Doing Your Homework Before You Arrive

Prepare for Your Visit

The State Archives of North Carolina holds over 100 million items. Knowing the questions you want to answer and where to find the information are keys to a successful visit. You can save valuable archival research time by learning as much as possible about our holdings before you visit and have clear research questions that need to be answered. You can prepare by doing background research to help determine the archival documents you hope to review.

A preliminary search of our online catalog can provide detailed descriptions of records pertaining to your research and expedite your time accessing records during your visit. Please note that some records are stored offsite and advanced notice is required to retrieve offsite records.

Be specific about what you hope to learn during your visit. For example:

  • Did your ancestor leave a will?
  • Who were his children? Who were his parents?
  • When was she born?
  • Who did he marry?
  • Did she own any property?

In addition to doing homework on your ancestors, it is often helpful to learn about the area in which they lived. Since county records at the State Archives are organized by county, learning where your ancestors lived is important.

For more information on starting genealogical research, please see Getting Started in Genealogy Research from the State Library of North Carolina.

What to Expect in the Search Room

All patrons are required to register and present photographic identification. This information includes name, address, legal acknowledgment, and institutional affiliation (if any). With proper identification, patrons will be issued daily individual passes to the Search Room by the security personnel on duty.

Researchers share an obligation to safeguard and preserve our records. That means handling materials with care and following all State Archives of North Carolina policies and direction given by staff. For complete Research Room rules, see Title 7, Subchapter 4M of the North Carolina Administrative Code.

Go to the Visit Us page for more information.

What Should I Bring?

Patrons are welcome to bring laptops, digital cameras, paper to write on, and pencils into the Search Room. Some of the materials not permitted include: briefcases, laptop computer cases, backpacks, tote bags, large purses; ring notebooks/ binders; envelopes; original maps, manuscripts; books; scanners, pens, tape and Post-It notes. For patron’s convenience, free lockers are provided for temporary storage while using the Search Room.

The Search Room has limited power sources available. We recommend you charge your electronic devices prior to arriving and bring a portable power source. Wireless internet access is available – please ask the reference desk staff for access.

Using the Card Catalog and Requesting Materials

The card catalog cards are filed alphabetically by county and further arranged by the types of records. The information on these cards is needed for completing call slips to request material. The call number will most often begin with a CR (County Records) but in some cases, it might begin with a SS (Secretary of State) or T&C (Treasurer and Comptroller), etc., depending on the record group. The card will indicate whether the records are arranged chronologically or alphabetically. It will also give the inclusive dates of the records. An example of this is the inclusive years of 1732-1915. If dates are written 1732-1755, 1782-1829, 1833-1915 the series is broken; if the date needed is 1769, it will not be in these records.

Call slips are located on the table near the card catalog. When you have filled out the call slip, bring it to the reference desk and a staff member will pull your requested materials. A researcher may request more than one box or volume of records, but can only access one box of loose records or up to three volumes of records at one time.

Using Archival Records

Reference staff will page your requested materials and bring them to the reference desk. All documents should be handled with great care. Most documents will be inside a folder to protect them and the order of the documents within each folder should not be rearranged for any reason.

The following rules MUST be observed:

  • Pencils only, no pens or markers, are allowed.
  • Manuscripts may not be marked, folded, defaced, or altered.
  • Tape and Post-It notes are not permitted.
  • Manuscripts, volumes and reference books should remain flat on the table and should not be held in the lap or propped against a table edge.
  • Only one folder is to be removed from a box at a time, and the place of that folder is to be appropriately marked with a place marker (obtained at the reference desk).
  • Papers are not to be rearranged under ANY circumstances.
  • Original records and reference books are not allowed in the microfilm room.
  • Smoking, food and drink are strictly prohibited.

When use of the box or volumes is complete, the researcher needs to return the records to the reference deck prior to obtaining another box or other volumes.

Photographs and Photocopies

Patrons are welcome to bring their own non-flash photographic devices. Please check ahead if you are bringing a tripod and/ or camera stand for prior approval. Personal scanners are prohibited.

The search room offers photocopy services. Photocopying is done by staff only. To request copies of materials, procedures for flagging the document for copying need to be followed. Please see reference desk for more details.

The Archives reserves the right to refuse photocopy requests if the materials are fragile or may be damaged by the duplication process. Providing reproductions does not constitute permission to publish or reproduce images in print or electronic form. Orders for copies placed in person by a researcher shall not exceed 50 copies per researcher per day. Fees for such orders shall be paid at the time the copies are made and may not be billed. Photocopy charges are $.10 a copy; print copies from microfilm are $.25 a copy. A complete list of duplication services and fees, including fees for scanning materials, is available on our Duplication Services page.

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