Researchers today enjoy many new tools at their fingertips – figuratively and literally.   Any number of new digital repositories can give a researcher access to out-of-print books, rare books, census materials, state agency publications, city directories, maps, national records, international records – the list continues to grow.  A recent and still growing database allows researchers to peruse newspapers – newspapers.com and Chronicling America by the Library of Congress.

These scanned newspapers are indexed and searchable.  As with any such searchable data the savvy researcher will understand that such a search engine is only the start. A search may seem overwhelming due to the number of “hits” returned on the word or phrase checked but one must remember that even though exhaustive such a search cannot and does not find all instances of the word or phrase.  In addition to such an initial search a researcher should use good old fashioned legwork in the newspaper – using a microfilm edition – to see if there are things the data-search missed.

One interesting side-benefit of having a searchable database of newspapers is that a researcher can see the way a story spreads across the news.  In this world of instant social media where a YouTube post can trend and become an international sensation in a matter of hours, it is interesting to trace an arc of a story across United States newspapers in the 19th Century – to see a story, in effect, go the equivalent of 19th Century viral.

For example, information on the infamous Lowery Gang that hailed from Robeson County in post-Civil War North Carolina traveled across the United States as one paper after another picked up the thrilling exploits and eventual demise of the gang. Lowery was a mixed-ethnicity individual who resisted conscription by the Confederate army, eluded capture by the US army and evaded all post-war attempts by civilian authorities to permanently capture him. A newspaper reporter from the New York Herald came south to interview Lowery and his gang in March 1872. Henry Berry Lowery was reported as deceased prior to the reporter’s arrival.  The story of his death reverberated throughout the nation.  The reporter nonetheless interviewed gang members. His correspondence to his editor was published and this story too began to echo across the U.S. The twin events – Lowery purported death and the reporter’s story – went “viral.”

The Wilmington Star (Wilmington, NC) reported Henry Berry Lowery dead in the March 6, 1872 issue. About the same time a Raleigh paper ran a similar notice of the death of Lowery.  By April 1872 the Newberry Herald of Newberry, SC reported “dailies have teemed of late with the rumored accounts of the …killing of Henry Berry Lowery.” Papers around the country picked up the Wilmington or the Raleigh death article. The Wilmington account spread quickly and widely. On March 7th it appeared in a Washington, DC paper. On March 8th papers in Alexandria, VA, Wheeling, WV, Baltimore, MD, Rock Island, IL, and Richmond, VA carried the same notice.  By March 14th the local paper in Upper Sandusky, OH ran the account on the front page.  The next day it appeared in a Bolivar, TN newspaper.  The Raleigh version popped up on March 7th in Charleston, SC. A week later it was in an Eaton, OH paper.  On March 15th the local Albany, OR paper ran the Raleigh account of Lowery’s death. The Raleigh story appeared in a Washington, DC newspaper on the 18th and reached Paw Paw, MI on the 22nd.

When the New York Herald ran the story written by the correspondent in the March 18th, 1872 paper that story too “went viral” and in a matter of days found its way to Winchester and Columbia, TN, St. Paul, MN, Staunton, VA and Charleston, SC.  Elements of the article would continue to appear in newspapers across the US for many months to come.  It is interesting to see how such sensational stories as the Lowery Gang captivated an audience and spread out over the media of the time – newspapers.

Of course, it may be that checking microfilm of papers during this time period may yield other examples of the story bouncing around the continental United States.  Due diligence serves every researcher.

[Search “Henry Berry Lowery” on the Chronicling of America database for more newspaper stories and to see how new information repeated the cycle of propagation of news about the gang.]

Another thing to consider when looking and researching in newspapers is how to handle missing issues.  Inevitably, the newspaper in the town where your research interests have you looking for information is missing the years or issues germane to your research needs.

Is the town or area in question near a railroad station?  Is the community connected by rail to other nearby or even far away towns?  For example, Weldon, NC is at one end of the Wilmington and Weldon railroad.  If you can’t find the issue of the paper you need perhaps looking in the Wilmington papers a week or so after the event might get you the repeat of the Weldon newspaper story.

The same is true for anything along the railroad line that ran from Charlotte to Raleigh – is the Hillsborough Recorder missing the year your ancestor died?  Check any paper along that rail line from Raleigh to Charlotte and see if the death notice is picked up; particularly by local papers closer to the point of interest.  A marriage notice might not gain much traction outside the immediate community but a death notice might – or, say, a murder.  If you are looking for information on a local hotel in Salisbury but the Salisbury paper yields nothing – go down that rail line and see if a local paper elsewhere might be advertising that hotel.  After all, if you see ads in the Salisbury paper for the Raleigh Yarborough House then you might expect the reverse to be true – Salisbury establishments in Raleigh newspapers.  Railroads connect people and towns but also ideas and industry.

Posted by: Ashley | March 20, 2015

How Did We Move a Warehouse Full of Records?

[This blog post is cross-posted from the G.S. 132 Files, the records management blog of the Government Records Section of the State Archives of North Carolina. The original post was written by section head Becky McGee-Lankford.]

How Did We Move a Warehouse Full of Records?

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Moving into the new warehouse.

One of the primary functions of the Government Records Section, Division of Archives and History (State Archives of North Carolina) is to provide state agencies with storage facilities for their inactive records.  We operate three storage facilities to accomplish this goal.  Due the term of the lease ending with one of our storage facilities (BSA), the staff of the Division of Archives and Records has engaged in a massive storage facility relocation project that took place from May 2014 to March 2015.

This project started almost a year ago in April 2014 when we began to work with the State Property Office to seek new leased space.  Once the bid process was completed and the proper contracts were signed we obtained a new leased space in September 2014.

The staff of the State Archives worked in three phases to transition the records from the former storage facility (BSA) to the new warehouse (Front Street). Phase 1: Preparation and Planning; Phase 2: Removal of Records and Disassembly and Reassembly of Shelves; and Phase 3:  Re-shelving of Records.

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Setting up the shelving


Phase 1: Preparation and Planning

During the preparation stage we worked to minimize the cost of moving the records from one facility to the new warehouse.  From May – October 2014 we:

  • Destroyed 18,229.55 cu. ft. of materials scheduled for destruction.
  • Moved 8,776 cu. ft. of records from the BSA to one of our other two storage facilities.
  • Hired a structural engineer to design a shelving plan for the new warehouse facility.
  • Prepared the Scope of Work and received bids from contractors to 1) remove the records from the warehouse; 2) Store the records in a temporary location; 3) Move the shelving from the first warehouse and rebuild the shelves in the new facility; and 4) Return the records to the shelves in the new facility. The contractor was secured in early November 2014.
  • Developed workflow for records relocation. We also developed documentation to track the movement of the boxes from the shelf to the pallet, the pallet storage in the temporary location, and placement of the boxes in their new location at the new facility. Detailed documentation of individual series of records (including which pallet they were stored) was important to capture, since the clear chain of custody for the records needed to be identifiable through all stages of the process.

Phase 2: Removal of Records and Disassembly and Reassembly of Shelves

  • November – December 2014 contract workers and Division staff worked to palletize and remove records from the storage facility. Record pulls were completed in 15 days.
  • Late December 2014 – February 2015 contract workers disassembled and reassembled the shelving at the new storage facility.
  • Hired lighting engineer to design a supplemental lighting plan for the storage facility.

Phase 3: Re-shelving of Records and Lighting

  • March 2015 contract workers and Division staff re-shelved records in the new warehouse. The final boxes were placed on the shelves on March 16th, meaning that work was completed in 10 ½ days.
  • Lighting contractor is scheduled to install additional lighting.

Now that the hard part is done we will focus our attention on ensuring that all box locations in our box tracking database have been updated to reflect their new location.  This should take a minimal amount of time since we did a majority of the data entry in real time as the boxes were being placed on the shelves.

The State Records Center has resumed normal operations.  We are now servicing records requests for records stored in all three of our facilities, destroying records that have met retention requirements, and picking up records from agencies for storage at the State Records Center.  After almost 11 months it is nice to get back to routine operations.

Final Results:

We moved 37,116 cu. ft. of records on 696 pallets from the BSA to the Front Street facility.  We had a handful of boxes that were damaged in transport, but for the most part the boxes arrived in their new home in good condition.

In total we touched approximately 64,122 cu. ft. of records during this project.  As a result of all the planning and preparation work done in the first phase of the move, as well as the relocation and destruction of records stored at the BSA, the overall cost of the project was reduced. This project was a major undertaking requiring the commitment of all State Archives staff to complete.  All members of the Archives staff worked tireless to transition the records to the new storage facility.  The result is a fully operational storage facility.

Posted by: kevin | March 19, 2015

Newly Digitized Alexander Martin Correspondence

Newly digitized correspondence from North Carolina’s fourth governor, Alexander Martin, is now available via the North Carolina Digital Collections. Originally a merchant and lawyer, Martin experienced a brief military career and was eventually elected as governor in 1782. The collected letters were written by such dignitaries as Nathanael Greene, Hugh Williamson and Robert Bignall from 1781 to 1785. In a time period that stretched from the end of the Revolutionary War and through its aftermath, the correspondence covers topics from trading tobacco for muskets, the death of Richard Caswell’s son, William, and pleadings for war reparations. For more information about Alexander Martin, check out this finding aid and NCpedia article.  More digitized Governors’ papers can be found here.

The NCpedia biographies of notable North Carolinians found in the papers of Governor Alexander Martin are listed below:

Amis, Thomas: http://ncpedia.org/biography/amis-thomas
Bignall, Robert: http://ncpedia.org/biography/bignall-robert
Caswell, Richard: http://ncpedia.org/biography/caswell-richard-0
Hunter, Thomas: http://ncpedia.org/biography/hunter-thomas
Lillington, Alexander: http://ncpedia.org/biography/lillington-john-alexander
Sevier, John: http://ncpedia.org/biography/sevier-john
Williams, John: http://ncpedia.org/biography/williams-john
Williamson, Hugh: http://ncpedia.org/biography/williamson-hugh

Posted by: Christopher | March 19, 2015

The Dunn Dispatch

A new newspaper resource is now available for researchers who visit the State Archives of North Carolina.  A nearly complete run of the Harnett County newspaper The Dunn Dispatch has been donated to the Archives.  The Imaging Unit has completed preservation microfilming of the newspaper.  A security copy of the microfilm was added to the Archives security vault and a research or reading copy of the film has been added to the Archives search room.  The holdings for the newspaper range from the start of the paper in 1914 through the end of the paper in November 1965.

This newspaper adds a valuable resource to local events in Harnett County.  It is a timely addition to the collection considering that currently the Centennial of the Great War (or World War One) is being observed and the newspaper began at just about the same time as the Great War.

The newspaper is in the microfilm room at the State Archives.  Researchers are encourage to use this new resource.  The microfilm room is a self-service room but Archives staff are happy to assist researchers in getting started using the microfilm holdings.

The State Archives of North Carolina continues to seek North Carolina based newspapers to add to the newspaper collection.  Please contact Chris Meekins, Head of the Imaging Unit, if you have a North Carolina based newspaper you wish to donate to the State Archives.  He can be reached via email – chris.meekins <at> ncdcr.gov or by phone – 919-807-7333.

Posted by: Ashley | February 27, 2015

Search Room Open to the Public, Feb. 27

The Search Room of the State Archives of North Carolina is open to the public as of 8:00 AM, Friday, February 27.  If any changes to our hours occur today, we will announce that news here.

Please check the following websites for updates:

Posted by: Ashley | February 26, 2015

Search Room Closing Early, Feb. 26

Due to the potential for icy roads, the Search Room will be closing at 4 PM on the afternoon of February 26. Weather and road conditions are likely to be challenging on the morning of Friday, February 27, and we will open to the public when adequate staffing is available. We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause.

Please check the following websites for updates:

Posted by: Carie Chesarino | February 26, 2015

Search Room Open to Researchers, February 26, 2015

The Search Room of the State Archives of North Carolina is open as of 10:00 AM today, Thursday, February 26. Please be aware that the front door may be locked. For access, call the main line at 919-807-7310. The Adverse Weather Policy is still in affect, so the Search Room may close early. If any changes to our hours occur today due to worsening conditions, we will announce that news here.

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