Category Archives: Blog

Women’s History Month 2018 – Lillian Exum Clement Stafford

[This blog post was written by Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Manuscripts Archivist, Private Collections of the Special Collections Section of the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Lillian Exum Clement Stafford (March 1886 – February 1925)


Photograph of Exum taken probably during the early 1900s confirms her reputation as a beauty, parallel to her talents as a very capable young woman bent upon a career in law. Lillian Exum Clement Stafford Papers, PC.2084, State Archives of NC. [PC.2084_Phots_Bx5_F1_A]

In early 1920, before women could even vote, exceptional courage and drive were essential for a woman to run for the state legislature. Such gumption was characteristic of Lillian Exum Clement, known as Exum, who decided as early as April to enter the race––months before passage of the Nineteenth Amendment on August 26. The Buncombe County Democratic party, in a remarkable show of support, had placed Exum’s name on the ballot for the June primary. She went on to beat two male contenders, winning in the November election to become the first female lawmaker in her own state and in the entire South.

Exum was born near the North Fork of the Swannanoa River, March of 1886, the fourth child of George W. and Sarah Elizabeth Burnett Clement [see note at the end regarding her birth date and birth order.] Fast forward 35 years to the beginning of her legislative service when Exum was quoted as telling a reporter, “I am by nature, very conservative, but I am firm in my convictions. I want to blaze a trail for other women. I know that years from now there will be many other women in politics, but you have to start a thing.” [News and Observer. Jan. 7, 1921]. Continue reading

Using Primary Sources in the Classroom: New Online Lesson Plans and Tutorials

Lesson plans and tutorials can help social studies teachers engage their students with primary sources such as maps, photographs, letters, and contemporary newspaper accounts.

The North Carolina State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB) and the State Archives of North Carolina have produced these tools for teachers and students in a program titled, “Teaching Digital North Carolina.”

Lesson Plans include

  •  “Agriculture and Textiles: Interaction of Two Major North Carolina Industries”
  • “Civil Rights: Circle of Viewpoints”
  • “World War I: The Role of North Carolinians in World War I”

Tutorials include

  • “Using the Digital Public Library of America to Access North Carolina Sources”
  • “Teaching Sensitive Subjects”
  • “Teaching with Primary Sources”

Each lesson plan topic has a list of additional primary sources from digitized collections throughout state. There are nearly 400,000 primary and secondary records from more than 120 repositories collected on the website of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).

Teaching Digital North Carolina was made possible with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the funding arm of the National Archives.

First Wednesdays – Cohabitation Certificates

An example of cohabitation records indexed in the MARS online catalog.

An example of cohabitation records indexed in the MARS online catalog.

Collection Services Section Manager Debbi Blake wrote this month’s “First Wednesday” post for the North Carolina Civil War 150 blog. The post discusses cohabitation certificates and how they can be useful for researchers looking for records of African American marriages.

In addition to the blog post, there are other resources related to these records, including:

  • The MARS online catalog, which includes an index for many of the cohabitation materials.
  • The three-volume reference work Somebody Knows My Name: Marriages of Freed People in North Carolina County by County by Barnetta McGhee White, PhD.
  • Family Search page on the North Carolina cohabitation records.
  • North Carolina cohabitation records are available through’s North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 page.


First Wednesdays – Cohabitation Certificates

[This blog post was written by Debbi Blake, Collection Services Section Manager for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

With the abolition of slavery came many questions about the rights of freedmen, one of which was how to validate marriages. This was answered by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1866 with an act allowing formerly enslaved couples to register their marriages in the county of their residence. This act provided proof that such unions had existed, often for decades. In North Carolina, such certificates were called cohabitation records, most of which are housed in the State Archives of North Carolina. Couples were to appear before 1 September 1866, although it was later amended in order to extend the period until 1 January 1868. The overwhelming majority of couples came before the clerk of court or justice of the peace during the first targeted period of March to September. This stampede resulted in the thousands of certificates in the Archives. [Read more…]

Staff Profile — Kurt Brenneman

Today we present Kurt Brenneman from the Government Records Section.

Tell us about your job.

One of seven Records Management Analysts, we assist state agencies and local governments with compliance with the public records laws of the State of North Carolina. We develop records retention and disposition schedules, present workshops, receive local government minutes for microfilming, and consult with government officials on records management issues.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am currently working on records retention and disposition schedule updating with state agencies; assisting the City of Charlotte with the microfilming of its digital minutes; and presenting a workshop on management of public records to state agency staff.

How long have you worked here?

5 months

Describe your educational or career background prior to working here.

I have a Bachelor’s degree in English from Temple University and a Master’s of Library Science from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy the consultative aspect of the job. We are a resource for state and local government officials and they often pose fascinating questions. I enjoy collaborating with my colleagues to arrive at answers to those questions!

What skills or traits do you think are needed to be successful at your job?            

Attention to detail, technology, patience, interest in state and local government, collaboration, logical thinking.

Is there an aspect of your job that you never thought you would end up doing?

Legal research, legal reading, and having to think about how statutes and regulations affect records management.

What work-related accomplishment are you most proud of?      

Presentation of our workshops to local government officials across the state.

Do you have a favorite set of records?   

Electronic minutes are fascinating because of the necessity of permanent preservation.

What’s the most interesting reference question you’ve been asked?              

While working in the Search Room, a client requested any court records about a bank robber who was very active in western North Carolina in the early 20th century.

What would you want people to know about our collections or services that may not be widely known?

I would like more North Carolina municipalities, particularly small towns, to be frequent users of our services.

Staff Profile — Alex Christopher (Chris) Meekins

Continuing our staff profile series, we present Alex Christopher (Chris) Meekins, correspondence archivist in the Collection Services Section.

Describe your current job at the State Archives.

The main aspect of my job is managing the correspondence unit and answering patron inquiries from across North Carolina, the United States and internationally.  From genealogical queries to questions from history students and professors, the correspondence unit handles the bulk of connecting off-site patrons with the collection.  Correspondence is part of Public Services in the Collection Services Section and as a member of that team I also work the main reference desk assisting on-site patrons in connecting to the collection.

What project(s) are currently working on?

I have a number of projects that are ongoing – most recently I am completing a research project and subject finding aid for US Joint Resolutions (sent as amendments to the Constitution) in the Archives holdings – there have been 27 amendments and 6 additional proposed Joint Resolutions.  It’s been interesting tracking those down and learning more about the amendment process.

How long have you worked at the State Archives?

I started work on January 1, 2001 – a holiday!  I will have a dozen years in at the Archives in December which will also mark the end of my 25th year as a State employee. Prior to being the Correspondence archivist I was in the Public Services reference staff and was the person who managed the microfilm room.

Are you involved in any committees, special projects, DCR-wide programs, or professional organizations?

I am the symposium chairperson for the DCR Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee and am currently planning the Freedom Symposium which will be held in October 2013 at our co-host’s facilities in Winston-Salem. I am also on the State Archives Civil War Sesquicentennial committee contributing blog posts and speaking at some of our 2nd Mondays quarterly talks.  I am also part of a DCR team working on a publication with a working title of “Witness to War” – concept architecture/Civil War cross-over.

Describe your educational or career background prior to working here.

I finished my undergraduate degree as a returning student at North Carolina State University.  Originally an engineering major I transferred to History as a means to an end – a four year degree.  Luckily I ran into a few professors who made me understand that History could be more than a means to end – it could be an end unto itself.  After successfully completing my undergraduate degree I went to graduate school at NCSU in History and minored in Public History with an archives concentration.  I finished classwork in December 2000 and wrote my thesis that summer and defended that fall.

What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?

Working with the public is always the most rewarding part of my job – whether it is helping an historian track down a particular letter or diary or helping a genealogist find their ancestor’s will or other record.  Connecting people with information is just a rush!  I also enjoy speaking to groups about the Archives’ collections.

What skills or traits do you think are needed to be successful at your job?

Adaptability is a key skill when working reference either in person or through correspondence.  As a staff member you must be able to switch gears seamlessly from working in Proprietary era documents to 20th century materials.  One moment you are discussing the War of Jenkins Ear with a researcher and the next you are trying to find a World War II service record.  A good dose of humility never hurts either.

Is there an aspect of your job that you never thought you would end up doing?

They never mentioned photocopying in grad school!

What work-related accomplishment are you most proud of?

I am proud of my work with the Archives Civil War 150th committee.  I am also proud of my correspondence team – they do a bang up job day in and day out and always with a smile on their faces.

Have you received any specialized training, certifications, awards, or recognitions?

I have completed several supervisory workshop training classes and have recently completed the three year supervisor section of the DCR initiative to train future leaders in DCR (Leadership Development Program).  My LDP group is the third group to complete the training.  I have also had some advanced history training beyond my master’s degree.

What’s the most interesting or unusual thing you’ve come across in a collection?

It really is hard to say as there are many fascinating things in the Archives records.  I guess tops would be the thing I found while processing in some Pasquotank County miscellaneous records.  In the court material I found a packet of documents about a murder case.  The packet was sealed in 1866 and had not been opened.  Opening the packet, removing the string and paper, I came across a piece of cloth.  Turned out that the piece of cloth was a mask with eye holes and a tie-string found near the murder victim.  Wow, just wow!

Do you have a favorite collection or set of records?

I find the coroner’s inquest materials and the slave and free person of color papers to be interesting.  Inquests can have all manner of interviews of people who were in the area of the dead body, etc.  Often they give details of the social events of the period and so can be a window for social historians to use.  The same for the series of papers that deal with slaves and free persons of color – the material is rich with social information.

What’s the most challenging reference question you’ve been asked?

Without a doubt it was a question associated with North Carolina’s declaration of secession – the Secession Ordinance.  The document is not in the collection – I had to try and determine if it ever existed.  I matched newspaper accounts with materials in the collection about the special convention held to secede.  It was a difficult assignment but it taught me any number of good lessons.  Although other resolutions from that convention are in the Archives holdings, the original Session Ordinance is not (although a record copy is).

What would you want people to know about our collections or services that may not be widely known?

We have a new online portal that allows out-of-state patrons to request materials and pay invoices electronically.  It is still new but people are getting used to the service and taking advantage of it more and more.  It saves the Archives postage and shaves time off the response time for inquiries – a win-win if ever there was one.

Do you have any special memories or anecdotes about working here?

When I first started working here in 2001 there were a group of dedicated temporary employees who worked on Saturdays.  One of those told me, in response to my asking her to turn on the stacks lights, that she would be glad to do the first two levels but that she did not go on the third level by herself.  She was sure one or more haints lived on that floor.  Every now and then, when I am opening or closing the stacks and get to the third level  the hair on my arms will stand straight up and goose-bumps pop-up all over.  I think back to what that temporary employee told me and I just say – “it’s just me” and “goodnight” or “good morning,” as the case may be.


Records Management Gets a New Blog

[This blog post comes from Becky McGee-Lankford of our Government Records Branch.]

It is my pleasure to announce that the official Records Management blog of the State Archives of North Carolina will go live Monday, July 16th. The “G.S. 132 Files: North Carolina Public Records Blog” is our newest form of communicating and interacting with you; the custodians of North Carolina’s public records. It will be available at: Through this blog, we intend to expand on our records management services by providing you all with an information portal for news, events, training opportunities, and discussion.

Every day, the analysts and archivists at the State Archives of North Carolina answer your questions, consult you for advice, and consider the trickier issues of public records law. Now you will have the opportunity to engage with us collectively. I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here, but we want to hear from you! As always, please feel free to email or call me with any questions, input, or concerns you have.

2011 in Review

At the end of each year, pulls together stats on the blogs hosted with them and sends those stats summaries to the blog owners. I shared our 2010 stats for this blog last year, which seemed very popular with our readers, so I’ve decided to post our stats this year for both this site and our North Carolina Civil War 150 blog.

Here’s an excerpt from our 2011 stats for the History For All the People blog:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 27,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.