Fenton Martin’s road to genealogy fit the theme of last weekend’s Augusta Genealogy Society’s homecoming, Give Your Family Tree a Harder Shake.
It wasn’t Martin, a retired university librarian whose husband is a professor at Georgia Southern University, who started the quest. It was Don Rhodes, publications editor for Morris Communications and longtime columnist for The Augusta Chronicle.
In the early 1970s, while writing for the Augusta Herald, Rhodes spent a lot of time scrolling through the microfilm in the newspaper library.
There, he kept running across the name of a man who was at the hub of Augusta’s political and social scene, Emanuel Wambersie, when Augusta was the state capital.
“Emanuel Wambersie’s house was the center of entertainment,” said Rhodes, who was one of the speakers at the genealogy society’s seminar Saturday, co-sponsored by the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library.
Over the years, Rhodes traced Wambersie’s life from Augusta to Savannah, where he married Ann Phoebe Charlton, the first cousin of Francis Scott Key, the composer of The Star-Spangled Banner. Wambersie, originally from Belgium, eventually became the first U.S. Ambassador to Belgium.
Rhodes continued to research Wambersie until he found living descendants, including Martin, who is Wambersie’s great-great-great-granddaughter and attended her first AGS Homecoming this year.
“No one in our family had done any genealogy until Don came into our lives,” said Martin, who has known Rhodes for about 12 years and is now researching her husband’s family tree.
About 70 people attended the homecoming weekend events, according to AGS president Maxine Maloney.
Events began on Aug. 17 with tours of the Burke County archives, Augusta State University’s Reese Library special collections’ room and records rooms at the new Augusta- Richmond County Judicial Building.
On Sunday, guests visited the AGS Adamson Library.
Maloney said the focus of this weekend was to help people find records during a time when records were harder to come by.
Other speakers included Patricia Kruger, the president of the Charleston Genealogical Society; Susan Sloan, the vice president of the Georgia Genealogical Society; and Nancy Lindroth, AGS vice president.