Thursday, May 3, 2012

Email from Reader: Looking for Wills at the Archives

I receive a lot of emails from readers of my blog, some of them surname related and some of them North Carolina and State Archives related. I would like to share the following reader email regarding locating wills at the North Carolina State Archives and my response to her questions.

Hello Ginger,
I just finished reading your blog about the MARS catalog, and just wanted to add that I've been using it for awhile now and think it is great.  I always tell people who write to me to try it out. I have been able to have a field day with the land grants.  I noticed the recent change in how the catalog was organized, and it has thrown me off.  Old dogs have trouble learning new tricks.

I am also an avid genealogist and am one of the administrators at the Glover Surname DNA project. I was so lucky to have our Glover patriarch's will be one of the digitalized ones....and that's because it was way back in 1754. It was spelled Glovyer, but we all know it is the correct person.

My generalized question for you is this:  I can see by the MARS catalog that there are several wills located at the archive center of collateral people who married into the families, but they are not available as scanned images.  Are you aware of any plans underfoot to have these records scanned?  Or 2ndly, are there microfilms of these wills?

Wendy.......from out in California
Just FYI for background purposes, Wendy is referring to the MARS online catalog on the North Carolina State Archives website. MARS stands for Manuscript and Archives Reference System and is an online catalog of many of the Archives' holdings in Raleigh, NC. Here is my response to Wendy from California:

Hi Wendy, 

Thanks so much for writing. That is great that your Glover/Glovyer patriarch's will has been digitized! The digitized wills are the colonial wills that were held under the Secretary of State's Office. Usually these wills were written prior to 1776. These have been digitized because they are too fragile to be brought out to the public for viewing and handling. 

Most of the wills have been microfilmed, however, it was not the original wills that were microfilmed, but rather copies or transcripts that were made from the original wills and bound in books. Only 5 county's "original" wills have actually been microfilmed by the Archives - Beaufort, Caswell, Granville, Pasquotank, and Person. has digitized most of these non-"original" transcriped copies of wills on their site and you can access them here 

They are still in the process of digitizing and uploading to the site and they are not yet indexed. But if you go to the will index and find your ancestor, it is pretty easy to then find them in the appropriate book and page of the scanned image. 

My only word of caution is to remember that these are transcripts which means that someone wrote what they thought they saw on the original will and these were sometimes written 3 or 4 times and mistakes were made. I have found several mistakes in the microfilmed and digital copies I have pulled off of the FamilySearch site. So if you question any information in the will, I recommend to order the original from the Archives right away before pulling your hair out over a mistake that a county clerk probably made during transcription. 

I hope this helps to answer your questions. I have not heard of any intentions to digitize the original wills from the Archives. However, many records are being scanned and uploaded to the North Carolina Digital Collections site here, including bible records. 


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