Last updated: June 24. 2014 11:53AM - 59 Views

A camera crew prepares for a shoot on the Southern Wesleyan University campus in Central during the Reunion of Upcountry Families, which took place April 24-26. This month, TNT is airing a feature about the event on “The Dramatic Difference.”
A camera crew prepares for a shoot on the Southern Wesleyan University campus in Central during the Reunion of Upcountry Families, which took place April 24-26. This month, TNT is airing a feature about the event on “The Dramatic Difference.”
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CENTRAL – The Reunion of Upcountry Families, a gathering of genealogy buffs and a “swap meet” for family information held in Pickens County, is getting national attention.


TNT, which is currently airing a short feature devoted to the event, sent producers to the area to interview organizers and participants, and shot video on the Southern Wesleyan University, as well as some rural cemeteries in Pickens County.


It will be aired on June 20 at 6:44 p.m. during Cold Justice and on June 25 and June 26 at times to be determined.


Kenny Blakeney, who organized the reunion, was approached several months ago by the producer, who found out about the event on the reunion’s website.


She told Blakeney that they were working with Ancestry.com and TNT and thought the reunion was a unique event.


Blakeney recalls meeting with other genealogy buffs in the area and coming up with the idea for a reunion five years ago. He heads up Birchwood Center, an organization devoted to local history and folklore and was looking for an activity to raise awareness among the public.


“We were looking for an event to sponsor. I came up with a genealogical reunion type of event,” said Blakeney. Dot Jackson, a well-known local author and journalist who is also involved at Birchwood, suggested he contact local historian Anne Sheriff because of her expertise in genealogy. Sheriff liked the idea, and the wheels were set in motion for an event. As others weighed in with suggestions, the format of the event – a combination of workshops, cemetery tours and a big reunion at Southern Wesleyan that attracts hundreds of visitors – began to take shape as an annual event.


According to Sheriff, the unique format of the three-day event sets the Reunion of Upcountry Families apart.


“You have family reunions all the time. But nobody seems to have the type (event) we have – three days visiting cemeteries and having tables where families can talk,” said Sheriff. “Pickens County Library wanted to be involved. Having all these groups related to history involved – we try to do things with them, too.”


The interviews and footage came together for “The Dramatic Difference,” a human interest feature aired on TNT and featuring Blakeney and Sheriff along with several reunion participants.


For details about the Reunion of Upcountry Families, contact the Birchwood Center at 864-898-0840 or email claytonroom@swu.edu. Also, more information can be found online at www.100yearreunion.com or on the Reunion’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ReunionOfUpcountryFamilies.

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