Tag Archives: MARS

Call Numbers for County Records at the State Archives

Carie Chesarino of the Records Description Unit (part of the Government Records Section) has written a post on our records management blog about how to search for county records by their call numbers in our online catalog, MARS.

The G.S. 132 Files

The County Records collection of the State Archives of North Carolina includes wills and estate files, tax scrolls, Superior Court judgment and minute dockets, and many more record series. In a previous blog post, I described one way to do a catalog search for archived county records. This post explains how to perform a call number search.

Begin at the State Archives’ public access catalog, MARS. If you have visited our catalog before, the page may default to the sort of search you last performed (Basic Search, Advanced Search, or Search by Call Number). Try selecting “Search by Call Number” in the blue box to the right of the screen:

select search by call number
For this example, select “Call Numbers starting” in the drop down box after “Search For:”

Call numbers starting

To retrieve search results for all the Alamance County records cataloged at the State Archives, enter CR.001. like in the image below and click “Search” :

Alamance Call Number search

Here are some…

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It is time to celebrate!

Example of a land grant envelope, “shuck”

Example of a land grant envelope, “shuck”

In the mid-1980s the State Archives of North Carolina started work on preserving, microfilming and indexing the North Carolina Land Grants. I have not been part of this project since the beginning, but for the past 6 years one of my jobs has been to index the microfilmed North Carolina Land Grants into our MARS database, I have now indexed 133 reels of microfilm which is 25,899 land grants and I am very happy to say that the project is now complete.

To give an idea as to the scope of this project there are over 200 fiberdex boxes consisting of 216,024 land grants which in turn became 611 reels of microfilm. North Carolina Land Grants span the years 1679-1959 and are arranged by county including the Tennessee Counties that used to be part of North Carolina. Prior to the indexing of these land grants, which consist of a warrant, plat and often a receipt, they would have to be taken out of their envelope “shuck,” flattened ,deacidified, and repaired in the conservation lab. From there they would be microfilmed and then finally indexing could take place. The indexing of the land grants required the ability to read the microfilm of old and at times almost illegible script. The information captured in this indexing was information found on the envelope “shuck” which includes the county name, name of the grantee, number of acres, grant number, date issued, warrant number, entry number, date entered, book number, page number, location, and remarks. The location field often required researching the names of the counties’, cities, creeks, rivers, branches, and other geographical locations. This process could be time consuming because not only might the handwriting be hard to read but in many cases the spelling would be wrong or the names of geographic features would have changed over the years as well. There were also times that the names of the people listed on the shuck would be spelled different ways within the documents and shuck. In those cases I would try to determine, as much as possible, the correct name. But indexing also had its upside, including finding many interesting or humorous names, such as Ice Snow or the all-time favorite among staff working on the land grant project, Bold Robin Hood.

Although the process was long and tedious, this project will now enable researchers to view the North Carolina land grant “shuck” information online. Land grants can provide valuable information for many different researchers. Recently I learned that land grants were used to help reestablish the North Carolina-South Carolina border. Genealogists may also find information in land grants useful in their family research. Just remember that the information found in our MARS online catalog is the information found on the envelope, the “shuck,” at the time of the filming. If a researcher wants more information on the contents of the shuck they will need to visit our search room to view the microfilm, because the original land grants have been withdrawn from use as a preservation measure.

Now that this project has been completed I am on to a new project. Keep an eye out for news about a new addition to the North Carolina Digital Collections.

News and Notes

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of my catch-all blog posts to update you on everything going on in the digital side of  109 E. Jones Street.

North Carolina Digital Collection:


Website and Blogs:

Armchair Historians – An Archives Week Recap

On Saturday Archives Week kicked off with Triangle Home Movie Day. As always, the event was well attended and a very enthusiastic crowd enjoyed the home movies brought in by their fellow participants. You can sample some of the feel of Home Movie Day celebrations across the world, including our own, by looking at the Twitter hash tag #HMD2012.

Yesterday I gave a talk as part of our celebration of North Carolina Archives Week. The talk, titled “Armchair Historians: Tools You Can Use At Home or On The Go,” covered some of our online resources including our online catalog MARS, the North Carolina Digital Collections, our social media, and some news about new projects and tools on the horizon. If you missed it but would like to read through the slides and presenters notes, a PDF version is available online.

We also had an exhibit in the Search Room yesterday – “Civil War to Civil Rights in North Carolina,” a display of documents and photographs relating to the Archives Week theme, “Journeys to Justice: Civil Rights in North Carolina.” Look for a blog post recap of that event later this week.

It’s not too late to participate in Archives Week because we still have one more event planned: on Thursday, Oct. 25 we will host a workshop on “Digitizing and Remote Sharing of Family Materials.”

The Map Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina

[This blog post comes from James Sorrell, head of the Special Collections Branch.]

In a memorandum dated October 14, 1976 to Paul P. Hoffman, head of what was at that time the Archives Branch of the Archives and Records Section, the late George Stevenson, Jr., outlined his suggestions for changes to the system of cataloging, classifying, and numbering the maps in the Archives map collection.  Now, nearly thirty-six years later, I am delighted to announce that Stevenson’s dream of corralling a collection of maps nearly out of intellectual control and imposing on it a reasonable and consistent system for classification and cataloging has finally be realized – although in ways he could not have envisioned in 1976.

From the earliest days of the agency, the State Archives of North Carolina had endeavored to create an extensive reference collection consisting of original and printed maps of North Carolina as well as photocopies of appropriate maps in other repositories.  By the time of Stevenson’s 1976 memo, the Archives had one of the best collections of North Carolina maps in the nation.

At that time, the map collection consisted of 327 smaller collections with town plans, for example, being found in twenty-three different collections. The Archives had employed various standards for cataloging maps in the past, but no standard had ever been established in regard to the information that was reported or the manner in which it was reported on the catalog cards that were prepared for each new addition to the map collection.  Stevenson proposed that the Archives adopt the Anglo-American Rules for cataloging maps and that a set of three catalog cards be prepared for each map. One card would be filed under classification (town, county, etc.) and one by mapmaker in the Search Room catalog and the third in an office catalog to serve as an intellectual control device.  Stevenson felt that the existing system of classification as reflected by the Search Room card catalog was a reasonable one. In this catalog the map cards were arranged in an expandable system of classifications (colony and state, counties, towns, watercourses, etc.).  As it related to the maps themselves, however, the cumbersome numbering system thwarted the logic of the classification scheme.  To remedy this, Stevenson created a simple expandable numerical system which would make the classification scheme as expandable for the maps themselves as it was for the cards in the card catalog.  County maps, for example, would be assigned the same numbers as the county records in the stacks (i.e. Wake County records in the stacks are 099; Wake County maps would be assigned the prefix M.C.99).  The second part of the call number would distinguish each map by date and the initial of the mapmaker.  For example, the 1871 Fendol Beavers map of Wake County would be given the call number MC.99.1871b.

The same system would be followed for other map classifications.  Colony and state maps would be M.C.150; maps of the Appalachian region would be M.C.160; military maps and plans of battle would be M.C.175, etc.  Certain classifications, such as watercourses, cities and towns, and road and railroad surveys would be slightly more complicated since they would require the name of the watercourse or city to be converted to a numeral (i.e., cuttered) using the Sanborn-Cutter three-figure tables.  Maps of the city of Charlotte would be assigned numbers beginning with MC.195.C479 followed by the date and the initial or initials of the mapmaker.  The 1877 F. W. Beers map of Charlotte would, therefore, be numbered as MC.195.C479.1877b.

Stevenson’s proposals were approved by Paul Hoffman; and Stevenson began work on cataloging and numbering of the maps already in the map collection as well as an enormous backlog of unprocessed maps, but the press of his myriad other duties as Search Room supervisor prevented him from making significant progress.  From 1985 to 1987, Druscilla Simpson, now head of the Information Management Branch, was assigned to work full-time on the map collection.  This was the first and only time a staff member was given responsibility only for the map collection, and significant progress was made. Still later, work on the map collection was assigned to and became one of the many duties of a series of special projects archivists. By this time, our MARS electronic finding aid system had been developed and map call number and descriptive information began to be entered into it.  Although main entry cards continued to be created and added to the Search Room card catalog, the development of MARS eliminated the need for the three card system Stevenson had devised for intellectual control.  In the late 1990s, I was assigned responsibility for the map collection in addition to my other duties as archives registrar; and I brought my work with the map collection with me when I was appointed head of the Special Collections Branch in July 2005.  In 2007, the State Archives partnered with the UNC-Chapel Hill library and the Outer Banks History Center on North Carolina Maps, a three year grant funded project to digitize and post online all maps from the three institutions published prior to 1923.  The project came to a successful conclusion in June 2010 and won the 2011 Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History.

Galvanized by the North Carolina Maps grant project, efforts were renewed to finally complete the renumbering and re-cataloging of both the remaining maps in the Archives map collection bearing the old M.C. call numbers and the backlog of maps that had never been accessioned, classified, cataloged, and numbered.  This work was finished in the spring of 2012; and for the first time all maps in the possession of the State Archives of North Carolina have been cataloged and numbered using the system first proposed by George Stevenson, Jr., in 1976.  In addition, all maps in the collection have been described and indexed in MARS, digitized, and most have been posted online on the North Carolina Maps website.

Good Friday Hours, YouTube Videos, the 1940 Census, and a Civil War Update

A lot has been happening at 109 E. Jones St. in the past few weeks, so here’s a summary blog post to catch you up.

First of all, please remember that the State Archives will be closed April 6-8, 2012 for the Good Friday holiday. The Search Room will be open to the public for its regularly scheduled hours on Tuesday, April 10th. If you ever need to know what our hours are, what holidays we close for, or how to find parking near the building, please visit the Hours and Parking page on our website.

There is a new set of videos available on our YouTube channel; the five tutorials deal with social media in state government and give guidance on: how North Carolina state government agencies can utilize social media sites to reach citizens in new ways; acceptable use of social media; security concerns; and records retention of public records created on social media sites as well as the preservation of those public records. More tutorials and guidelines on these subjects are available on the Government Records Branch website. Also please remember that you can find video tutorials on how to use our online catalog MARS on our YouTube channel as well.

If you weren’t able to attend the 1940 Census Release Party hosted by the State Library, you can get a good idea of the excitement generated at the event by watching this video from Raleigh’s WRAL. In connection with the release of the 1940 Census, the News and Observer published an article about the North Carolina Digital Collections (NCDC), a joint project of both the State Archives and the State Library and something that I’ve mentioned on this blog often. The NCDC is the home for our Treasures, Christmas materials, Civil War items, WPA cemetery surveys and Bible Records, World War I photographs, and so many other items from our collections, so it was wonderful to see the site get some recognition.

Speaking of the Civil War, there are new posts on our Civil War 150 blog and several of my coworkers have persistently reminded me that I need to pass that information on to all of our readers here. So, here is a quick list (with links) of what’s new on that site:

Finally, there is an updated version of the Guide to Newspapers on Microfilm in the North Carolina State Archives available in PDF format from our website. If you have questions about these or any other topics, you can always ask it in the comments on the blog or email us at: archives@ncdcr.gov. And if you want to keep up to date on the latest news from the State Archives, you can always follow us on Twitter.

WPA Cemetery Survey Records

If you read my December post on the big changes and new projects coming to the State Archives this year, you know that I’ve been working on adding PDFs of the WPA cemetery surveys for North Carolina counties to the NC Digital Collections and the NC Family Records Online project.

I finished adding the last survey yesterday and you can now find all of them here; while not every county has a survey, most of them do. Please be aware that you will find errors in the surveys – it’s likely that no project done on such a large-scale could ever be perfect. But still, the records can be very useful because they list the location and condition of cemeteries, as well as names, birth and death dates, and other information that the project workers could glean from the tombstones themselves.

In getting ready to write this blog post, I looked up the WPA Cemetery Project in our online catalog MARS to see if I could find any background on the history of the project to share with you. What I found was a wonderful description, most likely written by former State Archives employee Mary Hollis Barnes, who sadly died in November of last year. The cemetery records were Mary’s passion for a long time and all of us who knew her deeply regret that she didn’t get to see these materials online. The description is fairly long, about four pages, but it gives an excellent and very detailed overview of how and why these materials were created. Rather than trying to condense it, I’m just going to include it at the end of this blog post. For reference, the materials we’ve put online are referred to as “Cemetery Listings (Typescripts)” in the description of the collection.

Historical Records Survey, Tombstone Transcription Project

Creator: United States. Works Progress Administration

MARS #: 176.1 (Series)

The Works Progress Administration was established by Executive Order No. 7034 on May 6, 1935, by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In general, its purpose was to operate useful work projects designed to provide maximum employment in all localities and to coordinate necessary and useful data-compiling and research activities.

One of the major projects in North Carolina was the Historical Records Survey conducted under the direction of the North Carolina Historical Commission. The secretary of the Historical Commission, Dr. Charles Christopher Crittenden, served initially as state director of the survey and most of the details listed below were gleaned from his correspondence file.

Dr. Crittenden proposed two components to the Historical Records Survey; the first was surveying various public records and historically important manuscripts, and the second was surveying and recording tombstone inscriptions. A review of his correspondence does not reveal contemporary evidence of any other state collecting tombstone inscriptions as part of their WPA projects; however, a review of several online catalogs and postings does indicate that at least 17 other states did conduct some sort of tombstone transcription or “graves registration” project. In a 1934 memorandum, a commission staff member stated: the “second section of the survey — a compilation of monument and cemetery inscriptions — would result in a vast collection of data, useful and otherwise, virtually unavailable to biographers, historians and lawyers. The State Board of Health has vital statistics from cities beginning in 1909, and from the entire state beginning in late 1913. The proposed compilation is the most effective method of supplying North Carolina vital statistics prior to the enactment of the first state law on that subject in 1913.” [The staff member was referring to Chapter 109 of the Public Laws of 1913 entitled, “An Act to Provide for the Registration of all Births and Deaths in the State of North Carolina. It was ratified on March 10, 1913, and became effective on July 1, 1913.]

Initially part of the Federal Writers’ Project, the Historical Records Survey and its cemetery survey and transcription project began in 1936 and the first phase of the project was to last four weeks, at 30 hours a week. The total estimated cost of the first phase of cemetery work was $9,269. This overall estimate included $5,232 for paying 109 cemetery survey workers (for four weeks) and $1,962 for paying 218 assistant cemetery survey workers (for one week), $300 for office supplies and equipment to compile the transcriptions from both the archival and cemetery portions of the survey, $480 for paying 10 workers to do the compiling and indexing from both portions of the survey, and $545 to cover the local workers’ travel expenses. The estimated travel cost for 10 regional supervisors (to coordinate both the records inventory and the cemetery inscription) was listed as $750.

The commission quickly realized that having the data from each tombstone transcription listed on an index card would facilitate their alphabetical arrangement in a card catalog. The indexing staff also compiled and prepared summary pages of typescripts on each cemetery. In a report dated December, 1936, Dr. Crittenden stated a “number of workers have been engaged for several months in copying essential data on such inscriptions, and it is hoped that the task can be completed. A card catalogue is to be provided in the offices of the Historical Commission [now the State Archives’ Search Room], and perhaps eventually the lists will be published.” However, the commission chose not to publish the compilations of cemetery information; and focused instead on publishing the data gathered by the records survey portion of the project. The work in several districts continued into the next fiscal year, and a breakdown of workers in November, 1936, listed cemetery survey workers or indexers in the following counties: Brunswick, Buncombe, Columbus, Durham, Franklin, Gates, Johnston, Mecklenburg, Pasquotank, Pender, Person, Scotland, Wake, Watauga, Wilkes, and Wilson. The Historical Records Survey (and the cemetery and tombstone transcription work) continued as a nationwide project until 1939 when “it was terminated as a Federal project and continued its work in the individual states as a series of locally sponsored projects operating within a national program.”

In a letter dated September 14, 1940, Mrs. May E. Campbell (state director of the WPA’s Professional and Service Projects) and Colbert F. Crutchfield (state supervisor of the Historical Records Survey) jointly described the cemetery survey work: “these records were compiled as a sort of side line to their work of surveying church records. They were requested to fill in their time between appointments with church officials by listing near-by cemeteries…. The worker prepares a cemetery form, containing pertinent data about the location and condition of the cemetery and a list containing an entry for each stone, giving only the factual information thereon. This material is forwarded to the Raleigh office of the Survey, where a card for each cemetery and for each stone is typed. The cemetery cards are filed in alphabetical order within each county in separate files. The tombstone cards are filed in straight alphabetical order by surname for the state as a whole. Each tombstone card, of course, carries the name of the cemetery and the county. The cemetery itself can be located by reference to the former file.” The writers further state that the work “is not by any means complete, as we consider it a by-product of the church records work and do not attempt to cover all cemeteries or any particular locality. We have to-date filed approximately 5,023 cemetery cards and 177,044 tombstone cards.”

A souvenir program prepared for a May, 1940, meeting described the tombstone transcription project as follows: “These files are in constant use by research workers and genealogist[s] from many states in the union, who have indicated that they find them of much value and interest. Even though the Survey has not discovered any so-called ‘Virginia Dare Stones,’ it has re-discovered quite a few heretofore unknown graves of prominent men. Two of the more recent finds were those of two North Carolina justices of the United States Supreme Court, James Iredell and Alfred Moore. This file will for the first time make such information available to the public at a central point…”

In a report on the overall status of the Historical Records Survey, dated April 10, 1941, the total number of cemetery cards typed and filed were 6,422 (with an additional 579 entries on hand to be typed); and the total number of tombstone cards typed and filed were 240,471 (with an additional 27,771 entries on hand to be typed). In what would be the Historical Commission’s final project proposal for additional funding for the fiscal year ending June, 1941, staff listed the need for an additional $2,295 to fund 3,939 man hours to continue collecting, filing, and typing cemetery data. The commission planned to pay for additional office supplies out of its own funds, including $240 for index cards. The same proposal listed the cemetery survey work as accomplished to date: 7,969 cemeteries surveyed, 7,025 cemetery cards typed and filed, 243,807 tombstones listed, and 219,553 tombstone cards typed and filed. It also listed the following work to be done: approximately 200 cemeteries to be surveyed in the next fiscal year, with an approximate 10,000 tombstones within those cemeteries to be transcribed (new surveys were to be held to a minimum), with 944 cards to be typed and filed for cemeteries previously surveyed, and 24,254 tombstone cards remaining to be typed and filed. Depending on which report is consulted, it can be estimated that the final overall totals for the Tombstone Transcription Project were: just under 8,000 cemeteries surveyed, and over 268,000 tombstones transcribed.

Members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, under the guidance of Mrs. John Scott Welborn, were also greatly involved in their own concurrent project to transcribe tombstones and their group cooperated with staff of the Historical Commission to avoid duplication of effort. Copies of the WPA tombstone inscriptions were prepared by the Historical Commission and distributed to the state chapter of the DAR and some county lists were also sent to officers of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Colonists as requested. Typescript copies of the DAR’s tombstone compilations were in turn deposited with the commission; however, the DAR cemeteries were not reflected in the project’s overall survey totals.

The nation’s entry into World War II brought an end to all WPA projects, and the Historical Commission shifted its collecting focus to that of gathering and compiling records and papers to document the state’s role in the war.

  1. Card Index (in Archives Search Room)
    The project’s card index is estimated to contain just under 8,000 Cemetery Summary Cards and over 268,000 Tombstone Inscription Cards. It is grouped into three main categories:
  2. Drawers Contents
    1 — 9 Cemetery Summary Cards
    10 — 175 Pre-1914 Tombstone Inscription Cards
    176 — 203 Post-1914 Tombstone Inscription Cards

The Cemetery Summary Cards are arranged alphabetically by county, then by town and name of the cemetery. In addition to the cemetery name, county, and location, the Cemetery Summary Cards usually include total numbers of marked and unmarked graves, total numbers of pre- and post-1914 graves. The Cemetery Summary Cards are also available on 2 reels of microfilm: Z.3.17 — Z.3.18.

The Pre-1914 Tombstone Inscription Cards are arranged alphabetically by name and include birth and death dates or other information if listed on the tombstone. The Pre-1914 Tombstone Inscription Cards are also available on 21 reels of microfilm: Z.3.19 — Z.3.39.

The Post-1914 Tombstone Inscription Cards are arranged alphabetically by name and include birth and death dates or other information if listed on the tombstone. The Post-1914 Tombstone Inscription Cards are also available on 5 reels of microfilm: Z.3.40 — Z.3.44.

II. Cemetery Listings (Typescripts) (in Archives Stacks)
These cemetery listings (or typescripts) are arranged alphabetically by county, then by town and name of the cemetery. Information usually includes name of cemetery, brief location information (usually), and names and dates from transcribed tombstones. Sometimes the same information is included that was typed on the Cemetery Summary Cards (such as total number of marked and unmarked graves, total numbers of pre- and post-1914 graves, and a more complete description of the cemetery location). The typescripts are also available on 6 reels of microfilm: Z.3.11 — Z. 3.16. PDF versions of this portion of the project are now available online via the North Carolina Digital Collections (http://digital.ncdcr.gov/) and NC Family Records Online (http://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/dimp/digital/ncfamilyrecords/).

Box. No. Contents
1 Alamance — Bertie
2 Bladen — Cabarrus
3 Caldwell — Cleveland
4 Columbus — Forsyth
5 Franklin — Haywood
6 Henderson — McDowell
7 Macon — Onslow
8 Orange — Richmond
9 Robeson — Scotland
10 Stanly — Wake
11 Warren — Yancey
12 Duplicate Typescripts, Alamance — Yancey; Miscellaneous