It is time to celebrate!

Example of a land grant envelope, “shuck”

Example of a land grant envelope, “shuck”

In the mid-1980s the State Archives of North Carolina started work on preserving, microfilming and indexing the North Carolina Land Grants. I have not been part of this project since the beginning, but for the past 6 years one of my jobs has been to index the microfilmed North Carolina Land Grants into our MARS database, I have now indexed 133 reels of microfilm which is 25,899 land grants and I am very happy to say that the project is now complete.

To give an idea as to the scope of this project there are over 200 fiberdex boxes consisting of 216,024 land grants which in turn became 611 reels of microfilm. North Carolina Land Grants span the years 1679-1959 and are arranged by county including the Tennessee Counties that used to be part of North Carolina. Prior to the indexing of these land grants, which consist of a warrant, plat and often a receipt, they would have to be taken out of their envelope “shuck,” flattened ,deacidified, and repaired in the conservation lab. From there they would be microfilmed and then finally indexing could take place. The indexing of the land grants required the ability to read the microfilm of old and at times almost illegible script. The information captured in this indexing was information found on the envelope “shuck” which includes the county name, name of the grantee, number of acres, grant number, date issued, warrant number, entry number, date entered, book number, page number, location, and remarks. The location field often required researching the names of the counties’, cities, creeks, rivers, branches, and other geographical locations. This process could be time consuming because not only might the handwriting be hard to read but in many cases the spelling would be wrong or the names of geographic features would have changed over the years as well. There were also times that the names of the people listed on the shuck would be spelled different ways within the documents and shuck. In those cases I would try to determine, as much as possible, the correct name. But indexing also had its upside, including finding many interesting or humorous names, such as Ice Snow or the all-time favorite among staff working on the land grant project, Bold Robin Hood.

Although the process was long and tedious, this project will now enable researchers to view the North Carolina land grant “shuck” information online. Land grants can provide valuable information for many different researchers. Recently I learned that land grants were used to help reestablish the North Carolina-South Carolina border. Genealogists may also find information in land grants useful in their family research. Just remember that the information found in our MARS online catalog is the information found on the envelope, the “shuck,” at the time of the filming. If a researcher wants more information on the contents of the shuck they will need to visit our search room to view the microfilm, because the original land grants have been withdrawn from use as a preservation measure.

Now that this project has been completed I am on to a new project. Keep an eye out for news about a new addition to the North Carolina Digital Collections.

9 thoughts on “It is time to celebrate!

    1. Ashley

      Hi Jim,

      I’m answering for Tiffanie since I’m the first to see this – we are aware David McCorkle’s land grant project, thanks. Can you explain what you mean by corporation files? If you’re asking about records created by private companies, they usually keep those themselves, unless they go out of business. For example, we do have some company account books in our Private Collections materials (see for some examples). Is that what you are asking about?


      1. Jim Williams

        Hi, Ashley and Tiffanie. Yes, let me explain. I am researching gold mining in Mecklenburg County, specifically the Chevalier Vincent de Rivafinoli, in 1830-33. He was a gold mining expert of international renown and an extravagant character. This project is for the Gold District committee which is seeking to build a museum to celebrate the history of gold mining in North Carolina and Mecklenburg County.

        Rivafinoli sold his mining leases to the Mecklenburg Gold Mining Company ca 1832. According to the county records and other sources the formation of a Corporation at that time required a special law passed by the Assembly. I have also heard that corporation were required to file their papers with the state – the corporation papers plus annual reports and a report if the corporation were to be dissolved. I am hoping that I can find out where in Raleigh these files might be. Any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

        By the way, David McCorkle’s web site has been a revelation. This made available on-line data that I knew existed somewhere but had never found access to. It even contains a number of those rarest of all artifacts, original land plats. Thanks again for doing the tedious but immensely valuable work that made David’s web site possible.

        Your most humble and obedient servant,

        Jim Williams

        Historian, First Person Interpreter and Bookbinder

        Charlotte, NC

        704 365 2402

      2. Ashley

        Ah, I see. That is a bit more complicated a question and I’m not sure Tiffanie or I are the best people to try to find an answer for you. Our branch deals with metadata and digitization primarily and what you need is someone with a great deal of knowledge of a specific set of state government records. My suggestion is that you submit this same question to our main email address At the other end of that is the State Archives Correspondence Unit and they will either address it themselves or redirect you to a member of the Archives staff who can.


  1. Tahe

    I had no idea about the envelopes and that they are called shucks. As a paper conservator I have treated numerous land grants and none of them had the shucks. Were they only issued by the Archives?

    1. Ashley

      Hi Tahe,

      The land grants are part of the Secretary of State records, so they were not issued by the State Archives. While this is not my area of expertise, I think the shucks were not part of the original issuing and recording of the land grants but were a later addition to those records that still predate the transfer of the land grants from the Secretary of State to the State Archives. If you want more information about the land grants, shucks, and how they came to the State Archives, I’d offer you the same advice I gave Jim: email the main Archives address ( They’ll put you in touch with someone who has a subject specialty in this area.


  2. David McCorkle


    The shucks were part of a project by the NC Secretary of State’s office in the early 1900s to put all the loose land grant documents in one place. At the same time, they created a card catalog index which is still in use at the archives. The original documents were folded in order to fit in the envelopes, which as a paper conservator probably makes you shudder! You can often see the fold marks in the microfilm images. As you saw in Tiffanie’s post, part of the 1980s-90s project was to “unshuck” them, repair if needed, and store them in folders.

    I was interested in the term “shuck”, and after doing some google searches could not find any other references to that term to describe that type of envelope. I assume it comes from shuck as in “corn shuck” which fits the agricultural history of the state. If anyone has other ideas I’d love to hear them!

    DAvid McCorkle

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