Whatever it takes: Expertise in genealogy is not required

Stella Taylor; photo courtesy of the Old Buncombe County Genealogical Society

Stella Taylor is the public relations chair and a librarian at the Old Buncombe County Genealogical Society. The nonprofit provides genealogical education on Western North Carolina through publications, workshops, a library and research support.

Xpress: What was your organization’s greatest success in 2023?

Taylor: From a longer time frame (2020-23), our transition from in-person programs to virtual programs has enabled us to provide education to both members and nonmembers in 29 states. In 2023, average program attendance was 120, compared to 25-30 persons attending in-person programs in 2019. As a result, membership in our society was sustained during the pandemic, and research requests increased, continuing this year.

What is the biggest hindrance to the work you do?

Lack of volunteers. We are a completely volunteer organization with no paid staff. Many projects that would benefit researchers are waiting. Our organization is growing, and a small group of volunteers manages the many tasks involved in operating a genealogy research center and a bookstore. Expertise in genealogy is not a requirement for volunteering.

What is something about your nonprofit that might surprise readers to know?

Our research materials are not limited to Buncombe County or Western North Carolina. Our collection covers the areas from which settlers came to our state and areas to which some families moved — the historic paths of immigration and emigration — the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and on westward.

What projects do you have planned for 2024?

Our society promotes the publication of family history books, especially about Western N.C. families, as well as local history books. Upcoming books are the letters of prominent Asheville families, including John Kennedy Coleman; the Jeremiah Green Family (settlers of Hominy Valley); and a series of books by Marshall Styles on pioneering families of Yancey County. Other projects ahead: add more genealogical and local history materials to our website and improve researchers’ access to donated family history collections.


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