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Beginner’s Luck with the NCGS Journal

By Erick Montgomery

As a descendant of many North Carolina ancestors, I am always on the lookout for resources that may help me discover their roots. I recently participated in the Augusta Genealogical Society’s first virtual symposium which featured four classes by Diane Richard, NCGS Journal editor. She gave us many useful tips and suggestions for helping to find our female and North Carolina ancestors.

Following the event, I sat down with the symposium handouts and considered some of the websites Diane suggested during her session, “Born in NC and Living Elsewhere.” I was intrigued by the link to the NCGS Journal. She stated that the finding aids were available for free, but only members could access the digitized back-issues of the journal. 

I chose a random ancestor, Gabriel Shaw, whom I knew had married Mavel Mobley in Granville County on 17 April 1778.1 Gabriel died in Smith County, Tennessee about 1807.2 I already had some ideas about who his father may have been, but had never found anything definitive. I entered Gabriel’s name in the index and one match came up. But the finding aid only indicated that it could be found in Volume IX, Number 3 published in August 1983. OK, that’s interesting. But were there other useful references to additional ancestors as well? I entered more names with fairly good results. But again, I would need to join in order to see exactly what is found in the old Journal issues. 

View this video to see how Erick found Gabriel Shaw in the NCGS Journal Index.

I kept thinking about Gabriel Shaw. This must be my guy. How many Gabriel Shaws could there be anyway? Should I just wait until the pandemic is over and make a trip to Raleigh to see what else I can find? But who knows how long that will be? And that trip would be pretty expensive. If I joined, it would cost me $35 for an annual digital membership. That’s about what it might cost to go out to dinner with my wife one time. What the heck? I decided to join on the digital plan, which means I agree to forgo any print materials, opting instead to get digital materials only. Within minutes I was a member of NCGS and ready to take advantage of its offerings.

With my new membership credentials secured, I went back to the online index, found Gabriel again and clicked on the associated 1983 journal. A quick search with my computer’s “find” feature almost immediately located the entry. And what a great entry it was. Listed among the “Claims of British Merchants after the Revolutionary War,” an article contributed by Ransom McBride, was this entry.

BINGO! I had suspected that Timothy Shaw was the father of Gabriel, but now I had direct evidence from a non-standard source. With this I felt comfortable adding another generation to my tree. 

But what about Timothy? Was there anything more about him that may be useful? I went back to the online index. Up popped two entries for Timothy, one identical to the previous find for Gabriel and another from Volume VII, Number 3 in 1981. 

Opening the 1981 journal, I found a second very intriguing entry. “The Rev’d John Roan’s Account Book, 1745-1775” was another article contributed by Ransom McBride and was an abstract of the minister’s entries for funds received from congregants for church subscriptions and payments. Reverend Roan pastored congregations at Paxtang, Derry, and Conewago in what was then Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. McBride noted that some of the families listed therein eventually moved south into Virginia and North Carolina. This was the entry for Timothy Shaw:

Was this my newly discovered Timothy Shaw? I’m not sure yet, but certainly I now have a clue of where to look for Timothy before he settled in North Carolina. Would I have ever known to look for the original book at the Historical Society of Dauphin County in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania? Probably not.

So for 35 bucks, I had a new ancestor and potentially where to look for the Shaws before they moved to North Carolina, and subsequently to Tennessee. I considered that a pretty good day, genealogically speaking. And I look forward to finding more useful information through the North Carolina Genealogical Society and its journal.

  1. North Carolina State Archives, Granville County Marriage bonds, 1758-1868, box 12-15, Gabriel Shaw and Mavel Mobley marriage bond (1778); Familysearch.org, North Carolina, County Marriages, 1762-1979 [database on-line], image 1111.
  2. Smith County, Tennessee, County Court Clerk’s Office, Original Wills, Boxes 1-4, 1803-1870, Gabriel Shaw Will (1807); Ancestry.com, Tennessee, Wills and Probate Records, 1779-2008 [database on-line], images 114-116.

Erick Montgomery is the long-time Executive Director of Historic Augusta, Inc. in Georgia. He is currently the President of the Augusta Genealogical Society and has been involved in genealogical research for most of his life.


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