Category Archives: MARS

New MARS Tutorials on YouTube

A little while ago I mentioned that Emily Guhde, one of our interns who is a student at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Library Science, was working on video tutorials for the MARS catalog. Those videos are now available via the State Archives’ new YouTube channel. There are seven videos in all and they take you though all aspects of doing a basic search in the MARS Catalog, how to limit your search for better results, how to interpret the results and record details screens, and how to browse our materials.

I’ve also added the first two videos on this blog – you can find them by clicking on the tab labeled “MARS Tutorials” under our banner. I’d love to hear from some of our readers on whether or not having all of the videos here would be helpful – if it would be helpful then I’ll add the other tutorials here as well. We will also be adding them to the MARS Help pages; currently there’s a link to YouTube available on the help pages.


Online Resources at the North Carolina State Archives

I hope you are all enjoying North Carolina Archives Week.  I’ve put online a PDF copy of the handout from our session today  (“MARS and More: An Introduction to the North Carolina State Archives’ Online Resources”). It is just a quick, informal overview of a few of the tools available through our websites, but hopefully some of you will find it helpful. Although the heading I gave the PDF is for the North Carolina State Archives, I also included information on Outer Banks History Center resources.

Don’t forget that Druscie Simpson and Amy Rudersdorf will be discussing the Family Records Collection of the State Archives and State Library tomorrow at noon in the State Archives/Library Building Auditorium (that’s on the first floor, if you’ve never been to our building before).

Edenton District Superior Court, Colonial Governors’ Papers and Pension Applications in MARS

Our programmer has just loaded a new version of our online catalog, MARS. Some of the highlights from this update include:

  • Documents from Edenton District Superior Court: Estates Records, 1756-1806 are now available to view via MARS. These materials include: 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. These records are arranged into two alphabetical series and the names of some individuals may be located within both of these series. Within MARS, the Edenton District Superior Court records are listed under State Agency Records, District Superior Courts.
  • Documents from the Colonial Governors’ Papers are now also available through MARS, including items from the William Tryon Papers, 1765-1786.
  • The heavily used “Pension Bureau: Act of 1885 Pension Applications” are now listed under “Popular Collections” on the “Class, Collection, Series” Browse screen in order to make them easier to access.

MARS Basic Search Update

Our programmer has updated MARS again. In the past, when you’ve done searches using our MARS Basic Search screen, the main MARS fields being searched were: Title (the title of a record, collection, box, folder, etc.); Subject (all of the subject headings, a.k.a. index terms, associated with the materials); Originator (the creator or collector of the materials); and Scope/Content (the narrative description of the materials).

Now when you do a Basic Search, you will be searching the following fields:

  1. Abstract – Many of our Scope/Content notes are very long and can include things like agency histories. The abstract field includes a shorter version of the Scope/Content note when needed.
  2. Arrangement – A brief statement about how the materials are arranged.
  3. Call Number – The call number for the collection, item, box, etc.
  4. Description – The format of the materials being described; for example: photographs, correspondence, plats, maps, etc.
  5. Extent – The amount of materials being described, usually given in numbers of boxes, folders, volumes, cubic feet, etc.
  6. Land Grant Data – Information about our land grant materials including acres, grant number, warrant number, etc.
  7. Languages – The language(s) that the materials were written in; in other words, what languages you need to know in order to read them.
  8. Note – Any notes that an archivist might have made about the materials when describing them in MARS.
  9. Originators – The creators or collectors of the materials.
  10. Other Copies – Other copies of the collection; for example: microfilm copies of records we also have in paper format.
  11. Related Materials – Other items, collections or records that may be related in some way.
  12. Scope/Content – The description of the materials and any historical context needed to understand them.
  13. Subjects – Subject headings or index terms for the materials.
  14. Title – Title of the materials; this means that a box title, record group title, item title, or series title would all be found in the title field. You can tell one level from another by looking at the Container Field at any level (a list of the Container Type levels is also available through our MARS Help Pages).
  15. Years – The years that the records were created.

MARS Updates – Class, Collection, Series

Our wonderful programmer has made some updates to MARS that I suspect will make many of you very happy:

  • In the past you’ve had to do a search in order to see the description of specific records because the browse for “Class, Collection, Series” only served to help you select which records you wanted to search. Now you can “drill down” using the browse of “Class, Collection, Series” and open the detailed description for any level along the way without doing a search. What that means is that when you click on the title of a record on the “Class, Collection, Series” page, you will be taken to the description of that record directly from that screen. You will still use the plus signs to open up “collections” on the “Class, Collection, Series” page in order to move between levels in the records – from the folder to the item level, for example. This update should make it quicker and easier to view record descriptions for those of you who know exactly where specific records are located. But you can still use the “Class, Collection, Series” screen to select specific records to search if you wish – go to this blog post for a description of how to do that.
  • If you are looking at a detailed description from the “Class, Collection, Series” screen, you can use the “next” or “previous” links to go to the next or previous record at whatever level you’re looking at. So if you were looking at a box level description, you could click on “next” to see the detailed description of the next box in that collection. You can also click on the “Show List of Child Records” to see a list of the records below the level you are looking at from the detail screen, just as you can when you do a search. That means that if you are looking at a box level record you could click on the “Show List of Child Records” link to see a list of the folders within that box.
  • Also on the “Class, Collection, Series” screen, the “Revolutionary War Army Accounts,” “Mitchell Will Index,” and “Records of Probate: Wills” have been moved to a grouping called “Popular Collections” in response to feedback from those of you who had problems finding them under the collections they belong to.

The MARS help screens have not yet been updated with this information, but we hope to make those updates soon.

Mini MARS Tutorial

[Note, April 27, 2010 – Some issues addressed in this blog post were fixed in late 2009 and early 2010 updates to MARS. Please consult more recent blog posts for updated information or email or call us if you have questions.]

As we announced a while ago, a new version of our online catalog, MARS, is available. We have recently done another upgrade of the system so a few new features are available and I am going to explain one of those features in this blog post.

First, if you are someone who does better being able to see what things look like rather than just reading text about it, I’ve made this PDF of screen shots from the MARS search I’m going to do. I’ll periodically mention what page I’m on so that you can follow along with me if you wish. (Go to the Adobe Reader web site if you need to download a PDF viewer.)

Let’s start with a common problem: you want to know what records we have for a particular county. There are a couple of different ways to do that, but the way I’m going to show you uses the Advanced Search screen, which looks like this:

MARS Advanced Search screen

  1. You can select the Advanced Search screen from the box on the right hand side of any search page. It is always the second option. Click on the Advanced Search link if you haven’t already.
  2. Once you are on the Advanced Search screen (page 1 on the PDF), click on the browse button beside Class, Collection, Series (the second option on the web page).
  3. What you will see when you do that is a list of types of materials in our collections (page 2 in the PDF). The list is in alphabetical order, so County Records come after Church Records. Click on the plus sign beside County Records.
  4. When you do that you will expand the County Records list so that you can see the levels beneath it. You will see two lists, both with plus signs beside them – click on the plus sign beside the first list (Alamance County … Warren County) to open that level. What you will see is an alphabetical list of the counties within County Records, beginning with Alamance and ending with Warren (page 3 of the PDF). If you wanted one of the counties that fall after Warren, you would have to expanded the other level under County Records (Washington County … Yancey County).
  5. For this example we are going to look at records from Buncombe County. So in the Alamance County – Warren County list, find Buncombe and click on the small blue box beside it. A green check mark should appear in that box (page 4 of the PDF), which lets you know that you have selected to search in the County Records for Buncombe County.
  6. Click on the “Done” link on the upper left side of the screen to return to the Advanced Search screen (page 5 in the PDF). You will see that the phrase “some County Records” now appears under Class, Collection, Series; this means that you have selected to search a section of the county records. Now, click on the Search button to begin searching MARS.
  7. What you will see after the search completes is the results page (page 6 in the PDF), which will give you about eight pages of materials for Buncombe County – all the materials in that county’s records that have been entered into MARS at this time. If you look at the “Container Type” column of the result screen you will see that all the country records for Buncombe are put into that list regardless of what level they are at – so boxes are listed beside series, etc. You could stop at this point and page through your results using the green arrows at the bottom of the page, all the information would be there. But what if you wanted a clearer picture of how the records for Buncombe County are structured?
  8. Click on the first record on the results page; that will bring up a detail screen for Buncombe County records (page 7 in the PDF) at the Record Group level. Record Groups are the highest level in MARS, they are the large categories that all the other information is organized within (if you ever want a list of the various “Container Types”/levels within MARS, there is a list available through the MARS help pages). This screen will give you more information about the County Records for Buncombe County, including the years of court house fires. Down at the bottom of that page is a link for “Show List of Child Records.” Click on that link.
  9. What you will see is a list (page 8 in the PDF) of all the county records within Buncombe County, from Apprentice Bonds through Miscellaneous Records and Records of Assignees – in other words, from the beginning of the county records from Buncombe County to the end. If you look at the “Container Types” column on this screen you will notice that all of these materials are at the same level – the Series level, which is the level below Record Group.
  10. Find “Minute Docket, Superior Court” (it’s highlighted on page 8 in the PDF) on this results screen. If you look at the “Child Count” column, you will see that there are 4 child records (records a level below the level that you are looking at) for this series. Click on the row for “Minute Docket, Superior Court.” What you will see is the detail screen (page 9 in the PDF) for that series within Buncombe County, which includes a scope/contents note (a description of these records). Only a small portion of the scope note is visible at first when you see the detail screen; this is because some records have very long scope notes and we know that not every researcher will want to scroll through all of that text to get to what they need. However, if you want to read the whole scope note, just click on the link for “View full Scope/Contents.”
  11. Scroll to the bottom of the Minute Docket, Superior Court detail screen and click on “Show List of Child Records.” What you will see when you do that is a list of the four child records for the Minute Docket, Superior Court series (page 10 in the PDF). If you look at the “Container Type” column on this screen you’ll notice that all of these materials are at the box level, a level below series. If you look at the “Child Count” column for the materials listed on this screen you’ll see only zeros in that column; that means that there are no levels below the box level that have been entered into MARS at this time. Also notice that if you ever get lost or confused about what level you are looking at, each page or window has a title. On this screen you can see that the list of boxes within Minute Docket, Superior Court has the title “Child Records of Minute Docket, Superior Court.” Slightly behind that window is another window with the title “Details for – Minute Docket, Superior Court” – that is the screen we looked at previously (page 9 of the PDF), so if you want to go back a level all you have to do is click on the “Details for – Minute Docket, Superior Court” window. You can also close any window by clicking on the small X in the window’s upper right corner.

You can use this technique in all types of records within MARS to find out what we have for a particular type of material and to explore the record levels below the materials that appear in your search results.

Hopefully this explanation will be helpful to many of you doing research within MARS. For those of you who are interested in face-to-face training in searching MARS, we plan to offer training sessions that are open to the public in 2010. Although no specific dates for those training sessions have been set yet, watch this blog and the State Archives website in the coming months for more information.

MARS Update for September 11-14

As part of the building-wide shutdown this weekend, it is very likely that our online catalog, MARS, will also be down from 5:30 PM on Friday, September 11 through 5:30 AM on Monday, September 14. The DCR IT staff are currently working on possible solutions to this issue. Thank you for your patience and we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our patrons.


One of our DCR programmers is working on plans to move the MARS server to another building during the outage. Hopefully this will solve the issue, but if you end up having problems with the catalog this weekend please let us know.