Marriage Records Survey: Durham County, North Carolina

I vis­it­ed the Durham Coun­ty Reg­is­ter of Deeds, 200 East Main Street, Durham, NC 27701–3649 to sur­vey their mar­riage records. The office is quite acces­si­ble. It is in the mid­dle of down­town Durham, with ample, rea­son­ably priced park­ing in a park­ing struc­ture next door. The Reg­is­ter of Deeds is in the base­ment of the old cour­t­house, direct­ly across the street from the mod­ern Durham Coun­ty Gov­ern­ment Build­ing.

Access to the records is remark­ably open. The records room is locat­ed behind the pub­lic recep­tion area. One of the clerks lets you in to exam­ine the records on your own. There is good light in the street-lev­el base­ment where the mar­riage records are in open fil­ing cab­i­nets. A table, chairs, pen­cils, and scrap paper are avail­able to researchers.

The records range from 1897 to the present. Because of insti­tu­tion­al seg­re­ga­tion, African-Amer­i­can and white mar­riage records are sep­a­rate from 1897 until 1975. Old­er records are in plas­tic sleeves, one to a record. More recent records are in mani­la pouch­es, one per month of records.

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Mental Health Records Access

Book Cover: Annie's Ghosts
Annie’s Ghosts

Steve Lux­en­berg writes in the Detroit Free Press about the over-the-top pro­tec­tions afford­ed to the dead in his arti­cle “Dead and gone and still pri­vate: Med­ical record laws need updat­ing.” Suf­fice it to say that med­ical, and espe­cial­ly men­tal health records are locked up far longer than is nec­es­sary. As far as I am con­cerned, peo­ple whose entire imme­di­ate fam­i­ly are dead should have any of their data made pub­lic. The only rea­son for pri­va­cy is the pro­tec­tion of liv­ing per­sons; the rest is his­to­ry, and his­to­ry should be made pub­lic, not hid­den.

As Mr. Lux­en­berg points out, we have a rad­i­cal lack of pri­va­cy in some are­nas — wit­ness Face­book — but med­ical and men­tal health records are anoth­er sto­ry. So, with a cou­ple of clicks, I can find out what your street address and phone num­ber are, but it takes a court order to find out about a per­son who died in a men­tal hos­pi­tal more than 100 years ago.

I’m going to take a look at Lux­en­berg’s book Annie’s Ghosts: A Jour­ney Into a Fam­i­ly Secret.

Chronicling America API

Ed Sum­mers, whose dig­i­tal life is at, and who is a soft­ware devel­op­er on the Library of Con­gress’s Chron­i­cling Amer­i­ca project, noticed my “Chron­i­cling Amer­i­ca” blog entry of the oth­er day, where I talked about pre­dic­tive URLs I found on the site.

He point­ed out that Chon­i­cling Amer­i­ca has a pub­lished API (appli­ca­tion pro­gram­ming inter­face) that explains how one can access the con­tent of Chron­i­cling Amer­i­ca. The API is at:

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Vital Records Checklist

I am tak­ing the NGS Home Study Course in Amer­i­can Geneal­o­gy. While I am cov­er­ing ground I have cov­ered before, I get a lot out of doing this in a focused way. One method they are apply­ing is a sim­ple check­list of records, whether we are talk­ing about cen­sus records, vital records, or any­thing else one might look for as one con­ducts a “rea­son­ably exhaus­tive search.” While I have done this before, the process has led me to come up with a handy overview of where I stand with vital records. Below is my check­list, with the liv­ing peo­ple in my pedi­gree removed.

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Chronicling America

The Library of Con­gress’s Chron­i­cling Amer­i­ca web­site has lists of news­pa­pers, search­able and nav­i­ga­ble by title, as well as tens of thou­sands of images of news­pa­pers from 1880 to 1922 from 15 states (plus the Dis­trict of Colum­bia):

  • Ari­zona
  • Cal­i­for­nia
  • Dis­trict of Colum­bia
  • Flori­da
  • Hawaii
  • Ken­tucky
  • Min­neso­ta
  • Mis­souri
  • Nebras­ka
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Penn­syl­va­nia
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vir­ginia, and
  • Wash­ing­ton.

The site cat­a­log is very handy for find­ing out about local news­pa­pers that might be avail­able through inter-library loan (ILL) on micro­film and by oth­er means in libraries across the coun­try.

You can even pre­dict the URL for a coun­ty you are inter­est­ed in. For exam­ple, the URL for Mon­roe Coun­ty, West Vir­ginia is:

And the URL for Val­ley Coun­ty, Nebras­ka is:

So, the pat­tern comes down to:

Pre­fix: [which, itself is not a work­able URL]

To this, you append the state, a slash, then the coun­ty, and a slash.

State (with spaces replaced by %20, the HTML code for a space): some%20state/

Coun­ty (with spaces replaced by %20, the HTML code for a space): some%county/

Hap­py hunt­ing!

Research in the States

The Nation­al Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety pub­lish­es a series of books enti­tled Research in the States. Each vol­ume cov­ers the his­to­ry, laws, records and research facil­i­ties of a state. It pro­vides guid­ance for online resources as well.

Titles avail­able to this point include:

  • Arkansas by Lyn­da Childers Suf­fridge, BSE, MSE
  • Col­orado by Kath­leen W. Hinck­ley
  • Illi­nois by Diane Ren­ner Walsh, CG
  • Mary­land by Patri­cia Obrien Shawk­er, CG
  • Michi­gan by Shirley M. DeBoer, CG
  • Mis­souri by Pamela Boy­er Porter, CG, CGL and Ann Carter Flem­ing, CG, CGL
  • New Jer­sey by Claire Keenan Agthe
  • North Car­oli­na by Jef­frey L. Haines, CG
  • Ohio by Diane Van­skiv­er Gagel
  • Ore­gon by Con­nie Miller Lenzen, CG
  • Penn­syl­va­nia by Kay Hav­i­land Freilich, CG, CGL
  • Ten­nessee by Chuck Sher­rill
  • Vir­ginia by Eric G. Grund­set
  • West Vir­ginia by Bar­bara Vines Lit­tle, CG

These books are avail­able in print as well as in PDF for­mat. They are approx­i­mate­ly 50 pages each. Some states are addressed with­in the cov­ers of the Nation­al Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety Quar­ter­ly (NGSQ).

For my own research, I have picked up the PDF ver­sions of the Vir­ginia and West Vir­ginia books, in PDF for­mat. As a mem­ber of the NGS, I have also down­loaded the PDF ver­sion of the lat­est issue of the NGSQ, Vol. 98, No. 1, March 2010, which includes “Research in Nebras­ka” by Rober­ta “Bob­bi” King.

I have devoured each of these books, tak­ing notes about sources, meth­ods, how records changed, and so on, in order to get the most out of my research time.

At $8 for the PDF and $14.50 for the print­ed ver­sion (mem­bers price; non-mem­bers pay $10 and $17.50), these are an incred­i­ble val­ue, allow­ing you to focus your research. High­ly rec­om­mend­ed.

Diaspora: The Social Network

Dias­po­ra: Per­son­al­ly Con­trolled, Do-It-All, Dis­trib­uted Open-Source Social Net­work from daniel grip­pi on Vimeo.

A new tech­nol­o­gy start­up is tak­ing form which might have inter­est­ing impli­ca­tions for the online genealog­i­cal com­mu­ni­ty.

The grav­i­ta­tion­al pull of Face­book towards some source of rev­enue from the wild­ly pop­u­lar ser­vice, has had the com­pa­ny recent­ly forc­ing users to man­u­al­ly opt-out of shar­ing with every­one on the Inter­net the data they may have intend­ed to share only with their friends.This has cre­at­ed an uproar, per­haps not heard by all users of Face­book, but one in which many Face­book users are threat­en­ing to quit the ser­vice on May 31st.

In response to these pri­va­cy con­cerns, four soft­ware engi­neers in their late teens and ear­ly twen­ties are propos­ing an open source social net­work called Dias­po­ra, that would remain pri­vate and secure, and would be host­ed on your own “node”, on your com­put­er, not on cor­po­rate com­put­ers. They went to to try to raise $10,000 in seed mon­ey; so far, they have raised $174,950 from 5,270 peo­ple. They are also get­ting lauda­to­ry cov­er­age in the New York Times, and else­where.

Why this might be impor­tant for any­one who shares infor­ma­tion on the Inter­net, and espe­cial­ly for geneal­o­gists, is that instead of hand­ing your research, pho­tos, notes, and so on to a cor­po­ra­tion designed to turn every­thing it does into mon­ey for itself, you would keep your data and share it as you would like, with whom you would like. As a dis­trib­uted net­work, each user/webmaster would have the ben­e­fit of run­ning inde­pen­dent­ly of any­one else, and deploy­ing fea­tures or meth­ods of shar­ing con­tent if and when they want­ed to do so.

Stew­art Brand said about the Inter­net that “infor­ma­tion wants to be free,” as the Inter­net activist and nov­el­ist Cory Doc­torow says, this is not real­ly the case. In fact, it’s more impor­tant to note that peo­ple want to be free.

Dias­po­ra is still in the for­ma­tion­al stages. We will have to see where it goes, and where these ide­al­is­tic col­lege kids take it, but I. for one, will be watch­ing, with the idea of free­ing my infor­ma­tion, and free­ing my own expres­sion on my terms, not on those of Face­book, Twit­ter, or those of any oth­er cor­po­rate enti­ty.

The Acquittal of the Slaves, Ira and Stuart

I may be onto some­thing with the slaves in the Gra­ham fam­i­ly of Mon­roe Coun­ty, West Vir­ginia.

A cou­ple of days ago, I post­ed a piece about the slaves men­tioned in David Gra­ham’s His­to­ry of the Gra­ham Fam­i­ly (1899). These includ­ed a woman named Dian­na and called “Dine.” I not­ed:

Dian­na, or “Dine” was giv­en to Flo­rence Gra­ham, and lived to see the end of slav­ery. Since David Gra­ham says in 1899 that she “died only a few years ago,” she is prob­a­bly in the cen­sus in 1870 and 1880.

Look­ing fur­ther, I found on Google Books the vol­ume Reports of Cas­es Argued and Deter­mined in the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Vir­ginia1 by Cor­nelius C. Watts, Attor­ney Gen­er­al and Ex Offi­cio Reporter. I will tran­scribe and post the case, “Gra­ham et. al. v. Gra­ham et. al.” on this site. It is 27 pages long, span­ning pages 598–624 of the Report of Cas­es. For now, though, the impor­tant thing is that the case proves that Dian­na (or “Dinah,” as she is called in the case) was the moth­er of two slaves, Ira and Stu­art.

The names Ira and Stu­art are famil­iar to me, as they are the slaves who were charged with the mur­der of my 3rd great grand­moth­er, but quick­ly acquit­ted. Here are some notes I took from the coun­ty court records, on micro­film at the Library of Vir­ginia.

16 Octo­ber 1854
The attor­ney for the Com­mon­wealth by con­sent of the Court saith that he will not fur­ther pros­e­cute on behalf of the Com­mon­wealth against Stu­art (a Slave the prop­er­ty of Joseph Gra­ham) charged with mur­der.

There­fore it is ordered that he be dis­charged from his impris­on­ment.

16 Octo­ber 1854
Ira a slave (the prop­er­ty of Joseph Gra­ham) charged with Mur­der was led to the bar in cus­tody of the jailor of this Court and there­of arrigned and plead­ed not guilty, diverse wit­ness­es being sworn + Exam­ined; the pris­on­er ful­ly heard; upon con­sid­er­a­tion where­of the Court is of the opin­ion that the pris­on­er is not guilty of the mur­der afore­said, it is there­fore con­sid­ered that the pris­on­er be dis­charged from his impris­on­ment.2

So, Dian­na was the moth­er of Ira and Stu­art, who were acquit­ted of mur­der in 1854. But, can I find them in the 1870 cen­sus? Tune in tomor­row.…

1 Cor­nelius C. Watts. Reports of Cas­es Argued and Deter­mined in the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Vir­ginia, Vol. XVI, 1879–80, Wheel­ing: W. J. John­ston, 1881.
2 Coun­ty Court Order Book 6, Mon­roe Coun­ty, VA (now WV), 1848–1854, p. 638, 16 Octo­ber 1854. Micro­film reel 10, Library of Vir­ginia, Rich­mond, Vir­ginia.

Digital Archiving

Blanche Gregg Kout­sky’s Chil­dren (My First Cousins Twice Removed)

How to Make and Store Digital Backups of Your Audio, Video, and Photography

As a geneal­o­gist and the family’s his­to­ri­an, you have prob­a­bly gath­ered, received, and in every way imag­in­able sim­ply end­ed up with box­es of video­tapes and audio­cas­settes. Almost cer­tain­ly you have even more pho­tographs. In addi­tion to archiv­ing and pre­serv­ing these records, you want to make them avail­able to your fam­i­ly and to oth­er researchers.

In any archiv­ing process, it is impor­tant to deter­mine what is of val­ue, what should be pre­served, and what should be rel­e­gat­ed to the recy­cling bin. Once you have whit­tled the piles down to the genealog­i­cal­ly and his­tor­i­cal­ly inter­est­ing pho­tographs, film and video, and audio record­ings, you might ask your­self: “Now what?” This arti­cle will attempt to answer that ques­tion for the dig­i­tal archiv­ing of audio, video, and pho­tog­ra­phy.

Since you want to both pre­serve this mate­r­i­al and make it avail­able to fam­i­ly and oth­er researchers, the best approach is to repro­duce it in a com­put­er for­mat — to dig­i­tize it. You can do this at home, as a do-it-your­self project, or you can have some­one else per­form it as a ser­vice for you.

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Slave History in the Graham Family

At the age of 78, David Gra­ham wrote his His­to­ry of the Gra­ham Fam­i­ly (1899), where he apol­o­gized for includ­ing infor­ma­tion on the slaves held by his ances­tor, Col. James Gra­ham, Sr. As a man born into a slave-hold­ing fam­i­ly in 1821, David Gra­ham’s prej­u­dices are on dis­play. He was already 44 years old at the end of the war, and like­ly already had his sen­si­bil­i­ties formed. In 1899, 34 years after Appo­mat­tox, he writes:

To his descen­dants (for whom this book is espe­cial­ly writ­ten) it may not be unin­ter­est­ing to know the names of the slaves and to whom they were giv­en, espe­cial­ly to the younger gen­er­a­tion, to whom may have been hand­ed down the names of slaves owned by their imme­di­ate ances­tors, with­out the accom­pa­ny­ing infor­ma­tion of from whence they came. To such it is hoped that a very brief sketch of his slaves and to whom, they descend­ed will be ful­ly par­don­able and even appre­ci­at­ed.

Col. James Gra­ham and his wife Flo­rence Gra­ham had ten chil­dren: six sons and four daugh­ters (source: David Gra­ham, “James and Flo­rence Gra­ham’s fam­i­ly,” in His­to­ry of the Gra­ham Fam­i­ly (pri­vate­ly print­ed, Clay­ton, West Vir­ginia, 1899). Accord­ing to the sec­tion “Slaves of James Gra­ham, Sr.” of David Gra­ham’s book, the slaves held by Col. James Gra­ham, Sr. were giv­en to his chil­dren as fol­lows:

William (5 Dec 1765 — June 1836, m. 1809, Cather­ine John­son): “To his son, William, he gave a negro man named Bob, who died while in his (William’s) pos­ses­sion.”

John (22 Dec 1767 — 1777; killed by Shawnee Indi­ans)

Eliz­a­beth (29 Mar 1770 — 1858cap­tive of Shawnee Indi­ans, 1777–1785; m. 1792, Joel Stodghill): “To Eliz­a­beth Stodghill, his old­est daugh­ter, he gave a negro ser­vant whose name can­not now be recalled.

David (1772 — 1818; m. cir­ca 1795, Mary Stodghill): “To his son, David, was giv­en a negro man named Neese, and also a negro woman, whose name was Phillis. David also owned sev­er­al oth­er slaves.”

Jane (1774 — ?; m. cir­ca 1792, David Jar­rett): “To his sec­ond daugh­ter, Jane Jar­rett, he gave a negro named Rose. Rose lived a a very old age and died in the Jar­rett fam­i­ly about 1850 to 1860.”

James (1777 — cir­ca 1815; died of the milk sick­ness; m. 1800, Leah Jar­rett): “A negro man named Plim was giv­en to his son, James, Jr., at whose death he fell to his wid­ow, who kept him till she moved west in 1827, when he was sold to James Jar­rett of Mud­dy Creek. Jar­rett was a broth­er of the wid­ow.”

Samuel (1780 — ?; m. cir­ca 1808, Sal­lie Jar­rett): “To his son, Samuel, was giv­en a negro man named Cae­sar, who remained in the fam­i­ly until about the year 1836, when he was sold, the wid­ow of Samuel hav­ing about that time moved to Ten­nessee. Cae­sar spent the remain­der of his days at Union, Mon­roe coun­ty.”

Lan­ty (1783 — 1839; m. 1814, Eliz­a­beth Stodghill): “To the youngest son, Lan­ty, descend­ed a negro named Ben, who, at the mov­ing away to the west of Lanty’s wid­ow in 1841, passed into the hands of Joel Stodghill, as did also the negress, Phillas, who belonged to David. Ben and Phillis were man and wife, after the man­ner of such rela­tions as exist­ed among slaves.”

Rebec­ca (1786 — ?; m. Joseph Gra­ham, a cousin, in 1803): “To his third daugh­ter, Rebec­ca, descend­ed a negress named Dian­na, which name was always abbre­vi­at­ed to “Dine”.  “Dine” lived to see slav­ery abol­ished and died only a few years ago.”

Flo­rence (1789 — ?; m. William Tay­lor): “His fourth daugh­ter, Flo­rence Tay­lor, fell heir to a negro woman named Clara, who, when Flo­rence moved to Indi­ana, was sold to Peter Miller of Mon­roe coun­ty.”

Recast­ing this anoth­er way, based on this doc­u­ment the known slaves of James Gra­ham, Sr., were:

Bob who died while in the pos­ses­sion of William Gra­ham.

An unnamed woman, who was giv­en to Eliz­a­beth Stodghill, neé Gra­ham.

Neese (a man) and Phillis were giv­en to David. (Phillas was lat­er the prop­er­ty of Joel and Eliz­a­beth Stodghill. Phillas was the wife of Ben.)

Rose was give no Jane Jar­rett, neé Gra­ham.

Plim was giv­en to James Gra­ham, Jr.

Cae­sar was giv­en to Samuel, and after Samuel’s death, was sold to some­one in Union, Mon­roe Coun­ty, Vir­ginia.

Ben was mar­ried to Phillas, above. Orig­i­nal­ly, he was giv­en to Lan­ty, but after Lan­ty died, and Lan­ty’s wid­ow moved west, Ben was the prop­er­ty of Joel and Eliz­a­beth Stodghill.)

Dian­na, or “Dine” was giv­en to Flo­rence Gra­ham, and lived to see the end of slav­ery. Since David Gra­ham says in 1899 that she “died only a few years ago,” she is prob­a­bly in the cen­sus in 1870 and 1880.

Clara was giv­en to Flo­rence Tay­lor, neé Gra­ham, who sold her to Peter Miller of Mon­roe Coun­ty, before mov­ing to Indi­ana.

Writ­ing down that litany of “givens” and “own­ers” is yet anoth­er reminder of how inhu­mane the prac­tice of slav­ery was; yet it was treat­ed as such a “civ­i­lized” insti­tu­tion at the time.…

There are inter­est­ing tid­bits here. Since David Gra­ham knew many of these peo­ple, there is some like­li­hood that many of the rela­tion­ships are cor­rect, even if dates might be incor­rect for events that occurred so many years before her wrote his his­to­ry. I’m intrigued by the pos­si­bil­i­ty of doing descen­dan­cy research on some of the slaves, such as Dian­na and Phillas and Ben, to see if I can link them to descen­dants who might be doing research, and strug­gling with the com­plex­i­ties of African-Amer­i­can research.