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Commemorating the U.S. Entry into World War I

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To follow North Carolina’s history in World War I on social media, use the hashtag #NCWW1 (note: use the number “1” not an uppercase letter “I”)!

Today marks the centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I, at the time called the “European war”.  On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson requested a declaration of war from the U.S. Congress. Four days later on April 6, Congress voted to declare war on Germany.  It was the 4th time the Congress had enacted a declaration of war. Several months later on December  7, the U.S. declared war on Austria-Hungary.

Iredell County World War I Memorial, Statesville, NC. From North Carolina Postcards, North Carolina Collection, UNC Chapel Hill.

Iredell County World War I Memorial, Statesville, NC. From North Carolina Postcards, North Carolina Collection, UNC Chapel Hill. More information on the memorial is available from Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina in NCpedia.

Wilson’s used the phrases “a war to end all wars” and “make the world safe for democracy” to confirm both a sense of the moral urgency to enter the conflict and some sense of optimism that war could even accomplish these goals.  World War I surely didn’t end the prospect of war for future generations, but it was truly a war that changed everything — from the devastating loss of a generation of young men who went to war, to loss of children and families, homes, towns and cities and culture to the very way war came to be fought.  It changed the course of science and technology.

For its part, North Carolina sent more than 80,000 soldiers overseas to the war effort and made many contributions and sacrifices from the home front. The U.S. Senate approved the declaration with a vote of 82-6, with both of North Carolina’s senators in support.  In the House of Representatives, sentiment was not nearly as unilateral, with a final vote of 373-50.  Congressman Claude Kitchin, a supporter and ally of Wilson, made a bold declaration against entry into the war.  He is remembered for delivering a passionate speech against when called on for his vote. He was applauded by both supporters of the war and those who stood with him and was later both renounced and revered for his stand. You can read more about him here in NCpedia. And of the war, the state’s governor, Thomas W. Bickett, who led the state through the troubled time said: “This is no ordinary war. It is a war of ideals.”

From now through the centennial of the conclusion of the war in 2018, we will be contributing to the commemorative effort by sharing North Carolina’s history in World War I — from its men and women who served on the battlefield to efforts on the home front.  We will try to bring you closer to stories, events, people and places by sharing collections and resources that bring the history a little closer to home.  Along the way, we’ll also share resources and collections that might help family history researchers locate records from family members who served.

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Abolished Counties: Dobbs County

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If your ancestors came to North Carolina in the 1600s, there is a good chance they lived in an abolished county at some point. Some abolished counties, such as Dobbs County, were created after 1700. As genealogy researchers, we are taught when boundaries change and new counties are formed records created in the original county stay there rather than moved to the new county; however, that leads to the question of what happens with records created in abolished counties.

Map of NC around 1760 showing the location of Dobbs County

Map of NC in 1760 showing the location of Dobbs County – Image courtesy of Learnnc.org

Dobbs County Formation and Records

Let’s take a look at Dobbs County, created in 1758 from part of Johnston County. Only a few records exist; there are some wills, which are in the Thornton W. Mitchell’s will book index. There were also deeds, which are not dated. Dobbs County was abolished in 1791 when it split into Glasgow and Lenoir Counties. Any records that were mixed in with Lenoir County records have been destroyed by court house fire in 1878 and again in 1880.

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New in NCpedia: North Carolina Women

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New in NCpedia:  North Carolina Women

North Carolina Women: Portrait of North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Susie Marshall Sharp. From the Waller Collection, PhC.14, collection of the State Archives of North Carolina. Used with permission.

North Carolina Women: Portrait of North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Susie Marshall Sharp. From the Waller Collection, PhC.14, collection of the State Archives of North Carolina. Used with permission.

Women’s history month is rushing by!  Before it passes, NCpedia has new biographies to share on North Carolina women. These entries come us from our content partners at the University of North Carolina Libraries, the Research Branch of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, and the North Carolina Symphony.

If you’re in for a little browsing, visit this link to all NCpedia bios about women: http://www.ncpedia.org/biography/women

New NCpedia entries:

  • Marie Watters Colton — first female speaker Pro Tempore of the NC House of Representatives.
  • Elizabeth “Libba” Nevills Cotten — Carrboro native and key figure in the 1960s folk music revival.
  • Mary Claire Engstrom — long-time Hillsborough resident and instrumental in founding the town’s Historical Society and chronicling the history of Orange County.
  • Mary Nicholson — Early female commercial pilot from Greensboro, joined the British Air Transport Auxiliary during WWII.
  • Anne Penland — from Asheville, Penland became a pioneering nurse anesthetist and was the first women to serve as an anesthetist on the European front in WWI, in a British base hospital.
  • Susie Marshall Sharp — ground-breaking first female judge in the state’s history, first female member of the State Supreme Court and its first female Chief Justice.
  • Maxine Swallin — along with her husband, Benjamin Swallin, she helped revive the floundering North Carolina Symphony in the 1930s.

–Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

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Martha McFarlane McGee Bell

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In honor of women’s history month, we will look at some articles about women from NCpedia as examples of how to trace your female ancestors. This post will focus on verifying the marriages of Martha McFarlane McGee Bell, born around 1735 and died about 1820.

Background

Martha first married John McGee about 1759. According to published memoirs about Martha (see source list below), John had been previously married with two children of his own. John left a will in 1774. At the time of John’s decease, there were five children. A few years later around 1779, Martha married William Bell. Martha died in 1820 while William died in 1821.

Problem

Although there are multiple sources that share information about her, few of them cite documentation to prove any of it. In the absence of reliable sources to back up the information, it is necessary to verify as much as possible through original records.

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