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Margaret Lee Traces Johnston County Roots

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SMITHFIELD — Technology is making it easier for people to trace their family history. The Internet links people with family records all across the country, but not all of the information is online.

Johnston County may have something better than a Web page; they have Margaret Lee.

"I think it's getting to be a hobby for a lot of retired people, and on the days they can't play golf, they come and do research," said Lee.

Lee understands the passion some people have for digging into their family's past. It is a bug she caught 33 years ago.

Before then, she was too busy being a mother and housewife to spend much time in libraries.

Lee helped assemble a collection of genealogical information on Johnston County families. The information includes birth records, obituaries, old portraits and an original town map.

The collection has outgrown one section of the public library. The county is within $150 thousand of a fund-raising goal which would turn an old bank building into the Johnston County Heritage Center.

"So now we have about 8,000 plus square feet of space that we can move the collection into and have room to expand," said Todd Johnson, executive directory of the County Heritage Center.

Johnson is working on putting a lot of the information on computer and eventually on a Web site.

However, he says online visitors will miss out on the best source of information on Johnston County history.

"Our main mission is to preserve Johnston County treasures, and one of the greatest treasures we have is in that room, Margaret Lee," said Johnson.

"I'm just thankful I'm still here. I think I'm the lucky one," said Lee.

Johnston County was first established 254 years ago.

Fund-raising organizers figure if everybody who lives in the county donates 254 pennies, they will have enough money to move into their new building.

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Rick Armstrong, Reporter
Rick Armstrong, Photographer
John Clark, Web Editor

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