Crumbling designs and faded epitaphs on century-old grave markers speak volumes to local genealogist and researcher Carrie Adamson.
An unsheathed sword on a weathered tombstone tells her the man buried there died at war. The engraved words, "He was outnumbered, not outdone," recount a story that has outlived the soldier by more than a century.
A few paces away, another headstone bears a sword, this one sheathed, indicating the soldier died during peacetime.
"A cemetery is an outdoor museum," Ms. Adamson told a group of history buffs touring downtown's Magnolia Cemetery on Friday afternoon. "It's 200 years of fashions of stones, styles of churches and passages of literature for us to see."
The cemetery walk was an hourlong segment of a three-day ancestor research seminar being sponsored this weekend by the Augusta Genealogical Society. Ms. Adamson is honorary president of the group.
Nearly 165 people, including local residents and out-of-town visitors, have registered for this weekend's activities and lectures, which are devoted to people researching their family ancestry. This year, the seminars focus largely on using military records to find information.
"Almost all of us have ancestors who were in the military or were victims of war," Ms. Adamson said.
This year marks the 21st anniversary of the research event.
Militia lists, pension records and military periodicals contain reams of information, including place of birth, wives, husbands, children, education, accolades and cause of death.
Classes being held today at Augusta State University and Sunday at the genealogy group's Broad Street library focus on different kinds of military records that can be examined, such as veterans' benefits papers and documents from other states.
In the search for ancestors, once a relative has been identified the next step often is to find his grave.
Nobody from Ben and Cecelia Howell's extended family has been laid to rest among the towering magnolia trees of Augusta's sprawling city cemetery. But they said Friday that learning what symbols to look for once they locate their ancestors will be valuable.
"It all relates," Mr. Howell said. "It's finding out what happened in the past, which is a large piece of the puzzle."
The Augusta Genealogical Society will hold lectures throughout the day today at Augusta State University's performing arts theater. Registration - 8-8:45 a.m. - costs $40 at the door and includes a box lunch.
Below is a partial list of programs:
9 a.m.: "The Civil War - North and South," George Schweitzer
10 a.m.: "Thousands of Confederate War Veterans Went to Brazil After 1865! Why Should We Care?," Eugene Harter
11:30 a.m.: "Revolutionary War Genealogy," George Schweitzer
1:30 p.m.: "The War of 1812, " George Schweitzer
1:30 p.m.: "Colonial Virginia Military Records" John Vogt
3:00 p.m.: "The Loyalists Story: Identifying Who They Were and Where They Were - Those Who Stayed and Those Who Left," Russell Moores
The Augusta Genealogical Society Library will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a computer demonstration of genealogical CD-ROMs at 2 p.m.
Reach Heidi Coryell at (706) 823-3215.