Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Genealogy Blog Picnic: North Carolina Research

When the topic for this month's blog picnic was announced, I pondered long and hard about what my favorite genealogy resource is. With so many choices, it is difficult to settle on just one. Would I select an archive or repository? I use so many of those, and it really depends on my current research as to which I find most useful at the time. I admit I probably do know which one I would select if forced to choose just one, but I decided against writing about a repository. Would it be genealogical software of some sort? I decided against that route because I'm at a stage in my research that while software is helpful it sometimes gets in the way and writing, rather than data input, helps me make more progress and stay focused. Would it be a research log or form of some sort? I confess I never even considered anything in that category as a candidate. Would it be a website or blog? I use Ancestry and FamilySearch almost daily, but once again, those are too obvious. Would it be Evidence Explained that I use on an almost daily basis? I decided it was too obvious of a selection and wanted to select something else -- something really useful, but perhaps something not quite as well known. I settled on Helen Leary's excellent book, North Carolina Research, which is available for purchase from North Carolina Genealogical Society.

Leary, Helen F. M., ed. North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History. 2nd ed. Raleigh: North Carolina Genealogical Society, 1996.

This volume, edited by Helen F. M. Leary, is often referred to as the "Bible" of North Carolina research. However, its usefulness extends far beyond the borders of North Carolina. Almost every southeastern state in the United States based its legal system on common law. Leary's discussion helps researchers navigate the system.

Almost every state in which I research has some unique aspect which makes it necessary to understand the systems of conveyance. Leary explains the systems--the Lords Proprietor, headrights, Granville grants, and more.

Leary also includes some chapters on basic skills such as abstracting which are applicable to every genealogist, regardless of location being researched.

The book is on the Board for Certification of Genealogists' supplemental study list. Its chapters are included in bibliographies at major North Carolina universities and at the State Library and Archives dealing with specific types of records. Michael Hait mentions it in his post "Building a Solid Genealogy Library (Part One)."

I decided to find comments by others on the usefulness of this volume. In her 2012 blog post entitled "Finding NC Court Records," Judy Russell calls it "an absolute steal at $55" and goes on to say, "if it's not in that book, you don't need it to do research in North Carolina." On page thirteen of Research in North Carolina, Jeffrey L. Haines calls the book "the essential textbook and reference for family history in the state." Carolyn L. Barkley's post, "North Carolina Research Opportunities in Raleigh," advises readers to consult the volume before making a trip to the state archives. Her post was written prior to the 2009 NGS Conference in Raleigh, but since NGS is revisiting Raleigh in 2017, it is a timely one today. Lisa Lisson speaks of the book's usefulness, particularly in the area of methodology, in her post "A Few of My Favorite Genealogy Things {March 2016}." On the first page, the unspecified author of "Descendants of Andrew Hampton" quotes a section dealing with ages in which persons could own and sell land from Leary's book.

If a person finds a bibliography on North Carolina genealogical or local history research failing to include North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History, the author of the bibliography made a serious omission. It would make me question the authority of such a bibliography.

When I attended my first National Genealogical Society Conference, three speakers rose to the top of my "must hear" list quickly. Helen Leary was one of those three. Health issues forced her to retire early from the national speaking circuit. So many persons who only recently began attending conferences missed out on the opportunity to learn from Helen. Fortunately she recorded several webinars available to members of the North Carolina Genealogical Society, giving these persons a "second chance." In my opinion, it is worth joining the society to hear Helen. Even if you decide against that, be sure to purchase the book if you do not own it. Regardless of the state in which you research, you will learn many useful things about genealogical research.


Barkley, Carolyn L. "North Carolina Research Opportunities in Raleigh," In Search of Our Common Heritage, 2 Apr 2009 ( : accessed 20 Aug 2016).

Board for Certification of Genealogists. "Supplemental Study List," Board for Certification of Genealogists ( : accessed 20 Aug 2016).

"Descendants of Andrew Hampton," Moultrie County Illinois GenWeb ( : accessed 20 Aug 2016).

Haines, Jeffrey L. Research in North Carolina. (NGS Research in the States Series). Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2008.

Hait, Michael. "Building a Solid Genealogy Library (Part One)." Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession, 30 June 2014 ( : accessed 20 Aug 2016).

Lisson, Lisa. "A Few of My Favorite Genealogy Things {March 2016}." Lisa Lisson: Genealogist, Blogger, Etsypreneur, 21 Mar 2016 ( : accessed 20 Aug 2016).

Russell, Judy. "Finding NC Court Records." The Legal Genealogist, 2 Feb 2012 ( : accessed 20 Aug 2016).

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