to be interviewed for oral histories.
For more information about the Gilmer County Genealogical Society, visit www.gcgsi.org. To contact the organization, email email@example.com or send a letter to the Gilmer County Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 919, Ellijay, GA 30540.