Jackson County Genealogical Society publication now in digital archives, available online

Reviewing print editions of “Journeys Through Jackson” journals at the Jackson County Genealogical Society office in the historic Jackson County Courthouse are (from left) Lynn Hotaling, Elizabeth Skene, Larry Crawford and Ruth Shuler.

Staff with Special and Digital Collections at Western Carolina University’s Hunter Library recently undertook a project to digitize past editions of the Jackson County Genealogical Society members’ publication and make it publicly available.

Since the genealogical society’s founding, “Journeys Through Jackson” has contained a wealth of information, including official records, family lineages, archival photographs, historical documents and other items of genealogical and historical interest.

“The main way the digital collection will be useful is getting local history and genealogy information the JCGS has collected over the past 25 years online in a searchable format,” said Lynn Hotaling, genealogical society president. “Much of this is research and stories by our members, some of whom are now deceased, and it is information that has never been published in any other form. It’s been unavailable to researchers ― until now ― who are unable to visit our research library in Sylva.”

At the next genealogical society meeting Thursday, Nov. 9, Elizabeth Skene, WCU special and digital collections librarian, will present a program on the university’s online collections beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Jackson County Library Community Room. She also will demonstrate how to access WCU’s digital collections. The meeting is open to the public.

“The wealth of material that JCGS has published throughout the years in ‘Journeys Through Jackson’ is an incredible collection of archival photos, records and documents, plus oral histories and research guidance. It is a regional treasure trove,” said Skene. “It is a valuable resource for anyone doing genealogical research or looking deeper into local family history ― not to mention just general community interest ― which for the first time will be available online and searchable. WCU’s Special Collections is glad to add ‘Journeys Through Jackson’ to our online collections.”

The Jackson County Genealogical Society is a well-regarded resource for research and programming, having received WCU’s Mountain Heritage Award in 2012 and the North Carolina Genealogical Society’s Award for Excellence in Publishing and the Award for Excellence in Periodical Publishing.

The journal started in 1991 with Larry Crawford, a retired Jackson County educator, being the longest running editor, having taken over from Ruth Shuler in 1996 and serving in the post until 2013. It was a labor of love, they said. Both were pleased that the publication archives are now accessible online ― removing time and travel constraints ― and believed it could spark additional contributions and further research. The current editor is Sanji Watson, a WCU employee.

WCU Special and Digital Collections holds materials pertaining to Southern Appalachian life and natural history, with a particular focus on Western North Carolina and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Examples of other digital collections available online include materials of Horace Kephart, an early 20th-century outdoors writer and proponent for the establishment of Great Smoky Mountains National Park; copies of the Cherokee Phoenix, a Cherokee bilingual newspaper printed from 1828 to 1834; documents from the craft revival illustrating the late 19th- and early 20th-century movement from a mountain perspective.

Contact Hunter Library’s Special and Digital Collections at 828-227-7474 or specialcollections@email.wcu.edu.