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.