Know your history

Take an immediate right at the top of the escalator at Asheville’s Innsbruck Mall, and you’ll find yourself stepping back in time. Or so it seems at the Old Buncombe County Genealogical Society, a cozy library staffed by cheerful history buffs and crammed full with historical photos and relics, deeds, cemetery records, wedding announcements and obituaries, and bookshelves stocked with county records, military registries, Cherokee ancestry, family histories and many more reference materials for genealogical research. There’s also microfilm, microfiche and a row of computers for Internet research.

Family history at your fingertips: Pat Dockery (at left) and Ruth Dilling, president of the Old Buncombe County Genealogical Society, would be delighted to help you trace back your family line. PHOTO BY JONATHAN WELCH

Folks tend to drop in and begin nosing around at the OBCGS because, as volunteer Pat Dockery puts it, “people want to know who they are.”

Since the advent of television, the art of storytelling has slipped into decline, adds OBCGS President Ruth Dilling. As a result, she says, “People are beginning to feel the need to know where their roots are and to learn the stories of their ancestors and how they lived.”

Dockery, for example, was delighted to uncover a story about an ancestor of hers who fought in the Civil War. Upon his release from a Northern prison after the war ended, he traveled from Maryland to Henderson County on foot—and one of his companions on that journey was, curiously enough, the ancestor of one of Dockery’s co-workers at OBCGS.

October is Family History Month, and OBCGS will celebrate on Saturday, Oct. 6, with an open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Innsbruck Mall mezzanine. They’re inviting some guests, too: Genealogical societies and associations from around the region will attend, as well as a representative from the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who will be on hand to answer questions about ancestors who served in the Confederacy.

The event, Dockery says, is an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in embarking on genealogical research to become familiar with OBCGS’s resources.

The OBCGS library will be open for research, guidance and suggestions for getting started, at no cost. It’s like receiving a free sapling, which could eventually grow into a family tree.

For more information, visit or call 253-1894.


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