To help family researchers make better use of genealogical resources in Georgia, this series of articles will focus on several libraries with good genealogical collections and, thus, provide guidelines as to what can be found in different areas of the state. If there is a particular library that you would like to see reviewed, please provide the contributors with the name, address, and telephone number of the library and the name of the librarian to contact.
Hall County Library, Gainesville, Georgia
Contributed by Ann L. Sherman and Jane L. Splawn
Hall County Library (formerly called Chestatee Regional Library)
Directions to and Parking at the Library
From Highway 369 (Jesse Jewell Parkway) or Highway 53 (Washington Street) turn west on West Academy Street at the Georgia-Midland Railroad Museum. Turn east (right) on Maple Street. (This street is one way.) The library is immediately on your left. There is limited parking in the lot to your left in front of the entrance to the library and apparently plenty of on-street parking. The on-street parking is limited to two hours, but there are no parking meters. If you miss Maple Street, turn east on Main Street. Immediately on the right is a second parking lot. Handicap access is from the Maple Street parking lot.
History of the Area
Hall County was formed under an act of the Georgia Legislature on 15 December 1818 from land originally settled by the Cherokee Indians. Gold found in Dahlonega, originally part of Hall County but now in Lumpkin County, was the drawing card that brought white men to the area. Mr. Templeton Reid established a mint at Gainesville issuing various sized coins using North Georgia gold. Hall County was named for Lyman Hall, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Mule Camp Springs was a trading post for the Indians at the conflux of two Indian trails. Later, at the suggestion of John V. Cotter, who had served under General Edmond P. Gaines, it was renamed Gainesville in honor of General Gaines. It was not until December 1823 that Gainesville became the county seat of Hall County.
The growth of Hall County and Gainesville progressed slowly during those early years. The arrival of the Atlanta-Charlotte Airline Railroad and the discovery of healing springs nearby brought economic growth. The various springs were marketed for their healing qualities: Iron Springs in City Park (for dyspepsia and headaches), Deal Springs (for teething children), Gower Springs (for kidney troubles and indigestion), and Limestone Springs (with its blue flint lime water). All contributed to the growth of Gainesville with hotels and boarding houses to provide for the tourists. Gainesville claims to be the first city south of Baltimore to have streetlights. With the building of various railroads, many small communities sprang up, many of which are still in existence.
Location of Genealogical Materials
All genealogical materials are located on the second floor of the library at the far right and back of the reference/information desk. There is no sign that specifically designates the location of genealogical materials. Stairs or an elevator provide access.
Behind the reference/information desk in the genealogical section is a round table with the following items on it:
Finding Aids and Internet Access
In the area designated for genealogy, there are two computers for the catalog of the library and various CD-ROMs. Ten additional computers that are available for Internet access and the main catalog are located adjacent to the genealogy area. You must have a library card to access the Internet.
A map showing the extent of the collection of county records, cemetery records, and county histories for Georgia is located on the end of one of the book stacks. Counties are highlighted in color to indicate that books for those respective counties are available in the Hall County Library.
The area of books pertaining to genealogy is quite large. There are eight double stacks of library shelving containing every imaginable type of book for the genealogist ranging from "how-to" books to novels about Georgia counties. Although the library uses the Dewey Decimal System for its cataloging, in the genealogical section a color coded sticker with the shape of the state printed on the sticker is placed on the spine of any book that pertains to a certain state. For example:
This system enables a genealogist who does not have a particular book in mind or does not know the name of a particular book to browse and look for the state of interest. Other libraries could certainly take note of this unique concept and follow in the footsteps of the Hall County Library System with their approach to assisting genealogists.
At the very back of the room to the right is a wall of county histories for the state of Georgia—one for nearly every county and two for some counties. The staff advises that they are making every effort to cover all counties. The same applies to books on county and cemetery records for Georgia. At the end of one of the book stacks are holders with sheets of paper telling the Dewey Decimal System location of each type of book.
On the opposite wall behind the reader/printer machines are the census index books. In addition to a complete set of indexes for Georgia, a variety of census index books are available for Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Miscellaneous indexes include: Second Index of Kentucky; Arkansas Sheriff's Censuses, 1823 & 1829; Texas 1850 Census Index; Index to the 1850 Census of California; 1820 Census of Tennessee; 1830 Census of East Tennessee; 1830 Census of Middle Tennessee; 1840 Census of Tennessee; and a series of ten books titled Heads of Families with each New England state represented.
At the very back of the stacks and to the right are located the periodical stacks. Current issues are spiral bound for easy handling. They range from the Georgia Genealogical Society Quarterly to various society quarterlies from Civil War Times to the Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine. Also included are the National Genealogical Society Newsletter, The Genealogical Helper, and The Georgia Historical Quarterly, to mention a few. Unbound copies include Atlanta History, Carolina [South Carolina] Herald, Civil War Times, Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine, Southside Virginian, Georgia Journal, Family Tree, Family Puzzlers, Bartow County Genealogical Society Quarterly, Georgia Byways, Georgia Genealogical Magazine, Georgia Genealogical Society Quarterly, New England Historical and Genealogical Register, The Heritage [Gwinnett County Genealogical Society], Huxford Genealogy Magazine, National Genealogical Society Quarterly and Newsletter, Nexus, North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal, Northeast Alabama Settlers, Old Newberry District Quarterly, Palatine Immigrant, Northwest Georgia Historical and Genealogical Society Quarterly, a few copies of yearly publications of Transactions of the Huguenot Society of South Carolina, plus a few others.
Maps are located to the left of the room in a map cabinet with five drawers. The drawers are labeled as follows: Hall County maps, miscellaneous Georgia county maps, historical maps, and maps from various newspapers.
Gainesville city directories begin with a copy of 1947, then skip to 1952 and go through 1999. Also included is a city directory for Atlanta, 1984-1985, and one for Rome, Georgia, 1985.
The current Gainesville telephone directory is the only one available in the genealogy area. Behind the reference/information desk are a few directories for surrounding areas.
The manuscript collection is located in the vertical files in the right center of the room. These include information regarding Gainesville, Hall County, family names A-Z, and local histories.
The Longstreet Collection is in book form, Volumes I and II, and is also on microfilm. The originals are at the Atlanta History Center in Atlanta, Georgia. General James Longstreet, who served in the Civil War under Robert E. Lee, kept letters and other miscellaneous information pertaining to the War. He moved to Gainesville following the War, lived the remainder of his life there, and is buried in Gainesville. Most genealogical information found in his collection pertains to his own family. None of the information is indexed.
One copying machine is available in the reference room to the left of the reference/information desk as you enter the second floor. Copies are ten cents each.
A complete listing of the microfilm available is shown above under the notebook on the round table.
On the left wall is a table with the following microfiche:
On top of the map cabinet are microfiche from the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints (Mormon) titled, "Locality Catalog."
Located in the left-hand corner are reader/printers as follows:
A flyer at the reference/information desk provides a listing of the CD-ROMs available. A selected listing includes 1998 Federal Tax Products; Heritage Quest 1998 Catalog (AGLL); Marriage Records for Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina; Marriage Records for Southern States, Volume I; Marriage Records for Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas; Family History Series # 1; First Families of America, Volume I; Ireland Census Index; Colonial American Census Index, Pre-1790; Military Records: U. S., 1784-1811; Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607-1776; Census Index: U. S. Selected States, 1860; Social Security Death Index, 1937-1995; Periodical Source Index (PERSI); and World Quotations plus others that have been acquired since the publication of the flyer. Ask at the reference/information desk for titles that may have been purchased since the printing of the flyer.
Other Area Attractions
Gainesville is home to Brenau University, founded in 1878 as the Georgia Baptist Female Seminary. Dr. H. J. Pearce purchased the college and renamed it Brenau College. Brenau is a linguistic blend formed from the German word "brennan," meaning to burn, and the Latin word "aurum," meaning gold. The school's motto, "As gold refined by fire," is symbolic of the word Brenau. In 1992 Brenau again had a name change, this time to Brenau University. Today Brenau University serves three distinct areas of learning: The Women's College, the Evening and Weekend College, and the Academy, which offers education to younger women in a residential school with grades nine through twelve.
Hall County is home to two other schools of higher learning: Gainesville College, a two-year school; and Lanier Technical Institute in nearby Oakwood, Georgia.
Lake Sidney Lanier is located in the western portion of Hall County and includes other counties in its boundaries. Supplied by the Chattahoochee and Chestatee Rivers, the lake is home to 38,000 acres of surface water and 540 miles of shoreline. Numerous parks, campgrounds, and private residences surround the lake.
The southern edge of the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forests and the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains border Hall County on the north. Other than Gainesville, there are several other municipalities in Hall County: the towns of Clermont, Flowery Branch, Gillsville, Lula, and Oakwood.
Hall County has been known for years as "The Jewel of North Georgia." The abundant natural resources nearby for recreation, the moderate climate, and the traditional hospitality truly qualify this city for its title.
*Ann L. Sherman, 1000 Winding Creek Trail, Atlanta, GA 30328, (404) 252-7938. E-mail: Ann Sherman