MARS Catalog ...
For anyone planning a visit to the North Carolina State Archives, a preliminary search using the online MARS (Manuscript and Archives Reference System) Catalog may provide detailed descriptions of records pertaining to your research and expedite your time accessing records once you arrive at the Search Room. A link to the MARS Catalog is available on the website
. The system allows patrons the ability to browse collections from the comfort of their home and hopefully confirm that the North Carolina Archives has records beneficial to their family research.
When you click on the link and launch the MARS or Encompass system, you will be directed to the “Browse/Basic Search” page and should find a screen with twenty-three folders or collections that you may search. Before you begin a search, you may want to browse the collection titles by clicking the view description image (lower case “i” in a circle) to the right of the collection name and then select the “view relationships” image. This will show the hierarchical arrangement of the record group, series, and items that are currently cataloged in MARS. You may also browse the collections and find helpful record descriptions at the series or item level. By selecting the folder image beside the collection or record group title, you may also find descriptive information about each series or items within the collection.
After you browsed the collections you can select one, several or all collections to search for a specific family name, geographical location, subject or keyword. Simply type your query into the blank space next to the “search” image and click the “search” button. Be sure to check the specific collection or collections you want to search or click the “select all” button to avoid overlooking a collection. After the search is complete, the Results Summary page should appear with the collection title on the left and the number of hits listed on the right. Then select the hits image to view the list and then select the “view description” image for a description of the record. If you found a record that may be helpful in your research, either print the page and bring it with you on your visit to the NC Archives or write down the title of the record along with the MARS ID number and the call number. The Search Room staff will need the call number to locate the actual record; however the MARS ID number would be helpful in the retrieval process. Also note that you may search and view scanned images of original records, such as 1885 Confederate pension applications and some estate records, land and Governor’s papers from the colonial era. Of course putting images of original records, such as marriage bonds, in a searchable online database is an ongoing project of the archives, so be on the lookout for new additions to the MARS catalog.
Record Types Link ...
Please note that the MARS Catalog does not include descriptions of every item in the custody of the North Carolina, so do not be discouraged if your search does not yield any results. [Editor's note -- there is a physical card catalog and other print research aids available in the search room.]
Nevertheless the catalog still has an immense number of collections to search and can sometimes seem slow and cumbersome. The Archives is currently looking into updating the database system to one with more storage space for digital images and faster search time. But if you are patient and spend time becoming familiar with the MARS Catalog, you will be better prepared and knowledgeable of the vast collection of records at the North Carolina State Archives.
Another way to get familiar with the North Carolina Archives before making a visit would be to peruse the website
. One item that genealogy researchers should take note of is the information regarding county records under the “Record Types” link. Since the vast majority of court and probate records are kept together by the county in which the record was filed, one would need to know the primary county of residence of a family before delving into these records. On the webpage is a link to the Guide to Research Materials in the North Carolina State Archives: County Records. It is a list of records from 106 current and defunct counties that are available to our researchers. Also available are links to container lists for wills and estates from a few of our counties, as well as definitions of the types of county records in our custody.
Services Link ...
Anyone planning a visit should review the “Services” link on the website because it explains the access and security procedures for the search room.
The “Services” link contains another link to “Archival Information Circulars” which provide helpful guidelines on some popular resources at the North Carolina State Archives.
In the event that your questions have not been answered, feel free to contact the North Carolina Archives staff by phone at 919-807-7310 or email us at [email protected]
. If you send an inquiry by email, please note in the subject heading “NGS visitor” so that your question gets forwarded to one of the reference archivists.
Please note that you can learn more about electronic resources maintained by the North Carolina Archives and Library and attend the conference class “Genealogy 2.0: Using Digital Tools to Trace Your North Carolina Roots” scheduled for Wednesday, May 13th at 7:00p.m.
Thank you for your interest in visiting the North Carolina State Archives and we look forward to meeting and assisting you in person.