Our website is undergoing construction; some pages may not be available and some links may not work while the website is being redone.  Check back often for updates.



Welcome to the

Swain County Genealogy Society


                                      Bringing the past

                                Into the present

                                            For the future


Swain County was formed in 1871 from Jackson (formed in 1851 from Haywood and Macon) and Macon Counties.  The area covered by Swain County was once Macon County, formed in 1828 from Indian Lands.  The county was named in honor of  former  governor and University of NC president David Lowry Swain.  The first court was held at Cold Spring Meeting House, and commissioners were assigned to lay out a town to be called Charleston and to select a site for the courthouse.  In 1889 this town was renamed Bryson City (the present day county seat) in honor of Colonel Thad Dillard Bryson. In 1876, the Qualla Boundary Reservation of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee was established, part of it being in Swain County.  In 1934, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established, with part of it also in Swain County,  Then in 1941 construction of Fontana Dam was authorized by the Tennessee Valley Authority.  Today the national park, the reservation, and the TVA occupy about 280,000 acres of present day Swain County. 



The Swain County Genealogical Society

meets on the first Thursday of each month.

See new meeting place following the meeting announcement.


September 17, 2017


Sunday, September 17 is the 42nd “homecoming” for the North Shore Cemetery Association (NSCA) “family.”  This is an open invitation for all former residents and their descendants of the Northshore to gather at the Deep Creek Shelter for a “homecoming” from 10:00 AM until 3:00 PM that day. Homecoming is a time to catch up, see distant relatives and meet new relatives that you didn’t know you had.  It’s a time to share stories and remember those who lived in these mountains.  Many persons bring family pictures for all to view so that we can all reconnect with those who were once there. Some will enjoy spinning those hunting and fishing tales so big that the story teller almost drowns in what is said.  And everyone will enjoy the ham, deviled eggs, fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, potato salad, apple pie and all the other delicious food of the “dinner on the ground.”

The Northshore of Fontana Lake was the “heartland” of Swain County. In the 1940’s, Fontana Lake was built, forcing the people that lived in the Little Tennessee River Valley and the surrounding hills to leave the land of their ancestors. The “heartland” was settled in the early 1820’s and 1830’s. Many came from “Burke County,”  what is now the “upstate” of South Carolina and over the mountains from east Tennessee. Some of the surnames of the early settlers included Buchanan, Monteith, Calhoun, Seabolt, Welch, Bradshaw, Cable, Kirkland, Crisp, Dorsey,  Posey, Orr, Payne, Pilkey, Laney, Sawyer, Pilkington, Wiggin, Jones, Higdon, Walker, Conner and others. These people are the “roots” for most natives of Swain County.

The reunion is the climax of the 2017 season of cemetery visitations. Since April 23 of this year, 25 of the 28 known cemeteries on the Northshore of Fontana Lake have been visited by the “Northshore born” and their descendents. Those who have been there know that a visit to one of these Northshore cemeteries takes one back in time. For most of the visits, the group departs from Cable Cove and is ferried by boat across the lake to a landing near the cemetery. Some walk to the cemeteries while others ride in vehicles provided by the National Park Service. Upon arrival at the cemetery, an ole time mountain ritual of “decorating the graves” is undertaken by descendants and members of the group by placing flowers on each and every grave in the cemetery.  After the decoration, members of the group join together in singing ole time hymns that awakens the hills so that even the coyotes join in song. As the music once again wafts through the valleys and into the ridges, those present are transported back in time visualizing those mountain cabins, buildings, roads, and fields that once dotted the area. Standing on the hallowed grounds of the ancestors, one can almost see the faces of those who lived there and experience a connection with their world for just a little while.  After a brief devotional service and prayer, the “coolers” are opened up and all join in a “dinner on the ground” meal. The “spell of time” is not broken until we, the “Northshore Family” arrive back across the lake and go our separate ways. A schedule for the cemetery visitation, pictures, history, a listing of the officers  and more information about the Northshore Cemetery Association may be found online at the website northshorecemeteries.com.

To experience just a little bit of this “spell of the Northshore” please join us for this 42nd reunion at the Deep Creek Shelter on Sunday and celebrate life in the mountains. Participants need to bring a covered dish and desert for all to share. And bring those pictures of those ancestors and their descendents for all to see. If you are musically inclined, bring your instrument and plan to join in. All are welcome to be a part of the Northshore Family Reunion.





New Meeting Place!!








The Society Office is located on the square

just across the street from the old courthouse. 

It is in the brick building upstairs over the police department.



Our Office &  Library

Library/Office Hours

Monday - Friday 9 AM - 5 PM; Tuesday 6 PM - 8 PM

Telephone - (828) 488-2932

Mailing Address:

PO Box 267

Bryson City, NC 28713

e-mail: swaingenealogysociety@gmail.com


The purpose of the Swain County Genealogy Society is to aid in the preservation of Family Bible Records, Military Records, Cemetery Records and other genealogical and historical records. We want to promote interest and research in the study of History and Genealogy. To cooperate with other Societies as much as is practical and to collect and preserve data relating to North Carolina and North Carolina families, particularly, but not limited to Swain, Macon and Jackson Counties.




Swain County Genealogical Society celebrated our 30th birthday in 2014!

see the photos of our celebration


See the preview of the upcoming video by William Davis

Lost Souls of Lauda

about the North Shore Cemeteries



Site Directory

SCGS Bookstore

Publications available for sale by the society

Families of Interest***

Connect with others researching the same surnames

Membership Application

Membership information and form

Swain County Resources

Contacts for county records information

Family Reunions *** updating for 2015

Reunions of interest to folks with western NC roots

Local History & Lore

History and story links pertaining to Swain County

The Cherokee

History & Genealogy of the of the Cherokee Indians

Photo Album

Photos of interest to folks with Swain County roots

Political Graveyard

Politicians who were born and/or lived in Swain Co.


Links to Swain County marriages

North Shore Cemeteries

Schedule for Homecoming and Decorations

Graves Affected by TVA Project         

Graves in Swain area affected by Fontana Dam project - inlcudes re-interred and not moved
*** These pages are under construction and be available very soon.  Please check back often for updates.




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