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Coats hosts Genealogy Festival

By RICK CURL

Of The Record Staff

Area families got a chance to show off their past, make some connections and just gather for fun and fellowship Saturday in Coats.

Thanks to the efforts of local genealogist Desi Campbell, visitors to the Coats Museum grounds had the opportunity to display their links to the past.

Mr. Campbell, who has not only followed his own family tree, was also the producer for a film about the life of African-Americans in Harnett County.

His efforts Saturday were shifted to giving area residents an opportunity to see firsthand the fruits of the genealogical searches that have taken place throughout the past.

“Today is absolutely See Coats, Page 3 Coats

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remarkable,” Mr. Campbell said. “We have stuff from families all around Harnett County. We’ve got families that have come together — both black and white — to share our history.”

Mr. Campbell was personally affected by the festival, meeting two cousins, a mother and daughter from Salt Lake City, Utah, who came to town to visit and explore their own heritage.

“We did a DNA test and discovered we’re related to Desi Campbell and the Overbey,” Deena Hill said. “Genetically related to people here. So we did our DNA test and figured out we’re from North Carolina.”

Mrs. Hill said the experience was both exciting and eye-opening as she and her daughter, Cristy, both learned a great deal about their bloodlines.

“It’s absolutely amazing, never in my life in any way, shape or form did I imagine this,” Mrs. Hill said. “We’ve been reaching out and contacting different people, made a lot of connections.”

Cristy was unaware of the interracial connections in the family and was absolutely thrilled to meet her distant cousins.

“I’m excited,” she said. “When we did our DNA I had no idea we had a black side of our family. So, it’s been so neat to come out here and put the pieces together and connect everything, it’s really cool.”

The two ladies, who had never even dreamed of coming to North Carolina prior to Saturday’s reunion, agreed it was a wonderful state and will leave a lasting impression.

“It is so beautiful, so many trees, it’s hot,” Cristy said. “It’s amazing, very nice people.”

Lynda Butler, a volunteer with the Coats Museum, said the activity surrounding the festival and the gathering of families was one of the many things Mr. Campbell and his extended family bring to the Coats area.

“They are a wonderful source of genealogy,” Mrs. Butler said. “We have people that came from Utah. So, where else can you have an event like this — a blended research.”

Mrs. Butler and other volunteers spent the morning during the festival copying documents and aiding interested individuals where they could.

“We have found so many good things,” she said. “In fact, right now we’re in there copying things for a member of the Stewart family.”

Mr. Campbell said the diversity of the displays — which included displays from local artisan Brian Avery and a presentation of artifacts from the Averasboro Battlefield — was very informative and enjoyable.

“We’re actually connecting the dots,” he said. “…I think it’s actually bringing families together. And allowing them to become connected and that’s what it’s all about here today.”

The Coats Chamber of Commerce building was the site for Saturday’s genealogy festival hosted by Desi Campbell. The event gave visitors a chance to explore local ties to the past and also to get a touch of history. Above, Chaya Clinton, who works for the Register of Deeds office in Lillington, gets a lesson on some of the artifacts found at Averasboro Battlefield from Joe Overbey.

Daily Record Photo/Rick Curl

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