April 5, 2011

Society’s goal is to honor all who called Hatteras home in years past


It is no secret that Hatteras Island is rich in history.  From the “Lost Colony” that may have inhabited the island hundreds of years ago, to the German U-boats that lurked off the coast just decades ago during World War II, ask any local for a good story, and, chances are, they will have no trouble recalling one.
This is especially true when it comes to Kinnakeet native Dawn Taylor, president of Hatteras Island Genealogical and Preservation Society (HIGPS.) 

Taylor, along with Angel Roller, vice-President of HIGPS, has taken on the task of rejuvenating Hatteras Island’s genealogical society after the previous group fell through some years ago.

The mission on the group’s Facebook page says the society “was formed for those whose family tree emerged from the sands of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.”

And the work of the group will be of interest to all who have an interest in Hatteras history -- even if your family tree didn’t spring from the sands on the island,

Taylor says the inspiration to take on this task came from “a need to respect and honor” the people that called Hatteras Island home in years past.

An example of this philosophy in action, which Taylor and Roller are especially proud of, includes the story of one- time Hatteras local, Little Joshua Gray, who died on Dec. 24, 1891.  Gray’s wooden marker was found more than 700 miles away, in the small Cape Cod community of Sandwich, Mass.  With the help of Lt. Lynne Gourley, of the Sandwich Police Department, Taylor recently had the marker returned to Kinnakeet.

“There are saw marks across the bottom, indicating the purposeful removal of Gray’s marker from its original location near Little Kinnakeet Life-Saving Station, but the fact that the date of his death is still legible shows that it was preserved to some extent and kept in overall good condition,” Taylor said of the marker. 

In an effort to prevent similar situations in the future, Taylor and Roller have formed a group dedicated to finding and restoring the lost cemeteries of Hatteras Island. 

The group, including Jennifer Creech, the society’s secretary, and Jody Roller, works hard to landscape the forgotten graveyards and transform them from an empty piece of land to an identifiable plot dedicated to a loved one’s memory.

The society’s hope is to preserve as many cemeteries as possible before they are built upon or their whereabouts are lost as the island inevitably loses its elders and the oral history that often goes with them.

As a way of changing this familiar course and preserving Hatteras Island’s rich history, HIGPS will host a DNA/genealogy potluck from 6-9 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12, at the Avon Volunteer Fire Department.

Author and former mayor of Bideford, England, Andy Powell will be there to share revelations regarding the ever-evolving story of the Lost Colony in his new book, “Grenville and the Lost Colony of Roanoke.”  Powell compiled the book after more than three years of research that led him to new evidence, theories, and myths about what happened to the Roanoke Island colonists.
In addition to Powell’s presentation, DNA expert and genealogist Roberta Estes will take DNA samples from anyone who would like to know more about his or her family roots. 

If you find yourself feeling hesitant about participating in the DNA sampling, you should know that it’s as easy as a simple mouth swab.  The samples will then be sent to Family Tree DNA where, depending on how much you would like to know, results can run anywhere from $99 to several hundred dollars.  Taylor requests that you bring as much information about your family tree as possible. 

If you would like to bring something for the dinner, Taylor says “side dishes and desserts are always welcome.”

Taylor and Roller are currently pursuing nonprofit status for the society, which will allow it to accept monetary donations and aid in various projects.  Until then, volunteers and donations in the form of photos, books, and other historical documents will be greatly appreciated.

You can keep up with Hatteras Island history on the lively and interesting HIGS Facebook page, which announces the group’s motto as “Not your grandmother’s genealogical society.”

On the page, folks ask questions and seek information about their ancestors and sometimes get answers, and they post old photos.  There are notices and photos of cemetery cleanups and a gallery with lots of photos and documents.

The society has just started a blog that is also fun to read and full of information.  You can find it at http://hatgensoc.wordpress.com/.

For more information, you can call 252-996-0613. 

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