Thursday, September 29, 2011

Finding Your Ancestors in the NC Archives – Part II

This past Saturday, September 24, 2011, I attended a one day workshop / lecture series about the records in the North Carolina State Archives. The Friends of the Archives sponsored the workshop, which was the first one they had given in over 15 years.

Tar Heels in the Family Tree? A Genealogical Introduction to North Carolina Records

The second lecture of the day was Tar Heels in the Family Tree? A Genealogical Introduction to North Carolina Records. The speaker was Helen F. M. Leary, CG (Emeritus), FASG, FNGS.

Helen is a noted family historian, lecturer, and author, and this was the first time I heard her speak. Helen provided a wealth of information on doing research in NC as well as what seemed like little know facts even for those of us who are native North Carolinians and have lived here most of our lives.

Helen began her presentation by discussing the different geographical regions of North Carolina and how North Carolina’s geography affected the type of economy that developed within the state.

Outer Banks
If you know anything about North Carolina geography, you know we have the outer banks / barrier islands, which inhibited the development of a deep-water port for money crop sales and for immigration. So, it was pointless to grow things that would be difficult to ship.

Coastal Plains
Slow moving rivers that can take produce out to sea define the coastal plains. The biggest farms and plantations were located in this area of the state.

The piedmont area consisted mostly of clay-type soil. As a result, manufacturing arose in this area of the state.


So, due to its geography, North Carolina’s economy was based mainly on subsistence farming, land speculation and eventually manufacturing. There were very few large plantations.

Helen pointed out on several occasions that North Carolina was the daughter to Virginia with regard to laws and immigration patterns.

North Carolina was separated from Virginia by a 1663 charter but the borderer wasn’t surveyed until 1728. When it was surveyed, much of Virginia was found to be in North Carolina. Therefore, south VA records should be checked for this time period.

Early North Carolina was defined as three settlement areas, Albemarle, which became NC, Clarendon, which failed, and Craven, which became South Carolina.

Helen stated that the most valuable North Carolina records for genealogists are Records of the Counties, which were called precincts prior to 1739, Family Bibles and other private manuscripts, and Land Grants.

The Records of the County were created in the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions prior to 1868 and by various county officials after this date. The Court of Pleas and Quarter is also known as the Inferior Court.

Two types of records that Helen talked about and that I found interesting were the Apprenticeship Records and the Bastardy Bonds, Helen pointed out that Apprenticeship Records often provided a clue as to the identification of a father as an illegitimate boy / man often became an apprentice under his biological father. Bastardy Bonds on the other hand are for orphans whose parents were legally married.

Helen also pointed out that Marriage Bonds were filed in the wife’s county of residence and apprentices could not marry. Something I did not realize or know until then.

Other just general research tips that Helen provided are

  1. Even if there was not a will, look at estate records since the property had to be listed and given a value.
  2. Never take the information from one census and declare that’s it.
  3. For “burned” counties, determine what records were not in the courthouse.

However, Helen’s best tip was the following:

Research is finding out. Never stop looking!

To listen to more of Helen’s words of wisdom on genealogical research, be sure to check out some of her videos on the NGSGenealogy channel on You Tube. Here is one where Helen reflects on why people do Genealogy.

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