MARS and Online Finding Aids

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 North Carolina Archives has records beneficial to their family research. If you find a record in MARS that may be helpful in your research, either print the page and bring it with you on your visit to the NC Archives or write down the title of the record along with the MARS ID number and the call number. The Search Room staff will need the call number to locate the actual record; however the MARS ID number would be helpful in the retrieval process. Also note that you may search and view scanned images of original records, such as 1885 Confederate pension applications and some estate records, land and Governor’s papers from the colonial era. Of course putting images of original records, such as marriage bonds, in a searchable online database is an ongoing project of the archives, so be on the lookout for new additions to the MARS catalog.

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. Nevertheless the catalog still has an immense number of collections to search and can sometimes seem slow and cumbersome. But if you are patient and spend time becoming familiar with the MARS Catalog, you will be better prepared and knowledgeable of the vast collection of records at the State Archives of North Carolina.

You can also view video tutorials on using MARS on this blog and on YouTube.

The Website and Online Finding Aids

Another way to get familiar with the North Carolina Archives before making a visit would be to peruse the website. One item that genealogy researchers should take note of is the information regarding county records under the Collections link. Since the vast majority of court and probate records are kept together by the county in which the record was filed, one would need to know the primary county of residence of a family before delving into these records. Also on the website are links to container lists for various types of records from a few of our counties, as well as definitions of the types of county records in our custody. Anyone planning a visit should review the Services link on the website because it explains the access and security procedures for the search room.

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. We are also in the process of digitizing materials including Civil War letters, Bible records, and other items from our collections. These digitized 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.

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 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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