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“In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.”
When people see boxes of old papers, black and white photos, and especially reels of microfilm, many of them assume that no one would want to use these types of materials because they are 1. old, 2. not online, 3. sometimes difficult to read, and 4. on microfilm. Why would anyone want to spend time trying to decipher a name written in a book over 200 years ago? Who needs to know what church someone attended after the Civil War? Who cares when a church started? What difference does it make if a church moved from one town to another in the 1900’s?
People may be surprized to know that the NC Baptist Collection is one of our most frequently used collections, with researchers requesting its materials on almost a daily basis. Many divinity school students use the collection, as well as undergraduates in history, religion and sociology classes. Faculty from WFU as well as other schools have spent many hours with Baptist materials as they write books, dissertations and articles. And genealogical researchers make up a large portion of our users, devoting much time to reading church records, histories, clippings files and manuscript collections. These researchers come to find answers, to find connections, to discover their own histories. Using these resources in the NC Baptist collection can help people find the missing part of their stories, the missing link to a distant connection. And yes, that is important. Just in the past 3 months, we’ve had genealogists from Wisconsin, Tennessee, Georgia and even California who have made trips here to use our Baptist materials.
Dr. Phil Neighbors, who came from California to research with us, shared his thoughts about using the collection. He wrote:
“The Dutchman Creek Baptist Church, now named the Eaton Baptist Church, in Davie County, North Carolina was founded in November of 1772. My 5th Great Grandfather, Ebenezer Fairchild, was a charter member and the first clerk of the church. My family and I discovered that the original records of the church were located in the special collections section of the library at Wake Forest University. When we visited this summer, we were thrilled to see the handwriting of our 5th Great Grandfather. Thank you for taking care of such a precious document.”
Dr. Phil Neighbors
Pastor of Valley Baptist Church
While he was here, some of his relatives were even able to travel over from Raleigh and other areas to see the records as well. It was a family reunion, precipitated by the Baptist collection! They all had a wonderful time sharing stories and information about their families, and even posed for a picture.
(The picture is of Chris Fairchild (back row, left) and her father (seated), Ed Anderson (middle, back row) and Phil Neighbors. All of us are direct descendants of Ebenezer Fairchild.)
We are glad that we had the records for Eaton Baptist Church that gave Dr. Neighbors and his relatives a direct link to their ancestor. Seeing Ebenezer Fairchild’s handwriting and touching the book that he actually wrote in connected them to him in a special way. This is one reason that we keep the materials that we do. Many times we have the only item that helps a person “live on”, the only evidence of a person’s existence. Being able to help people find this information is one of the highlights of our jobs in Special Collections.
***Special Collections is also happy to share a new finding aid that is available for Baptist materials. The Baptist State Convention of NC Scrapbooks and VBS Materials collection was recently donated to us by the main office in Raleigh. The materials reflect the conferences, training sessions, planning and day-to-day workings of the office as well as Bible School materials, clinics and statistics. See the full finding aid at this link: BSCNC Scrapbooks and VBS Materials