Field trip, day 1: NC Archives at Raleigh

My vacation this year was to North Carolina.  Enroute to the Southern Historical Association annual meeting in Charlotte last week I detoured to Raleigh to dig in the North Carolina State Archives.  I was very favorably impressed by the facility and staff.  There is a genealogy room on the mezzanine, but I did not go in there because I had some specific searches in mind among state and county records on the second floor.  The archives room has a wall of books of genealogical extracts and county histories related to NC counties and a law library; there are many large reading tables, and a microfilm room with a row of reader-printers.

Archives website:

Perhaps I was there on a good day (Thursday), but I was almost the only person in the archives room until lunch time.  The staff was attentive, and the records did not take long to arrive after I filled out a call slip.  Even in the afternoon only about half the microfilm machines were in use at any time.  Among other treasures, the archives has original county records that have been transferred to the state, and has the state supreme court case files.  The staff will make copies for you for 10 cents per page — when was the last time you paid so little?  My only criticism is that the copy machine needed to be serviced because my copies have lines on them.

If you are researching a supreme court case, in whatever state, the printed report is a good start, but try to see the original case files.  I was looking for a supreme court case in equity related to Isaac Weatherly, a slave trader.  First I read the minimally-informative 6 page summary of the case in the NC court reporter (5 Jones Eq. 46, December 1859), then I ordered the case file of original pleadings, testimony and exhibits.  What a difference!  After excluding duplicate documents and sheriff’s summons, I had 58 pages of hand-written information about Isaac Weatherly’s will, business agreements, finances, slave trading operations, and business associates.  There was even one slave bill of sale pertaining to a specific mother and her children who were the subject of legal dispute by Weatherly’s heirs.  (Weatherly wanted the mother and her mulatto children to be emancipated and given land and $200–the heirs wanted to keep them enslaved and to deny them the land and money.  The heirs won.)


Nicka SmithNovember 10th, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Great post David. I’m curious to know the name of the privately held collection you mentioned. What is it called and where is it housed?

DavidNovember 10th, 2010 at 11:42 pm

editor’s note: Because I split my original posting and expanded it, Nicka’s question actually refers to my post “Field Trip, days 2-5: Southern Historical Association Annual Meeting.” (sorry, Nicka!)

I did not engage Ed Baptist about his private source for the Natchez, Mississippi, notarial records, but my impression was that they are owned by an individual rather than an institution.

Valencia K. NelsonNovember 12th, 2010 at 1:05 am

David I will point Erin to your blog. She was actually expecting you. I may have given her the incorrect information on the date you were to be present.

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