Author Archives: Olivia

New Digital Collection: Secretary of State Wills

The State Archives of North Carolina would like to announce the creation of the new digital collection, North Carolina Secretary of State Wills. The digital collection contains wills from 1663 to 1789. These are loose original wills probated in the province. After 1760 most original wills were kept by the clerk in the county in which they were


Isabella Brand’s will

probated, though there are some wills after 1760 in the collection.

These wills are indexed in the Mitchell Will Index categorized with “SS/AR”, which can be accessed in the MARS catalog. The original wills are no longer accessible to the public for conservation concerns. Due to the age of some of the wills, the ink may be difficult to read. The wills are arranged alphabetically by surname of decedent.

Some of the more famous North Carolinians from the time period are included in the collection, such as Lord Proprietors Thomas Harvey and Henderson Walker; the Royal Governor Arthur Dobbs; and the first Governor of the State of North Carolina, Richard Caswell. The collection also includes the earliest known will in the state, for Mary Fortsen from 1665, who signed it herself.


New Digital Collections: Colonial Court Records & District Superior Court Records

The State Archives of North Carolina would like to announce the addition of two new collections to the North Carolina Digital Collections: Colonial Court Records and District Superior Court Records.



The Colonial Court Records digital collection includes two series: Estate Papers, CCR. 179-CCR.186, and Land Papers, CCR.187. Records relating to any of the higher courts in early North Carolina represented in the series Colonial Court Records (CCR) are extremely scarce until 1683, and are almost non-existent for several higher courts well after that date. Records of the General Court, the most important of these courts in terms of powers and amount of business transacted, do not begin to be abundant until 1694. It functioned from as early as 1670 until 1754 and during those years heard a great number of lawsuits involving decedents estates. When the records of this court were arranged at the Archives about 1959, papers from cases concerning estates were sorted out of the other loose papers and were designated Estates Records even though they were not true estates reports, inventories, accounts, etc. Papers concerning approximately seven hundred estates resulted. They were then foldered individually by decedent and arranged alphabetically.

For a more detailed account of what records are in the Colonial Court Records Collection, please see the CCR finding aid.

The District Superior Court Records digital collection currently contains only one district, Edenton District, from 1756 to 1806. It includes writs, transcripts, narratives, inventories of estates, notes, bonds, appeals, and subpoenas relating to the settlement of estates in the counties under the jurisdiction of the Edenton District Superior Court. It also includes a short subseries of guardians’ records (1760- 1805) arranged by name of the ward, and records of unnamed decedents and wards.

The supreme courts of justice system, in effect briefly from 1755 to 1759, served as the immediate predecessor and the pattern on which the district superior courts system was based. Under the supreme courts of justice, the colony of North Carolina was divided into five districts–each with its own independent court. The following towns served as the seats of the court districts: Edenton, Enfield, New Bern, Salisbury, and Wilmington.

Each supreme court of justice was independent and had the same jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters in their respective districts. Duties of the district superior courts also included the power of probate for deeds and wills. The state’s judiciary system underwent several more changes, with varying changes in duties and jurisdictions of the district superior courts until 1806 when the district superior courts were closed and replaced by superior courts erected in every county seat in the state. For a more detailed account of court history please seeing the digital collection landing page, or NCPedia article “State Judiciary.”

Troop Returns Digital Collection

The Troop Returns from the State Archives of North Carolina Military Collection are now available online via the North Carolina Digital Collections. This collection includes lists, returns, records of prisoners, and records of draftees, from 1747 to 1893. The majority of records are from the Revolutionary War North Carolina Continental Line.


“A list of the troop of Dragoons commanded by Captain Lawrence Thompson”. Troop Returns. Military Collection. State Archives of North Carolina.

Militia records generally include the names of the officers and soldiers, and are usually organized by district or county. Continental Line records include field returns, general returns, draft records and enlistment records. These may be organized by military unit or location. When available, the commanding officers’ name is included in the item description and is searchable in the collection.

This digital collection is currently in-progress, and more items will be added as they become available. Check back for the future post on the completion of the collection.

For more specific collection information, including information on the items not yet available, please see the Troop Returns finding aid.

Links to State Archives of North Carolina Materials

The newest addition to the North Carolina Digital Collections is Links to State Archives of North Carolina Materials. This ongoing digital reference collection is of original records from the State Archives that have been made available online by third party institutions. This collection is comprised of URLs to items within the various websites. Links may lead directly to an item or may link to collection landing pages on third party websites.

Links to State Archives of North Carolina Materials includes the following websites: Ancestry, FamilySearch, North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, North Carolina Maps, and YouTube. Several collections on Ancestry and FamilySearch have been partially digitized or are in progress, and therefore may not be complete. Also make sure to read the description of items within NCDC as some of the websites State Archives materials have been mixed with non-State Archives materials to form their final collection.

Please keep in mind that to successfully use the Ancestry links, your computer needs to be logged on an Ancestry account. If you are not logged in, the Ancestry links will take you to the Ancestry homepage. If you don’t have an Ancestry account, contact your local public library branch who may have a subscription or the State Library of North Carolina to gain access on site.

Record types include: North Carolina maps, a selection of North Carolina county records, and vital records. For a more complete list of record links included, see the landing page of the collection on NCDC.

If you’d like to see more materials related to North Carolina held at institutions throughout the state, please visit the State Library of North Carolina’s NC MOSAIC project on NCDC.

Treasures of Carolina: Summer Edition

Each week this summer we will highlight an item from our North Carolina Digital Collections in hopes of inspiring you to discover new-to-you materials. For the month of August our theme is school.

There are many ways to begin researching materials at the State Archives of North Carolina, like finding aids, for example. Finding aids are descriptive documents that may include: a list of items, folders, or relevant organization structure; a narrative description of the content, historical background, or other information necessary to understand the collection; subject headings; and information needed to access the materials, such as call numbers.  The State Archives of North Carolina makes their finding aids available online on the SANC website and the MARS online catalog. But did you know those aren’t all the finding aids we offer? Legacy finding aids, finding aids that have not been updated recently, are available through the North Carolina Digital Collections. While these tools are offered “as is,” they still may provide valuable research help.

State Agency Public Instruction Finding Aid Page 1

State Agency Finding Aid: Public Instruction, 1798-1999. State Archives of North Carolina

Today we are highlighting two legacy finding aids: State Agency Finding Aid: Public Instruction, 1798-1999 and State Agency Finding Aid: State Board of Education, 1827-1958.

North Carolina’s first Education Act was passed in 1839, but it wasn’t until 1852 that the General Assembly created an office of superintendent of common schools to provide supervision over the state school system. The Superintendent of Public Instruction series is located within the Department of Public Instruction record group. The State Board of Education was the agency that replaced SPI and expanded the state’s role in public education. The Department of Public Instruction became the leading education agency in 1919; these are the most commonly used education records at the State Archives.

Below is a general list of the series in each record group, for more detailed series information please consult the finding aids.

Public Instruction, 1798-1999:

  • Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • Office of the Superintendent
  • Office of the Assistant Superintendent
  • Division of Instructional Services
  • Division of Negro Education
  • Division of Professional Services
  • Division of Publications
  • Division of Schoolhouse Planning
  • Division of Vocational Education
  • North Carolina Resource-Use Education Commission
  • Works Progress Administration—Education Program
  • Miscellaneous Material
  • Map Collection
  • Certifications Board: College Rating Reports

State Board of Education, 1827-1958:

  • Literary Fund
  • Auditing and Accounting Division
  • Controller’s Office
  • Director of School Accounts
  • State Board of Equalization
  • Division of Plant Operations
  • Teacher Allotment and General Control Division
  • Transportation Division
  • Miscellaneous Records
  • State School Fund Expenditures, Voucher Registers

Remember that these are “as is” finding aids, but provide a great place to start your research. Other resources include the State Agency Guide (available for use in the SANC Search Room) or County Records Guide (a newer version is available for purchase through N.C. Historical Publications). If you have any questions, please contact the State Archives.

Related state agency finding aids include: State Education Commission and State Department of Social Services

Treasures of Carolina: Summer Edition

Each week this summer we will highlight an item from our North Carolina Digital Collections in hopes of inspiring you to discover new-to-you materials. For the month of July our theme is elections.

 The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents any United States citizen from being denied the right to vote based on sex. It was ratified by the United States government on August 26, 1920. In 1971, North Carolina was one of the last states to ratify the bill.


Cover letter for U.S. Constitution 19th Amendment, from the Vault Collection. State Archives of North Carolina.

The women’s suffrage movement in North Carolina began in 1894 with the formation of the North Carolina Equal Suffrage Association. The Association helped introduce a state amendment giving women the right to vote in the 1897 legislative session. The bill was referred to the Committee on Insane Asylums.

In March 1920, only one more state was needed to ratify the 19th Amendment. It came down to either Tennessee or North Carolina to be that state. Tennessee ratified the amendment in August. On August 17, the North Carolina Senate voted to postpone a vote on the 19th Amendment until a regular session. It wasn’t until 1971 that the North Carolina General Assembly made the gesture to endorse the 19th Amendment.

To see more about women’s suffrage in North Carolina, check out NCpedia on the subject.

The North Carolina State Archives also holds the Equal Suffrage Amendment Collection. Many of these items are digitized in the “Women in North Carolina 20th Century History” collection, including many fascinating anti-suffrage and pro-suffrage propaganda.

You can also see North Carolina’s copy of the 19th Amendment in the Treasures of Carolina exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of History. The exhibit runs through July 31.

Treasures of Carolina: Summer Edition

Each week this summer we will highlight an item from our North Carolina Digital Collections in the hopes of inspiring you to discover new-to-you materials. This month our theme will be vacations.

Summer! The magical time when the kids are home. Need something to entertain them? How about the Reed Gold Mine, located in Midland, North Carolina? This week’s item is a video, “All that Glitters”, about the history of the Reed Gold Mine, created by the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Reed Gold Mine is where the first documented gold find occurred in the United States. Many people may not realize that North Carolina actually led the nation in gold production until the California Gold Rush of 1848.

In 1799, John Reed’s son, Conrad Reed, discovered a large yellow rock in Little Meadow Creek in Cabarrus County. For the next three years it was used as a doorstop. It wasn’t until three years later when a jeweler identified the rock as a gold nugget. The Reeds did not understand the true value of the nugget and sold it for a weeks’ worth of wages, about $3.50. The nugget’s true value was estimated at about $3,600. In 1803, Reed began a part-time mining operation with local men using only pans and rockers. In 1845 John Reed died a rich man from the gold mined on this property.

Did you know that the State Archives of North Carolina has a YouTube channel? Keep an eye out in the next few weeks for the announcement of the new digital collection, Links to State Archives of North Carolina Materials. This collection features direct URLs to SANC items hosted online by other sites.