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How to Find Public Records in North Carolina

Public Records Search: North Carolina State Archives

The North Carolina State Archives operates under the jurisdiction of the North Carolina Office of Archives & History.  The site for the state’s archives can be reached at ah.dcr.state.nc.us/archives/ as well as by mail, telephone and fax.  Essentially, North Carolina Archive’s mission is to collect, preserve and make records and other pertinent documents accessible to the public.  Obtaining public records and information is a streamlined process with this agency.

The site claims to serve roughly sixteen thousand researchers across the state of North Carolina as well as the country.  Each year they also reply to about fourteen thousand mail queries for archival records.  Unlike many sites, surprisingly, North Carolina appears truly committed to serving the public and living up to their top-notch archival standards.  An impressive level of service is outlined on the website.

To view the various types of service outlines on the site click on the “services” link from the menu on the main page.  This streamlined page explains items simply and effectively.  Researchers may conduct research on the premises in the research room.  Since this tutorial is geared mainly for online researchers, I will only suffice to say that searching the research room is simple given the tools the Archives provides to the public.  Even simple call slips help requesters organize their queries and make working with the staff enjoyable.

Also from the services page researchers can click on the fee schedule to see a detailed report for charges associated with photocopying (only $.10 per page), printing on microfilm, certifying documents, duplication of microfilm, photograph prints, etc…North Carolina residents making requests by mail will see less charge than out-of-state researchers ($20.00 fee for them).  When making requests via the mail, it is important to print out a copy of the site’s request form that may then be mailed to: North Carolina State Archives, 4614 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4614.  You can also fax your form to 919-733-1354.

Out of state researchers must submit there $20.00 fee with their request in the form of a check or money order.  However, neither in-state or out-of-state researchers should submit any fees for photocopies or other services.  The site prefers to mail back a sheet detailing these service fees.  Researchers are then required to mail this sheet back along with their payment. 

If a form cannot be printed, you can still contact the archives.  The site offers suggestions for questions it usually receives and may easily answer.  Some of these include:

  • “Do you have a record of Revolutionary War (or Confederate) service by Elijah Coor of Craven County?
  • Do you have a marriage bond for Elijah Coor and Grace Jones, Craven County, about 1800?
  • Do you have a will for Elijah Coor of Craven County, about 1840?
  • Do you have an estate record for Elijah Coor of Craven County, about 1840?”

Unlike other archival sites where it is unclear exactly what specific records the agency maintains, North Carolina spells them out.  These types may be seen on the site but some of them include: court records, bonds, census records, tax records, wills, marriage records, cemetery records, academic records, newspapers, maps Bible records, veterans’ records and many more.

Online researchers also have access via the site to the MARS catalog (Manuscripts and Archives Catalog).  This system is unlike many other online search systems, but is a powerful tool to navigate a vast amount of various collections.  Among the searchable collections of materials are: Civil War collection, County records, Bible records, Organization records, foreign archives, records of probate, poster collection, Revolutionary War records, state records and many others.  Researchers can limit their search to one database or search all of these categories.  As a sample search you may enter a keyword to locate anything from specific names to “marriage records” for example.  This system does appear to be slower than other online search systems for archival information though.

North Carolina’s site is very navigable and researchers should have no problems finding answers to any general questions from the site itself.  For more in-depth research queries it will be necessary to call the archives to explain the nature of your request and possible charges.  While many indexes are available online, most actual records must be obtained through the agency and therefore will have some associated charge.

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