The Germantown Museum
A project in the making
|In Times Past………..
By Andy Pouncey
At our family reunion two years ago, we had some folks show up that I had never seen. One of the traditions we hold at reunions is a group picture on the front porch. That picture made it into the family’s genealogy book at its first printing.
Upon receiving my prepaid copy in the mail, I eagerly opened it and began looking at the various descendants and third cousins once and twice removed. And there it was, the latest family reunion picture, a good 5” x 7”, and front and center was the son of those new folks I didn’t know. You would have thought that his parents would have checked on his reunion attire, but noooooo….had to wear the black shirt with white letters that read “BITE ME”. What class!
At the Germantown Community Library’s Regional History and Genealogy Center (RHGC), on Poplar Pike just east of Melanie Smith Lane, there is more history on families than banks on corners in Germantown.
Thanks to the City of Germantown, the Germantown Civic Club and the Tennessee Genealogy Society, the city now hosts the headquarters for the Society and owns a research collection well over 14,000 volumes. The newly renovated (former library) and acclimatized facility is a wonderful venue in which to study the past and learn more about one’s family.
In 1943 President Virginia Field Walton Brooks (Mrs. Berry B. Brooks) graciously offered the hospitality of her home and library at 283 Hawthorne in Memphis to a group of 14 friends who shared a common interest in genealogy. Meeting once a week, one could be assured of a sympathetic listener to one’s personal problems of research, while no one made apologies for discussing one’s ancestry.
The Society grew, and when President Brooks moved to Epping Forest Manor in Raleigh in September 1948, the Society moved and there was ample room for expansion of their library. The furniture in her home was arranged so that groups of researchers could sit together or have seclusion for intense concentration. Virginia headed the organization for its first seven years and was awarded an honorary lifetime membership.
Ruth Henley Godwin, later Mrs. I.G. Duncan, realized the need of a charter for the growing society. The Tennessee Genealogical Society was founded in 1952 and chartered by the state in 1954.
The group soon evolved into the Memphis Historical Society .... then the Memphis Genealogical Society ... and finally, the Tennessee Genealogical Society in recognition of its being the first genealogical society issued a charter by the state.
The Society moved to the Davieshire Library on 9114 Davies Plantation Road in 1997, across a small drive from the birth home of Ellen Davies Rogers (Davies Plantation in Bartlett). The society was about to disband and the Manor Association was looking for someone to move into the Davieshire Library.
At Davieshire, the Research Center, home to approximately 9,000 genealogical books, histories and periodicals, fit nicely into the 2,800 square foot building. The Society focused primarily on Tennessee. The Center was staffed by volunteers. The society published a magazine to gain funds for acquisitions, though the majority of the materials were donated.
By 2004, the Society had begun to outgrow its current location and look for a new facility. Mayor Goldsworthy, City Attorney Tom Cates and Librarian Dr. Sue Loper made a successful case for its relocation to Germantown. With Board of Mayor and Aldermen approval, the Tennessee Genealogical Society (754-4300) and its collection took up residence at 7779 Poplar Pike and the rest is history (no pun intended). While the Society stands on its own, the collection became the property of the RHGC (757-8480)
The mission of the RHGC is to preserve and share across generations the wisdom, culture and history of the South. The RHGC, the special collections division of the Germantown Community Library, serves as a non-circulating repository and research center for historic materials related to regional history and genealogy. Information about their products, publications, membership, programming, events and services is available at www.tngs.org. The Center is open Monday from 10 – 2, Tuesday and Thursday 10 – 4 and Saturday 9-5.
One day someone may go through my family’s genealogy book there and find this cousin’s kid. Maybe ‘photo shop’ can change things for the second printing.
Left to Right: Jim Bobo, Bobby Lanier, Dr. Sue Loper, Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy Tom Cates..