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, BSEMSE
  • 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, CGCGL
  • 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, CGCGL
  • 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, néé 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, néé 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, néé 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.