McDONOUGH — A conversation between his mom and grandmother about family history sparked something in Avery Johnson.

Johnson, now 17, was in eighth grade when his mom, Buffie Johnson, and grandmother, Mary Ann Carp, were comparing notes they’d gathered about their family’s ancestors. The pair had been researching only “here and there.”

Avery had always loved studying U.S. and world history in school, but their discussion piqued his interest into his own family’s history.

Starting with his grandmother, Avery set about gathering as many stories and family names as possible.

With his mom’s help, he joined four years ago and started the laborious task of tracing his family’s roots. Buffie said she only gave her son the tools to get started.

“I think that’s why he’s done what he’s done and developed such an interest for genealogy,” she said. “He needed to stretch himself and learn as he went.”

Avery fell in love with the act of uncovering and discovering. For example, he learned through military records that his great grandfather fibbed about his age to get into the Ohio National Guard. His sister signed the paperwork for him to join.

“This has become my No. 1 passion,” Avery said. “It’s been wonderful to sit and talk with my grandmother and share this information with her and my whole family.”

Both his mom and grandmother say it’s “amazing” how far back Avery has traced their lineage and how close it has brought their family.

“This has been such a wonderful experience for everyone involved,” Mary Ann said. “He’s done an excellent job, and I’m very proud of him for what he’s doing.”

They’ve made trips to Indiana and Ohio to visit with distant family members and to gather more memories and family lore. A trip planned to England later this year will give Avery more genealogy ground to cover.

“Avery has found out so many things,” Mary Ann said. “He’s surprised us all with stories, photos, wedding, birth and death announcements.”

Now he’s taking his love of genealogy and expanding it to other people’s families. He recently started his own business offering research. With the gathered information, he creates family history books, digital family trees and family tree posters.

All this digging into the past has led Avery to a future profession.

He’ll graduate from Locust Grove High School in the spring with plans to attend the University of North Georgia Dahlonega to study history. He hopes to parlay that degree into a genealogy career.

“This is something really cool,” he said. “I’m connecting families to their past. It gives them a deeper connection to each other, and it’s a way to honor their roots.”

To learn more about Avery’s research, visit

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