African American Resources from UNC-Greensboro

I never ceased to be amazed and the number of resources coming online that aid us as we search for stories and information about our ancestors.  Thanks to a NCGenWeb researcher, I’ve recently learned about the availability of a few resources from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and thought they would be good to highlight here.


NC Runaway Slave Advertisements, 1751-1840


This database includes all known runaway slave advertisements that appeared in NC newspapers during this time period — more than 2300 of them.  There are options to browse the collection by county and by decade. You can also search the full-text of the advertisements.  Each record includes the digital version of the advertisement.  After completing your search you can narrow by the name of the newspaper, the slave name, and the name of the person placing the ad.  From my own previous research, I’d previously located this ad for Tom Whitfield, a slave of one of my family’s slaveholders Warre Kilpatrick but it was good to see that it was included here. Maybe I’ll find more information for my own research!

Civil Rights Greensboro


Greensboro was a central location of activity during the Civil Rights Era, a history recently more thoroughly acknowledged with the opening of the International Civil Rights Center &  Museum a couple of years ago. The Civil Rights Greensboro website offers a great online collection of information on the city’s civil rights history. The website offers a myriad of options for searching and browsing the digital files and each record contains a wealth of information. You will also find a timeline history and an interactive map of key event locations.  I grew up in Greensboro so this database touches very close to home.


Take a look! Let us know if you find something of interest in these, or other UNCG Digital Collection resources! Many thanks to the UNCG team for their hard work.


Patent Searching

A few years ago, I submitted a small write-up for a society journal with tips for searching patents.  Today, while indexing some issues of the Roanoke Beacon newspaper for the NCGenWeb People in the Papers website , I was reminded on just how interesting it can be.  A notice from the October 12, 1900 issue of the paper reported that Mr. D.S. SETTLEMYRE of Connelly Springs (Burke County) received a patent for his “baby walker” invention. 

Roanoke Beacon, 12 Oct 1900

 Now, not that I advocate putting a baby in the walker all night, it was still an interesting notice. So, off I went to search US Patents via Google’s Patent Search, and surely enough I was able to find the patent information right away. And, it looks quite similar to our current baby walkers. 

U.S. Patent #658126

The patent application is worth a read – it’s full of detail about how the walker works. Notice that Settlemyre’s signature is on the drawing, as well as the signatures of his witnesses and his attorney.   His patent has influenced others also – including a 2004 patent filing for a remote -controlled and motorized baby walker. 

How neat if this were someone in your family. Wouldn’t you want to see the details of their inventions? PDF files of the patent applications can be downloaded from the Google site so you can keep it among your personal records. Take a moment to check it out!


NC to Add More Historical Newspapers Online!

In early August, the National Endowment for Humanities announced their latest round of project funding.  Our lovely state of North Carolina is the recipient of several awards, including one to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to digitize 100,000 pages of historical newspapers from -1836-1922.  The newspapers will be added to the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America website.  You can read more about the award on the North Carolina Miscellany blog. 

This is great news for NC researchers — newspapers contain a wealth of information that will aid you in your research.  Kudos to UNC for the award! 

NC Newspaper Locator

How did I not know about this resource?  Perhaps you knew about it; if not, you’re sure to be pleasantly surprised.  The State Library has an online database that will help you identify newspapers that may have covered a particular area of interest in NC.  Need to know what papers were published in Craven County in 1917? Covered! Need to know what papers would cover Asheville in the late 1880s?  The NC Newspaper has you covered there too.

You can access the database online at  Recently, the library staff uploaded a YouTube video to help you learn how to navigate and search. 

The database includes records about the library’s holdings so keep that in mind as you search.  Just because you don’t find what you need, does not mean it does not exist.

Some additional resources for your NC newspaper searches include:

In Memoriam: Joyce Wilson Harrison

Joyce – a high school photo

The NCGenWeb Project is saddened to announce the passing of Joyce Ann Wilson Harrison, former county coordinator of the Orange & Durham county sites.  Joyce passed away Sunday, June 24th in Greensboro, NC. 

Prior to resigning from the project this past fall, Joyce had been an active contributor.  Not only did Joyce volunteer with the NCGenWeb, but she was also Secretary for the Alamance County Genealogical Society.  We extend our condolences to her family.  May Joyce rest in peace with her ancestors. 

NC Yearbook Index: 30,000 Names and Counting

Two years ago, the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center launched a mass digitization project to digitize college and  high school yearbooks from across the state.  With the vast amount of information available in these yearbooks, I started an index database for graduating seniors.  The index focuses largely on classes graduating in 1930 and prior, but does include some later classes as well. 

Recently, I reached a milestone for the database and it now includes over 30,000 students! If your ancestor attended a college in NC during this time frame, you may very well finding them listed here. Of course, there are probably many schools whose yearbooks have not been digitized, but as more yearbooks are added, I will keep indexing :-)

The database is searchable by name, county, city, state and school.  

If you are interested in keeping track of updates to the database, please subscribe to the RSS feed. I try to update at least once a month.  Additionally, you can visit the blog and sign up to get the updates sent directly to your email; just look for the sign-up box on the right side of the screen. 

If you are interested in helping contribute to the index, please let me know! Volunteers are always appreciated. You can visit the NC Yearbook Index by clicking on the graphic below.

The 1940 Census is Here!

Today, April 2, 2012, is an exciting day in the genealogy world; the 1940 census is being released after the federally-mandated 72 year embargo!

At 9am EST, the National Archives & Records Administration is releasing the images on their website at  You may wish to visit the site at 8:30am EST however for the live webstream event that will preface the release. When the images are made available online, there will not be an index right away – you’ll need to have the Enumeration District for the people/places you wish to search.  More information about how to start your census search is available from the NARA website

As equally exciting though is that YOU CAN HELP CREATE A FREE INDEX;,, and FindMyPast have partnered to create the US Community Indexing Project to recruit volunteers to help with the indexing.  After all, the sooner the index is created, the sooner you can get started searching your family members.  Visit for details on how to get started.  Most importantly – why not let those indexing credits count towards a good cause!

On April 11, 2012, the images for North Carolina were made available to be indexed.  You can sign up to contribute your efforts to the USGenWeb one of 4 ways.

Go ahead! Join the cause and help us get this index online. I plan to do some indexing, will you?


Looking for a NC Cemetery?

Then you may be interested in one of the latest offerings from the North Carolina State Archives & State Library of North Carolina.  In the past several weeks, they have added  scans of the cemetery surveys done across the state by the Works Progress Administration (now called Works Projects Administration).

example cemetery survey listing

Done as part of the WPA Historical Records Survey, these files are a great resource as they focused on recording burials that occurred before 1914.  The surveys were conducted over a several year time span ( I think the 1930s and 1940s) and have thousands of names included.

Granted, not all the information will be accurate  – typos abound, some cemeteries are not listed, some are listed with erroneous locations, etc., but it will not hurt to check.   There are records for 97 counties –  you have to check these out!  You can find them at  More information about the project can be read on the NC State Archives blog.

If you want to stay on top of new things as added, you may wish to follow Ashley, an archivist there, who posts regularly to Twitter as items are added.  Wouldn’t it be great if more states put their WPA files online? Do you know of any others that do? If so, please share by leaving a comment.

You Never Know What You’ll Find

Have you been following all the great records FamilySearch has been adding to their website?  There are many NC related record sets for you to search and/or browse.   To see what records are available, visit the page of North America collections and scroll down to those titles that begin with “North Carolina,” — collections are listed in alphabetical order.


Tonight, while browsing the Wake County Death Certificates 1900-1909 death certificates recently added, I found an interesting record that made me pause.  It was a hand-written note on letterhead from the Elmington Manor estate in Gloucester County, Virginia noting that a 90 year-old black woman named Sallie Heywood (possibly Haywood) had passed way on the property, the home of Reverend Thomas Dixon,  in March 1900.  Her death was due to natural causes.  Dr. Phillip Taliaferro wrote the note and affirmed that her body was safe for transportation back to Raleigh for burial.  She was interred in the City Cemetery March 3, 1900.

Given the note and my curiosity, I sought to see what I could learn about Sallie and Elmington Manor.


A few moments after searching for the manor and owner Thomas Dixon, I quickly learned that he was the author of the screenplay for the movie Birth of A Nation.  He was a native of Cleveland County and his uncle was a Ku Klux Clan leader. Elmington Manor was described in the August 15, 1903 issue of the New York Times as “the most beautiful estate in the South.” Some of his papers are held at my alma mater no less, Emory University.

Given Rev. Dixon’s viewpoints on the relationship between blacks and whites  I then reflected on what Sallie was doing there at his manor and what life may have been like for her.  Was she visiting family? Did she have an existing relationship with the Dixon family?  I wonder if she has descendants? Do they know about the tie to Thomas Dixon?  I have not yet found any information about Sallie but finding this record and her association to Thomas Dixon was interesting.

Check the collections at FamilySearch – you never know what you’ll find.

Update: The Wake County Death Certificates are part of the North Carolina, County Records, 1833-1970 database.