MARS, Online Finding Aids, and Digital Collections

For anyone planning a visit to the State Archives of North Carolina, a preliminary search using the online MARS (Manuscript and Archives Reference System) Catalog may provide detailed descriptions of records pertaining to your research and expedite your time accessing records once you arrive at the Search Room.

A link to the MARS Catalog is available on the Archives website. The system allows patrons the ability to browse collections from the comfort of their home and hopefully confirm that the  State Archives has records beneficial to their family research. If you find a record in MARS that you are interested in viewing, either print the page and bring it with you on your visit or write down the title of the record along with the MARS ID number and the call number. The Search Room staff need the call number to locate the materials and the MARS ID number is helpful for locating the materials again in MARS should you or the Archives staff have questions about them later. There are a small number of scanned images of original records in MARS, such as 1885 Confederate pension applications and some estate records, land and Governor’s papers from the colonial era. However, the majority of State Archives digitized materials are in the North Carolina Digital Collections.

Video tutorials on using MARS are available on YouTube.

Please note that the MARS Catalog does not include descriptions of every item in the custody of the North Carolina, so do not be discouraged if your search does not yield any results. If you cannot find information that you think should be in the collection, please contact the State Archives with your questions.

The Website and Online Finding Aids

Another way to get familiar with the State Archives of North Carolina before making a visit is to peruse the website. For example, information on county records under the Collections link can be helpful to genealogy researchers. Since the vast majority of court and probate records are kept together by the county in which the record was filed, knowing the primary county of residence of a family before delving into these records is vital. The website includes links to container lists for selected types of records from a few of our counties, as well as definitions of the types of county records in our custody. The Services page explains the access and security procedures for the search room and provides information about requesting copies of records.

If your research leads you to our state agency records, organization records, private papers, military collections, or photographic collections, you may wish to look through the online finding aids also available through our website. These finding aids often provide more detailed information than can be found in MARS; however, not all collections currently have online finding aids. Older copies of finding aids are also available in our digital collections.

Digital Collections and Social Media

The State Archives digitizes materials on a regular basis. Many of these items are available online through the North Carolina Digital Collections (NCDC) website, a joint project between the State Archives of North Carolina and the Government & Heritage Library at the State Library of North Carolina. Although many of the online collections may have something of value for genealogists, several hold large amounts of materials of genealogical interest, such as:

In addition, while the Legacy finding aids collection and Links to SANC Materials don’t include digitized copies of materials, they may provide useful information to researchers.

Other materials from the State Archives of North Carolina are available through:

In the event that this article and the aforementioned website resources do not answer your questions, feel free to contact the North Carolina Archives staff by phone at 919-807-7310 or email us at archives AT ncdcr.gov. Thank you for your interest in visiting the State Archives of North Carolina and we look forward to meeting and assisting you in person.

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