Interesting places in history

Jan. 04, 2014 @ 01:33 PM

OXFORD — Inside Thornton Library’s large conference room, on a rainy Thursday night, Joanne Carpenter is modeling traditional Welsh attire complete with a white lace trim cap.

Carpenter is joined by a about dozen other members of the Granville County Genealogical Society No. 1746 who braved the rain to hear her presentation on Welsh culture and her family’s history in Wales.

Carpenter has visited Wales six times in search of clues from her family’s past. On one of her recent trips, she located the church in Wales where her ancestors were married and the original marriage license of her great-great grandfather that was recorded in Welsh.

The members represent a diverse range of cultures but they all have a common interest in history and their family’s past.

The Granville County Genealogical Society is a non-profit organization that was organized in 1994 and now has over 245 members from every state in the U.S.

Martha Morton, vice president of the board of directors, joined the group in 2007 because she has always enjoyed learning about history.

It wasn’t until her involvement in the group that she discovered one of her great-great-grandparents died at age 22.

For one of her presentations, Morton researched Harvey Bullock, a writer for the Andy Griffith Show and an Oxford native.

“I never knew Harvey Bullock was from Granville County, that was something I found really interesting,” she said. “There are a lot of people from here who have an interesting place in history.”

Mark Pace works with genealogical and historical societies in Vance and Granville counties, and manages the N.C. History Room at Thornton.

Pace assists authors with research and individuals who are trying to find their ancestors.

“People don’t know before they start digging what sort of information is out there, and then they realize there is some pretty significant stuff,” he said.

Pace’s research can reveal misconceptions people have about their ancestors’ past.

“Maybe they thought their great-great grandfather was a hero in World War I, and they find out he was a deserter,” he said. “You are going to find things you like and you are going to find things that are unpleasant.”

Sally Hobson, who has been a member for more than a decade, has unearthed a great deal of information about her father’s family in Granville County.

Her father was born in Oxford and married Hobson’s mother after he moved north in the late 1930s.

She and her family never visited North Carolina while her father was alive, but she came down and started looking into her family history when he passed away several years ago.

“African-American genealogy is tough because you don’t have birth certificates, so you have to rely on estate records,” she said.

When she tracked down a published index of estate papers from a plantation in Granville County, Hobson discovered her grandfather and great-grandparents were slaves on a plantation in Dabney Township before the land was drawn within Vance County limits.

The records from 1857 showed her grandfather was property valued at $300.

“It is chilling to see this stuff but after a while I had to put my anger or hurt aside or I would never be able to do this work,” she said.

Hobson is working with another member of the society, Joey Dickerson, on a joint presentation that will examine Hobson’s family and some of Dickerson’s relatives who fought in the Confederate Army.

He said three of his great-great-grandfathers fought for the Confederate Army, as well as several uncles and distant cousins, and some of his ancestors in the mountains joined the opposing Union Army.

Dickerson said he joined the society in 2010 to see if others with similar interests could supplement or compliment his own genealogy research.

“I learned how small of a world it is when you start looking at families because you never know when you might be related to someone,” he said.


Contact the writer at