At least one activity is already in the works for Botetourt when the county celebrates its 250th anniversary in 2020.
Genealogy 2020 is in the planning stages and— except for a date and location— already has commitments from vendors and people who want to be sure to attend a genealogy fair that is expected to attract visitors from all over the United States more than a year from now
The Botetourt Genealogy Club is planning the fair and, according to member Rene Worthen, about 10 folks have already reserved tables for the fair; and after an initial Facebook post, inquiries have come in from as far away as California.
Worthen, a genealogist with the Fincastle Library, and Genealogy 2020 Co-Chair Greg Rieley, an officer in the club, gathered in the Genealogy Room in the library to talk about the plans and how they hope the Genealogy 2020 fair will bring not only tourists, but allow local folks to dig deeper into their families’ roots.
A key, Worthen said, is raising funds for the fair. The Genealogy Club isn’t geared toward fundraising, so she’s hoping some corporate or individual sponsors will step forward to help with the expenses.
She’s also hoping to locate a facility that will handle the crowd they expect.
The last genealogy fair was held in the Fincastle United Methodist Church Family Life Center, and attracted over 500 visitors.
She knows that space won’t handle those they already have commitments from and visitor inquiries.
They expect the Genealogy Room at the library to be an attraction, too. It has 3,000 volumes, and one filing cabinet has 2,000 to 3,000 surnames in it.
She noted 70 percent of the information in the room is not on line, either.
As a genealogist, she said she knows much of what people find on line isn’t necessarily correct.
“Genealogy without documentation is mythology,” she said. “The old way (digging into documents) is the accurate way.”
Botetourt is already a hotbed of genealogy research, but Worthen and Rieley believe the country’s African American families should also turn to Botetourt for family research.
Rieley noted that in the 1850 census, 25 percent of the county’s population was slaves.
“We would like to see if we can let them know,” Rieley said.
He said there’s an estimate that as many as 30 million whites have roots in Botetourt. “So how many African Americans could have roots in Botetourt?” he asked.
The Genealogy Club intends to have various speakers at Genealogy 2020, and the club wants to attract national attention because of the county’s 250th anniversary. Worthen thinks some of the major genealogy organizations will may take part.
Worthen would also like to have genealogy representatives from other counties, historical organizations, organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution and Sons of Confederate Veterans set up at the fair as well.
She believes there will be enough interest that the fair could last two or three days— perhaps a Wednesday through Saturday.
There will be a map of county cemeteries available that Rowen Miller is working on.
She’d also like the county to establish a historical survey of buildings, not an architectural survey, as part of the 250th celebration.
The Botetourt Genealogy Club is meeting regularly as it moves forward with plans for the 2020 fair.