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Hall library to sit up with the dead
Late-night treasure hunt can turn up genealogy gold
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Sitting Up with the Dead

What: A genealogy research event

When: Noon to midnight Friday

Where: Hall County Library System's Gainesville branch, 127 Main St. NW, Gainesville

To register: Registration forms are available at the library or online; registration is $12 and the deadline is Monday


A group of brave souls will reach out to the dead this Friday the 13th. But rather than using candles and crystals, they'll be armed with a library catalogue and a keen sense of curiosity.

Sitting Up with the Dead will bring together genealogists and local residents working on their own history projects to do some late-night research. The library holds the event twice each year, always on a Friday the 13th if possible, librarian Ronda Sanders said.

"It's a great way to network to meet other people who might actually be working on the same family lines," Sanders said. "We've had cousins who have accidently bumped into each other and didn't know each other existed, and they can share research."

Sanders said many libraries, including the system in Athens, hold similar events.

Attendees can arrive for Friday's event any time between noon and 6 p.m. to start their research or take a tour of the library's genealogy section.

At 5 p.m., the library doors will be locked and only registered individuals will be allowed in.

When everyone has arrived, dinner will be served and each person will share a bit about their project. This is when many people realize they're working on similar research and start comparing notes.

After dinner, the participants are given free reign of the genealogy section.

Sanders said the library has a large catalogue of microfilm, census reports and county records as well as local history books and access to several online ancestry databases.

The night turns into a treasure hunt of sorts, with participants jumping in on other people's projects, offering advice and helping track down details.

When someone finds just what they're looking for, it's a group celebration.

A few years ago when a local group was putting together a pictorial history of Hall County's black community, someone came to the event trying to track down a specific picture of a man walking, pulling all of his belongings on a wagon through the streets after the deadly 1936 tornado hit Gainesville.

"I brought it up and showed it to her," Sanders said. "Before I knew it, she had me in a bear hug, bouncing both of us up around the room. And I mean, I'm not a small person. We were moving."

A $12 registration fee for the event covers the dinner. Monday is the last day to register.

"People can get tips from other people who are doing research, get a chance to be here when other people aren't here and just have free reign of the library upstairs," Sanders said.