Martinsville, Virginia


Family Research

The Bassett Historical Center in Bassett, Virginia is a fascinating place full information and we're sure that there are many amazing stories to be found there. Recently, we asked several patrons of this genealogical facility to share some of the information they discovered during their research and stories that they have been able to piece together as a result of the findings. This week's guest blogger is Peter Ramsey, a Franklin County resident that you'll frequently find studying records at the Bassett Historical Center. 

In 1996, when I first came to see what the Bassett Historical Peter RamseyCenter was all about, I made the acquaintance of the staff in the back room of what was then Bassett Public Library.

I had come to find out “who I was”, namely, who my ancestors were. In beginning my search for family in my home in Latrobe, PA, I had discovered that not much was known locally about my immediate Ramsey family. Through a few older cousins I had learned enough to know more of my connections in the area back to Woodson Ramsey, Sr. (1760-1849), my 3rd great-grandfather, whose grave was only about 3 miles from my property. The search was off to a rousing start and the race was on.

As my search has continued, the Center has grown, first filling the entire former library building, which moved across the street, and the new addition, which doubled the size of the old building. The resources of the Center are among the best in the state for genealogy research, covering the local area intensely and the rest of the Commonwealth and even surrounding states. Published books on family histories, books of records from most counties in and around Virginia, privately collected resources from individual researchers, all this gathered in one building with a knowledgeable staff of researchers who, each in their own way, know how to squeeze hard to find information out of the most unforgiving lack of resources.

In trying to find family ties, it is often necessary to take information on all the siblings in a family to see how the relationships among peoples fit together—multiple spouses and step-children make a many-colored fabric of amazing cross-relations in local families. For example, I learned that my paternal grandpa married his 2nd cousin’s grand-daughter; thus he and his wife (my grandparents) were 2nd cousins twice-removed. I am now my own cousin! In researching another family line I’ve found I descend from two brothers. One of them is a double ancestor because of a first-cousin marriage long ago. This makes me a 10th cousin to myself three different ways from those two brothers!

As organist of Pocahontas Bassett Baptist Church I’ve come to know many of the members by their family histories. Yes, I’m related to nearly everyone sitting in the church on a Sunday morning. Part of my annual concert now includes a show of hands of those who know they are my cousins. I’ve gone from being an only child to being an Everybody Cousin, and I know I’m not the only person with those kinds of credentials in the four-county area. The family ties among people in this part of Virginia are many and multiplied over and over, even if unknown to the population.

Just a “short list” of the names of direct blood lines of only my father’s family (all blood relations) includes:

Alexander, Andrews, Ashworth, Ayres Boswell, Brizendine, Cash, Chiles, Cooper, Dalton, Dandridge, Goode, Hardy, Hill, Hunter, Hurt, Key, McGhee, Martin, Moore, Moseley, Mullins, Nunn, Pace, Parsley, Ramsey, Ross, Slaughter, Stanley, Taylor, Thornton, Turner, Witcher, Wray.

The greater part of my discoveries have come from the Bassett Historical Center with the aid of their resources and staff, along with my own new-found knowledge of how to search the forests, hills, ridges and valleys of Southwest Virginia for the great puzzle that is family research. The joy of finding your great grandmother in a census as a 5-year-old girl is still a thrill, especially if you find a picture of her in a family file. I have pictures of my grandfather at about the age of 8 years, and one of my grandmother at about age 9 years…I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

The amazing thing is that they both look just like ME!    

About the Bassett Historical Center:Bassett Historical Center

For those conducting family history or historical research, the Bassett Historical Center is a gem. It has all records for Henry, Patrick, Pittsylvania, Franklin, and Floyd Counties in VA and Rockingham, Stokes and Surry Counties NC. Over 25,429 books/items are available to the public, as are family and local history files. Information and records are available for VA, NC, SC, WV, MD, GA, PA, KY and TN.

A computer programmed for Family Tree Maker, Family Origins and is available at no cost. Patrons have come from every state as well as France, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Thailand, England, Canada, South Africa, Taiwan and Luxembourg to research there.

The center is also a museum with temporary and permanent artifact exhibits: musical instruments, clothing, tools, Appalachian craft, and photographs.