Genealogy Tourism: Find Your Southern Roots

Genealogy tourism is a growing trend of traveling to the area of your ancestors to research and rediscover who they were. You travel with a purpose to learn about your roots and thus discover who you are. If you are linked to the area by the Civil War or through your southern heritage, Newton County has a rich history that makes it a popular vacation destination.

Online ancestry sites can help get you started on a family tree. As you begin a search through family records, you might find something of interest and get excited. This intrigues you, so you want to learn more. The more information you find, the more your passion grows with an appreciation of the past.

With genealogy tourism, you’re traveling on a trip down memory lane with an unscripted journey. During your search for more ancestral knowledge, you might be delving into city and county records, researching library archives, and visiting historical organizations and gravesites. With each step that draws you to the place of your ancestors, you become reconnected with their past and closer to walking in their footsteps.

To help you learn more about the Civil War and southern heritage, Newton County has a treasure trove of information and sites for genealogy, history and culture.

Genealogy tourism destinations found in Newton County

 The Heritage Room at Newton County’s Main Library

Located in the Covington Branch of Newton County’s library system, the Heritage Room offers distinctive and carefully curated collections for you to learn about your genealogy, history and culture. With a concentration on Georgia, especially on Newton County and the surrounding area, you can spend hours and days pouring through resources and discovering about the past. Find old photos and read stories from local newspapers that date back to 1868. Read notes from the Official Records of the Confederate and Union Armies. Look at maps and scroll through other resources such as census records and Soundex, Revolutionary War and Confederate veterans’ rosters, the Georgia Death Index, county histories, and cemetery records.

Civil War Heritage Trail

When you dig deeper into your family history, your interest in both genealogy and history tourism is sparked with the desire to travel to destinations of your ancestral past. As you travel through Newton County, you can follow along the March to the Sea Civil War Heritage Trail. The route follows the march of Sherman’s men as they made their way through Covington to Milledgeville and then Savannah, wrecking destruction along the way. Fortunately, much of the beautiful antebellum homes and other historic sites in Newton County were spared.

A driving tour designed by the Newton County Chamber of Commerce brings you past many historic sites like the beautiful Covington Square and antebellum homes along Washington Street. As you walk around Covington Square, visualize the past where approximately 14,500 Confederate soldiers commanded by Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis passed through while bands played.

You might recognize several of the sites that you see from your research. Seek out must-see destinations such as Swanscombe (c. 1828, the former home of C.S. Gen. Robert J. Henderson), Twelve Oaks (c. 1836, the mansion known from “Gone With the Wind”), the First United Methodist Church (c. 1854), and the Old Church in Oxford (c. 1841, once used as a Civil War hospital).

Historical Cemeteries in Newton County

Discovering the burial place of your ancestors is an important part of genealogy tourism. Newton County has over 300 cemeteries, although only a handful are maintained. The City of Covington Cemetery, located off Church Street, is one that has a rich history dating back to the early days of settlement in the area. An intriguing aspect about this cemetery is the way it’s divided into 5 sub-sections showing the changes in the gravestones style and architecture over time. An interactive way to explore the cemetery is by checking out the Voices of the Past Historic Cemetery Tour, a self-guided look into the actual stories of seventeen Covington residents and their contributions to the community brought to life with pre-recorded speech sounding reminiscent of the times. More information on this specialty tour can be found at the Covington/Newton County Visitor's Center.

The Oxford Cemetery is another one with an enormous history because of its proximity to the Old Church and Civil War hospital. Visitors can take a walking tour to explore the cemetery. A great place to begin is at the white cemetery maintenance building where you’ll find the cemetery grave locator book and a large map. 

One of the challenges of genealogy tourism is honing your skills to link historical records with the mystery of where an ancestor is buried. Are they buried in an unknown grave? Walking through the cemeteries in the area, you’ll notice many unmarked gravesites from the Civil War and earlier. There is much mystery surrounding the search for an ancestor’s burial place. Are your ancestors buried in lost graves? The bulk of cemeteries across Newton County are on church property or private land, overgrown and forgotten. Organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans are helping to reclaim Covington’s lost cemeteries and revive the history.

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