A tribute in memory of Shirley Branch Fleming

Published 3:42 pm Friday, March 2, 2018

Shirley Branch Fleming, deceased 29 November 2017, was the President of the Decatur County Genealogical Society. She was a dedicated and passionate family researcher and historian and a driving force and leader in the Decatur County Genealogical Society. In recognition of Shirley’s dedication and leadership, and her faithful service, the Decatur County Genealogical Society has honored her by renaming the recently opened Genealogical Library at 215 Water Street, the

“Shirley Branch Fleming Genealogical Society Library.”

Shirley was dedicated to the growth and development of the genealogical society. The genealogical society, now some 22 years old, was formed by several family researchers to advance and aid the efforts of local family researchers, and to provide a forum for the sharing of family histories. The first embryonic meeting was held on Thursday, 10 August 1995, at the Southwest Regional Library in Bainbridge with formal organization on 7 November 1995, with 12 members present. Royce Whittington was elected as the first President.

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There were 44 charter members and though Bill and Shirley lived in Jacksonville, Shirley was one of those charter members. Even from a distance, Shirley was very active in the affairs of the society.

When Bill and Shirley moved to Bainbridge she immersed herself in the genealogical society. She became the most active, dedicated, and persistent member pursuing the growth and expansion of the society. And in that work was born a desire for a permanent location for storing and preserving records and to provide a place for researchers to find information and help.

She was most often a prime mover in organizing research events and planning activities, and then seeing them reach fruition. She could be a prime speaker at a meeting or a teacher at a learning event.

In 2013 Shirley was instrumental in accomplishing the incorporation of the society into a non-profit genealogical entity. In the meantime Shirley was instrumental in, and the prime mover in the publishing of the society’s quarterly newsletter, “Southern Searchers.”

Over the years Shirley served five times as President of the society. She was serving in that office for the sixth time when she departed. She also served twice as Vice-President, and her other official services are too numerous to mention in this short article.

She has contributed much that has elevated the research position of the society. Some of her efforts included helping to organize and publish the Oak City Cemetery book, and establishing the Pioneer and Early Settler Certificates for descendants of early settlers of Decatur County.

Additionally Shirley became the volunteer administrator for the Southwest Georgia DNA project for Family Tree DNA. As if she wasn’t busy enough with the genealogical society, she held classes for people who had taken a DNA test.

The crowning effort of Shirley was to provide a society library for the housing of the society’s massive holdings of genealogy research materials. Through the efforts, and considerable donations of other dedicated society members, and with a sizeable donation from the Kirbo Foundation facilitated by Charles Palmer, the library came to fruition in July of 2017.

Bill and Shirley, along with several other hard-working society members, prepared an outstanding facility located at 215 East Water Street just off the square in downtown Bainbridge.

All of the society’s research papers and books are now housed there. In addition, the facility has been furnished with computers, printers, copy machines, and other technical aids for genealogy research. The Library is also happy to receive family history documents and information for Decatur and surrounding counties.

After the opening of the library Shirley had already started another massive effort for the Society to publish a book. The book was to contain copies of all the weekly columns called “Hand-Me-Down Genes,” which John Cunningham had written for the Post-Searchlight over a period of some 14 years or so. That is an ongoing effort of the Society.

There is so much more that could be written about Shirley, her contributions to the Decatur County Genealogical Society, her genealogical research, her travels in pursuing research, and her work in DNA.

Shirley was strong-willed, intelligent, capable and full of knowledge. She will be sorely missed by the genealogical society. But the society will carry on and continue her mission, which would have been her desire. A fitting tribute to Shirley Branch Fleming is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson which was a part of the Memorial Service Program for Shirley. It reads like this:

“Every book is a quotation; and every house is a quotation out of all forests, and mines, and stone quarries; and every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.”