Monthly Archives: July 2019

Private Collections

Written by Faith Baxter, Digital Services Intern

Imagine playing a game of hide and seek and wandering into a room with over 3,000 private collections rarely seen by anyone except for you. Inside of the collections are inspiring stories about individuals, families, businesses, politicians, judges, and other influential people from North Carolina. These stories, filled with tremendous amounts of information, were just waiting to be discovered.  

The above narrative reminds me of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Although fictional, readers of all ages love Narnia because of the great collection of stories, characters, and truths that are meaningful to them. Just think of what you could discover once you take the first step!

The Private Collections (PCs) section of the State Archives has been keeping collections for over one hundred years, dating back to the 1700s. Included in the PCs are approximately 3,000 different collections composed of manuscripts, correspondence, family accolades, letters, diaries, photos, recordings, and financial and legal records. These materials are collected from a wide variety of individuals, families, and businesses from around the state and add to the rich culture and history of North Carolina.  

Fran Tracy-Walls

Fran Tracy-Walls is the Private Manuscripts Archivist and is the person responsible for managing North Carolina’s PCs. She is also the first contact when wanting to donate your collection. [or for those wanting to donate a collection.] Some of Fran’s favorite materials, from her years of collecting on behalf of the state, include personal letters, diaries, and account books. She particularly enjoys identifying the situational, physical, and cultural descriptors left by letter writers so that she can understand the context while reading. Fran loves finding scarce information that can help with genealogical research and gives a sense of the period or obstacles faced. She seeks papers that reflect experiences of North Carolinians whose heritage and lives are inadequately represented in our current holdings. Examples include African American, Native American, Hispanic, or Asian Pacific individuals or families.

The State Archives provides for, through legislation, not only the preservation of these materials, but also public access to them. The collections provide a unique story about North Carolina and its history and culture. There is a great deal of information given through these collections and there is a process by which these materials get accessioned and ready for public use. The digitization of these materials is harder to provide because of the large quantity of donated materials and a lack of funding. These collections are available to the public,  but they are required to be used in the Search Room where researchers are given full assistance by the wonderful reference staff.  

The PCs hold information that has been kept for generations but has not been published. Researchers and archivists find these materials to be interesting artifacts that can be used to teach different subjects. The Guide to Women’s Records gives a wide variety of information that includes but is not limited to, correspondence, private manuscript materials, women’s organization notes, account books, photographs, and government documents. While spending time updating the Guide, I have come across many remarkable private collections of phenomenal women.

Dr. Lavonia Allison (PC. 2049)

Dr. Lavonia Allison

Dr. Allison is a visionary whose inspiring story holds so much power, determination, and leadership. She donated her collection and it includes, Clippings, Correspondence, Memorandum, Yearbooks, Brochures, and Committee reports. Dr. Allison is widely known for her outstanding leadership in the political arena; and her commitment to the re-creation of a fair and just society in which all citizens can shape their own destiny through both the educational and political processes. She was a member of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, where she served in many capacities, including the chair, from 1998 to 2012. Dr. Allison has served on 60 boards and community/professional organizations in her lifetime and she adds so much to the culture and history of Durham.

Betty Ann Knudsen (PC. 1960)

Betty Ann Knudsen

Betty Ann Leonard Knudsen was a trailblazing female politician and community activist in Wake County, as well as an avid butterfly lover. She was the first female chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners from 1976 to 1984. She served on numerous boards, councils, and associations at the state and local level since the 1970s. Knudsen paved the way for future female candidates by running for N.C. Secretary of State. She has been an active mentor to other women in politics and leadership positions. Her collection includes correspondence between Betty Ann Knudsen and various politicians on a political and personal level; correspondence related to the Royal Order of the Butterflies; her children’s book, DVD, and butterfly presentations; material reflecting her political and community action and involvement; and personal correspondence with family members and friends from the 1970s to the 2000s.

These are just a few of the collections. Just imagine what you might come across!

Contact Information:

Questions about the Women’s Record Guide:

Fran Tracy-Walls
Private Manuscripts Archivist, Special Collections
State Archives of North Carolina
(919) 814-6856

Welcome Our New State Records Intern

“Start unknown, finish unforgettable.”

This quote from Misty Copeland, the first African American performer to be appointed as a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre, inspires me to push forward toward my goal of becoming the first African American woman to be attorney general for the state of North Carolina. Before I do that, I’ll need to complete my internship this summer with the State Archives of North Carolina.

My name is Eyricka Johnson and I am from Wake Forest, North Carolina. I am currently a senior graduating December 2019 at Elizabeth City State University with a major in History and a minor in Public History. After graduation, I plan on attending North Carolina Central University to earn a Master of History degree along with my Juris Doctorate.

This is my second summer interning with the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.  Last year, while interning at the Museum of the Albemarle, I worked on conserving objects that were later used in the river bridge, memorable sands and craftsman fair exhibits.  I also led summer educational camps for a variety of age groups

This summer I am interning at the State Records Center.  I will be analyzing a group of records from the Bureau of Work Among Negroes.  In 1925 the Bureau of Work Among Negroes, an agency under Public Welfare, was created to assist the welfare of African Americans. My task is to identify ways that the Bureau assisted African Americans, create a display in the Search Room, and look at other state agencies to identify services they too may have provided for African Americans prior to the Civil Rights Movement.

With my enthusiasm for African American history and my love for researching, I am very excited about working with this group of materials.  I am thrilled about working another year with the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to get a better understanding of the department’s contribution in making North Carolina the great state that it is.  Be on the lookout for my next blog post on the 25 most interesting documents I’ve found so far.

If you have any questions about my project, feel free to email me

Documenting the World of Outlander – The Posters of World War II

Contributed by Josh Hager and Alison Thurman, Public Services Unit

Welcome back to Documenting the World of Outlander! While we wait with bated breath for the next season of Outlander, we will continue this blog series with the aim of releasing a new entry each month during the hiatus. We hope that we can provide some interesting historical content that supplements your interest in the show.

For our first season hiatus blog, we’re going to focus on a topic that we would have covered if we had this blog series when Season One aired. Unlike all our prior entries that focused on colonial North Carolina, this time we’re zeroing in on Claire’s origins as a nurse in the Second World War. While the State Archives of North Carolina does not have records of the British military from the Second World War, we do have a great deal of material on the involvement of North Carolinians in that most significant conflict. Researchers interested in seeing our holdings concerning World War II should consult our finding aids on the State Archives of North Carolina website. Some collections are currently undergoing reprocessing, so if you expect an item and do not see a finding aid, please contact the Archives directly for further information. In this blog, we will focus specifically on the World War II posters collected from various official and private organizations. The World War II posters are available on our Digital Collections website to browse and search by keyword.

The first two posters that connect to Outlander represent nursing, Claire’s profession while serving Great Britain. As in the United Kingdom, the US government mounted a publicity campaign to encourage women to enlist as nurses. For example, consider this poster below, created in 1942 by the Office of War Information where the hands of a patriotic figure, perhaps Uncle Sam, bestow the tell-tale nurse’s hat to a new recruit.

“Become a Nurse – Your Country Needs You,” Office of War Information, 1942. World War II Papers. Military Collection. State Archives of North Carolina. MilColl.WWII.Posters.2.16.c1

In our second example, the message focuses on personal rather than patriotic benefits. Artist Jon Whitcomb created this 1944 poster for the US Public Health Service asking women to become cadet nurses. The poster proclaims that cadet nurses are the girls “with a future” because they would receive “a lifetime education FREE for high school graduates who qualify.” Aside from having a multi-faceted publicity campaign, the gap of two years between the posters might help to explain the difference in targeted messaging. In 1942, with the Pearl Harbor attack still fresh in the collective conscience, appeals to patriotism alone would have likely proven effective. By 1944, while patriotism was still a strong motivator to enlist in the military, the prolonged fighting on multiple fronts led to a sense of fatigue in some civilians as well as a desire to look forward at what society would look like once hostilities ceased. Therefore, appealing to a post-war future where women could gain the skills necessary to enter the workforce made a lot of marketing sense.

Jan Whitcomb. “Be a Cadet Nurse – The Girl With a Future,” 1944. US Public Health Service. World War II Papers. Military Collection. State Archives of North Carolina. MilColl.WWII.Posters.2.15.c1

Looking more specifically at Claire’s medical career in the Outlander series, it is important to place Claire’s penchant for healing within the context of her life events up to the onset of the Second World War. Claire lost her parents at a very young age and lived a nomadic life as a child with her uncle, an archeologist. Her first opportunity for a stable home and family is her marriage, which is disrupted when England enters WWII and she and her husband volunteer for service. Claire’s interest in nursing stems from her wanting to become a part of something bigger during a time of such suffering and from her natural talents as a healer. In the beginning, her decision to serve as a nurse stems from patriotism. As the war goes on, while Claire’s patriotism does not waver, her nursing experience becomes an outlet for her to explore her natural interest in healing. While Claire remained unsure of her medical future when she fell through the stones, her experience during the war gave her the confidence to continue as a healer. From her time in Scotland in 1948 through to her time in the United States and medical school in 1957, Claire built upon her nursing experience to become an accomplished medical professional.

Let’s now shift from a discussion of nursing to a poster talking about the role of the United Kingdom in World War II more broadly. The World War II Poster Collection contains several posters that mention Great Britain in her role as an ally, both before and after American involvement began in December 1941. We will highlight one example here that provides a stark illustration of the stakes of the World War. Artist Maxwell Gordon composed the striking image below showing a Nazi boot crushing the New York skyline. Gordon’s poster, commissioned by the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies, intended to scare Americans into a greater level of involvement in helping Great Britain fend off the forces of the Third Reich. The Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies only lasted for two years, from 1940 to 1941, but the organization contributed to the growing percentages of Americans who advocated for more active assistance to the Allied forces before the bombing at Pearl Harbor. You can learn more about this organization through this historical outline written by archivists at Princeton University, where the committee’s papers are kept.

Maxwell Gordon. “Help Britain Defend America: Speed Production,” [1940-1942]. Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies. World War II Papers. Military Collection. State Archives of North Carolina. MilColl.WWII.Posters.12.13.

Claire saw posters like these strewn throughout London before she traveled back to the 18th Century and a certain Scotsman. The 1940s was a peak time for posters of the marketing and propaganda varieties. Imagine going from the world that created these posters to a pre-American Revolution in Scotland (and all the places and times in-between). Claire Fraser’s personal journey is worthy of a poster all its own.

Stay tuned for our next blog as we cover another topic that informs the Fraser’s arc throughout the series. We will soon “cross the pond” as we discuss colonial-era immigration from Europe to North Carolina.

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;, 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 and by phone at (919) 814-6840. For general questions about searching in DOC, please refer to the online FAQs page (

Digital Collection now Complete: The General Assembly Session Records

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


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.