EDGEFIELD – The Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society maintains a mother lode of information that is extremely valuable to people who want learn about their ancestors.

“We have more than 2,000 family surname files, and they are a major drawing card,” said Tonya Guy, who is the Genealogical Society’s second vice president. “You can go through them and find things like lineage charts, wills and military records.”

The Genealogical Society also has all kinds of other material, including a large collection of newspapers, approximately 1,000 family history books and numerous court records and other documents.

“We have around 500 members from 40 states,” Guy said. “We are the largest genealogical society in South Carolina.”

The Genealogical Society is based at the D.A. Tompkins Memorial Library on Old Courthouse Square. The Edgefield Civic League owns the buildings that make up the Tompkins Library, which also is the site of the Edgefield Welcome Center.

In addition to serving as an officer of the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society, Guy is the Tompkins Library’s director and historian. The Tompkins Library also is the home of the South Carolina Genealogical Society’s collections.

Each year, the Tompkins Library gets about 2,000 visitors, and Guy enjoys showing them how to uncover facts about their forefathers.

“Most people think of genealogy as a hobby, but I see it as more of a spiritual journey, because you really can’t know where you are going unless you know where you’ve been,” Guy said. “Being able to reach back and tap into those roots provides an important connection. I’ve had people burst into tears, and I’ve had people jump up and down in jubilation when they find something that they have been searching for.”

Sometimes a trip back in time turns up scandal, crime or other unsavory revelations.

“You are going to find those ancestors that aren’t the desirable ones; they are the colorful ones who were thieves, murderers and adulterers,” Guy said. “I tell people to accept their ancestors for who they were. They were human beings, and human beings make mistakes.”

One reason that Edgefield is such a good source of genealogical data is because the Great Wagon Road passed through the area.

“In the 1700s, thousands of people traveled down here from the North,” Guy said. “They were trying to get away from the French and Indian War. They settled here for a while, and then they pushed on westward.”

Those individuals left behind their names in numerous official and unofficial local records.

For more information about the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society, call 803-637-0410 or visit the organization’s website: www.oedgs.org.

Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.