County Restructuring in the Discover Online Catalog

[This blog post was written by Ruth Cody and Alexandra Dowrey, Archivists in the Records Description Unit, Government Records Section.]

While searching our new catalog, the Discover Online Catalog (DOC; https://archives.ncdcr.gov/doc/search-doc), you may have noticed that some of the county catalog entries look different than they did in MARS. That’s because the Records Description Unit in the Government Records Section has recently embarked on a project to restructure the presentation of county records holdings to facilitate access and discovery for these records.

The new structure more closely aligns with the way records are described in the search room card catalog. Records for each county are grouped into ten overarching categories, referred to as series. These series contain most of the same records as the corresponding card catalog series. The biggest change is that we took many of the record types out of the Miscellaneous record series and moved them into categories that more accurately represent them. We also tried to put indexes in the same series as their corresponding records. The ten categories are as follows:

Bonds, Licenses, Oaths, and Registrations contains Apprentice Bonds, Bastardy Bonds, Official Bonds and Records of county officials, Oaths taken by county officials, and other miscellaneous bonds and records pertaining to legal responsibilities of service granted through the courts, as well as Assumed Business Names, Corporations, and Partnerships and Brands or Marks registered in the county and Licenses and Registrations of merchants and professionals kept by the county.

County Administration contains records pertaining to or created by the administrative bodies of the county, including but not limited to the county Board of Commissioners, Board of Education, and Board of Health. It may include County Accounts and Claims, Journals and Ledgers of County Officials, and/or Records of Wardens of the Poor, as well as records documenting county boundaries and changes thereto.

Court Records includes records pertaining to the administration and actions of the county court system, particularly Civil and Criminal Actions before a jury and other actions before the court or the clerk, such as Special Proceedings. The dominant court prior to 1868 was known as the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions; after court reform, circa 1868, it was known as the Superior Court. Records that were previously separated by court reform are now categorized together.

Land and Property Records contains records related to ownership, transfer, and taxing of land and property.

Estates Records contains records related to the administration of deceased persons’ property.

Marriage, Divorce, and Vital Statistics contains vital records pertaining to major life events such as marriage, divorce, adoption (restricted by statute), immigration and naturalization, death, and disinterment/reinterment.

 Tax Records may include List of Taxables, Tax Lists, and Tax Records, Tax Scrolls, and Miscellaneous Tax Records relating to taxation.

Wills includes Record of Wills volumes, original Wills, and indexes to wills.

 Election Records includes Election Returns, Permanent Registration of Voters (grandfather clause registrations, 1902–1908), and Poll Books deposited with the clerk of Superior Court. It may also include minutes of the county Board of Elections.

Miscellaneous Records includes Armed Forces Discharges; Cemetery Records; Coroner’s Inquests and Reports; Military Records; Pension Records; Personal Accounts; Road Records and Reports; School Records; and truly miscellaneous records collected from various county agencies and offices. Miscellaneous Records boxes may also include records from all other county series that were of insufficient quantity to make a full box so it is always beneficial to look in the Miscellaneous Records even if the record you are looking for might fall into another category.

Those familiar with the current call number system for county records need not be alarmed. The call number system has not undergone any changes. Call numbers remain the same, and records can still be searched and accessed by entering a specific call number in the search bar of DOC. Under the new structure, unprocessed county records will be labeled as such and will have a call number that begins with T instead of CR. These records are generally unavailable in the search room on Saturdays unless prior arrangements have been made with the reference staff.

Perhaps the best way to see the holdings for each county and determine the exact record you need is to start with the main catalog entry for the county and then browse through the series to gain a comprehensive view of that county’s holdings. You can select an entire county record group by using the search criteria to the left on the search screen. Under Collection, select County Records. Then, under Level, select Record Group. This will pull up a list of 107 county record groups that you can either flip through to select one or type the county name into the search bar to pull up the exact county. Under the new structure, the ten series will be highlighted, and you can click through them to see the records available.

County restructuring is a work in progress. Currently, not all counties exhibit the new ten series structure. Staff from the Records Description Unit are working county by county to implement this new structure and record basic container information for the records. In later phases of this project, the Record Description Unit plans to provide users with more detailed information for record containers, such as specific dates for individual volumes and cross-references to related materials.

We are very excited about the many ways that our new system will facilitate research. We appreciate your patience while we implement our new county structures and add information to the system. For now, if you have any questions about locating county records, reference staff at the State Archives of North Carolina are here to help. Reference staff can be reached via email at archives@ncdcr.gov and by phone at (919) 814-6840. For general questions about searching in DOC, please refer to the online FAQs page (https://archives.ncdcr.gov/search-catalog/online-catalog-faq).

Digital Collection now Complete: The General Assembly Session Records

After three years, The General Assembly Session Records digital collection is now online!

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Governor Josiah Martin addressing the General Assembly before dissolving it on April 7, 1775. (Document from GASR Colonial, Box 8)

This digital collection covers the session records from 1709 to 1814, located in the State Archives of North Carolina. The physical collection includes records that extend to 1999, but we wanted to highlight the history of colonial North Carolina and the days of early statehood. The documents include Senate and House bills, joint resolutions, propositions, filed grievances, boundary disputes, and petitions that typically discussed divorces, inheritances, name changes and emancipation.

For more information on the General Assembly and North Carolina during this time period, check out these NCpedia  pages:

If you are interested in other State Archives of North Carolina digital collections related to this topic, click on one of the links below:

 

Dive into DOC

The Discover Online Catalog, or DOC, went online today, July 1, 2019. Some links to MARS will linger in old blog posts or within documents and PDFs available on our website, but we have updated website links and blog pages to point to the new catalog. If you have MARS bookmarked, those links will continue to work for a few days, but eventually our IT staff will completely remove online access to MARS.

Screenshot of the “Welcome to the Discover Online Catalog” page on the State Archives website

If you haven’t already visited the new catalog, here’s what you’ll find:

  • Welcome to the Discover Online Catalog – The homepage for the new catalog and the place where we will link to tutorials and other help documentation once its available.
  • Search DOC – The actual search page for DOC. See previous blog posts for some new features available through the updated catalog.
  • Online Catalog FAQ – Do you have questions about searching the catalog, what the advanced search options mean, how to move between levels, or what to do once you find a record you want to see? Visit the new online catalog’s Frequently Asked Questions page for more information. How do we have a Frequently Asked Questions page when the DOC just launched today? We based the questions on feedback we received from user testing with researchers and staff. As we receive more feedback now that the catalog is live, we’ll update the FAQ with more information.

Launching the catalog doesn’t mean we are done making changes. Staff at the State Archives, Outer Banks History Center, and Western Regional Archives are restructuring data and updating information to reflect the latest national standards. Materials that weren’t described in MARS are being added to DOC, and we’ve moved to a new stylesheet for our finding aids, which are now available through DOC as well as the Archives website. Keep an eye on this blog and our other social media for more updates and news as we continue to improve this resource.

Bibliographic Information in the Discover Online Catalog

[This blog post was written by Colin Reeve, Appraisal Archivist in the Records Analysis Unit, Government Records Section.]

An archive can have the greatest material, but without the means for researchers to identify and locate items, it becomes a lot of boxes stored on shelves rather than a usable collection. The Discover Online Catalog (DOC) allows users to locate items by searching on different types of bibliographic information.

Firstly, what is bibliographic information?

If we think of looking for research materials as a kind of journey, biographic information provides routes to locating the materials using signposts created by the archivist.

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Figure 1: DOC Search Screen

Figure 1 shows the DOC search screen (displaying advanced options) and the various ways a search can be narrowed down. The column on the left of the screen allows users to filter their search by where the records are held, who created them, and (not shown in the screenshot) the search level, type of collection, and date ranges.  The main part of the screen allows users to make a more focused search, by using specific date ranges, creator names, title, subject, and so on.

Such a search will display a list of results, as illustrated in Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Buncombe Co. Civil Action Papers (3 of 5 results shown)

Here, searching for civil action papers created by Buncombe County has yielded 5 results (though only the first 3 are visible in the screenshot.) Five results are manageable, but a larger number could be further narrowed down by date range and so on.

For each result, the creator is identified, the record ID is shown, and there is a brief description of the scope and contents. This level of description may be enough for a researcher to identify the required materials, but if it is not, clicking on the underlined title yields additional bibliographic information as Figure 3 shows.

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Figure 3: Bibliographic Information for a Specific Record

The extent of the record (i.e., how much “stuff” is actually archived) is now shown. This is important information if a researcher is contemplating a long journey to the archive; does the extent make the trip worthwhile? And talking of making a trip, the location of the repository is also now identified, so the researcher knows where the record is physically held.

The full scope and contents are now displayed, describing the specific sources of the records, and how the records arranged; in this case chronologically, but materials may also be arranged alphabetically, or not ordered at all.  Additional subgroupings are described, as are any subseries. In the example illustrated, civil actions concerning land are filed separately, and these are shown as child records. Also shown are subject headings associated with the record. Researchers can use these subject headings in subsequent searches to locate similar records.

Once they are satisfied that the searching has yielded the required materials, a researcher can then request them using the Record ID number and/or the Container ID.

Prepared by Colin Reeve (colin.reeve@ncdcr.gov); posted by Kelly Policelli.

Finding Aids in DOC

With the launch of the State Archives of North Carolina’s new catalog system, Discover Online Catalog (DOC), there will be a new way to access the Archives’ finding aids and they will also have a brand new look.

There are two ways you can access the finding aids in DOC. The first option: when you have located a catalog record, if there is a finding aid available, there will be a link “view finding aid” under the record summary. This will open the finding aid in a new tab.

DOC Search Result

DOC Search Result

The second option: after clicking on the catalog record, if there is a finding aid available, there will be a button labeled, “Finding Aid” on the right side of the window which you can click on to open the finding aid in a new tab.

DOC Bibliographic Record

DOC Bibliographic Record

 

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Finding Aid in DOC

Please note that not every collection will have a finding aid available. However, the finding aid only re-formats data that is already in our catalog system. The catalog records and the finding aids are the same information just displayed in different ways. So even if the collection you are looking at in the catalog doesn’t have a finding aid, you can still be assured that what you are looking at is the most up-to-date information we have available.

Additionally, the new look of our finding aids is still under construction, and there might be some quirks in how information is displayed. If you are concerned that the information the finding aid is displaying is inaccurate, please consult the catalog record or contact a reference archivist for further assistance. We appreciate your understanding and patience during this time.

More information on how to navigate our new catalog system will be coming soon, stay tuned!

Facets

The latest installment of learning how to use the new Discover Online Catalog (DOC) at the State Archives is all about facets. Selecting a facet or multiple facets at the beginning of your search can help you to narrow down your search in the catalog. Facets are used to identify types or groups of information and a great way to start and continue your search of the State Archives records. Facets include, but are not limited to:

  • Repository
  • Creator Type
  • Collection
  • Record Begin & End Dates

For example, under Repository you can refine your search by selecting the location where the record resides – for instance, if you know the record you are looking for is at Western Regional Archives, you may click on its link.

If you are searching for records produced within a certain date range, you can select those dates under the Record Begin Date and Record End Date facets.

Please let any of our reference archivists know if you have questions. As always, stay tuned for more information about using the DOC at the State Archives of North Carolina!

Searching in DOC

[This blog post was written by Anna Henrichsen, Information Management Archivist in the Digital Services Section.]

Searching for North Carolina history in the State Archives has never been easier than in our new system, Discover Online Catalog (DOC). There are several ways to begin looking through our catalog. The easiest way is to type a keyword in the search bar at the top of the page. DOC will search for your keyword in all the fields used to describe our collections and return the most relevant results for you to explore.

Screenshot of the basic search bar in the Discover Online Catalog

Fig. 1: Just type a keyword in the search bar and press enter to begin looking for records!

If you have something specific in mind, use the advanced search options to narrow down your results. Search by combinations of subject, date, record creator, and more with DOC’s advanced search. In the following example, we conducted an advanced search for wills from Swain county.

Screenshot of the advance search fields with "wills' in the title field and "swain county" in the creator field. Below is a single result for Swain County Wills.

Fig. 2: Using advanced search options makes finding the records you want easy.

You can see that DOC immediately found what we are looking for and presented it without extra clutter. You can click the result to learn more information about this series and see our holdings. Searching our catalog is a good first step to take when determining if the State Archives has the records you are looking for. As always, you can also reach out to our amazing team of reference archivists who will be happy to help you out.

Stay tuned for further posts about DOC, including information about finding aids, bibliographic records, and more. We are very excited about this new system and we hope you are too!