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End of year gift for fans of North Carolina history, heritage and culture: NCpedia’s new website goes live today!

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End of year gift for fans of North Carolina history, heritage and culture: NCpedia’s new website goes live today!

Greetings old friends of North Carolina’s online encyclopedia, the NCpedia — and new and future friends too!

The new and improved NCpedia! December 2016.

The new and improved NCpedia! December 2016.

After several months of planning, design, programming and testing, NCpedia now has a brand new and updated user interface as of this morning. Same great content — no change there — but with an entirely new look and feel and user experience.

The site traces its history back before the dawn of the web, to frequently asked questions and then brochures created by librarians at the State Library to answer those questions.

Eventually those questions found their way into HTML pages in the 1990s, and then they coalesced into an encyclopedic collection called the eNCyclopedia.  By 2009, the content had grown to several hundred pages — and the site needed to find a new home in a content management system that allowed for expansion, search and a better user experience. The encyclopedia got a new home in Drupal and a new name — and NCpedia was launched.

NCpedia before the reno!

NCpedia before the reno!

Since that time, the content has expanded by more than 26,000 entries, including more than 6,500 encyclopedia articles and the more than 20,000 record volume of the North Carolina Gazetteer (an annotated index of North Carolina place names).  And more than 7,400 images have been incorporated along with maps and interactive features like timelines.  By 2015, it was time for the home to get a reno!

NCpedia is still in Drupal — but the site has received an entire remodel to improve usability, search and find features, and the overall user experience.  We hope you like it!

And if you would like more information about the history of NCpedia, please visit the “About NCpedia” page on the website:  We’ve even included some snapshots of the early days and how far the digital encyclopedia has come.  Today the site includes more than 7,000 articles and more than 7,400 images and receives more than 4 million visits per year.

Check it out!

Kelly Agan, Digital Projects Librarian

State Docs Pick of the Week : Conservation Gardener

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Conservation Gardener title pageConservation Gardener is a, new, semiannual periodical published by the North Carolina Botanical Garden. The goal of this serial is to help people “better understand, appreciate and conserve North Carolina’s natural heritage and build a more sustainable relationship with the natural world”.

In it, you will find articles, pictures, and guides all related to conserving plants and appreciating nature. Some topic examples that you may find include citizen science, wildflowers, garden sustainability, conserving habitats, and other various information and guides related to garden conservation and nature. You can also find information on events held by the North Carolina Botanical Garden.

You can view, download, print, and save this new periodical here.

December 7, Marking the 75th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War II and a new NCpedia biography: the first service person from Western North Carolina, killed at Pearl Harbor

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December 7, Marking the 75th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War II and a new NCpedia biography: the first service person from Western North Carolina, killed at Pearl Harbor

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on U.S. military installations at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese and the U.S.’s official entry into the war on December 8.

NCpedia recently published a new entry on a young gentleman from Yancey County named Weldon Burlison. At barely age 30, Burlison was the first reported World War II casualty from western North Carolina and one of the first reported service personnel from North Carolina who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 4, 1941.  Burlison began his military service in the Marines in 1934 and served there for four years.  Following an honorable discharge at the end of his tour in 1938, he immediately re-enlisted, this time in the Army Air Corps (today the U.S. Air Force).  At the time of the attack, Burlison was stationed at Hickam Field at Pearl Harbor.

Drawing from Weldon Burlison's August 5, 1941 letter to Elsie Edwards. From the military collection of the State Archives of North Carolina. Used with permission.

Drawing from Weldon Burlison’s August 5, 1941 letter to Elsie Edwards. From the military collection of the State Archives of North Carolina. Used with permission.

Weldon Burlison’s story, although the details we have are relatively few, came to NCpedia through the State Archives of North Carolina.  The Archives’ military archivist, Matthew Peek, received a very small collection of materials about Burlison that included primarily a few newspaper articles and his obituary in the Yancey Record along with a few letters and postcards shared between Burlison and a friend, Elsie Edwards.  One of the letters was written by Elsie Edwards just a day after the attack on Pearl Harbor and sends her heartbreaking hope that her friend is O.K. Burlison would of course never receive her letter, and it would take several weeks for the envelope and its contents to make it through the military mail, only to be returned to her marked “deceased.”  Here is an excerpt from the NCpedia entry, including her heart-rending words:

On the morning of December 8, 1941, after hearing the news about Pearl Harbor and knowing where Burlison was stationed, Elsie Edward wrote a two-page, heart-breaking letter to him, hoping he is safe and alive. Elsie began her letter by saying “Of course I have a million things on my mind these days. Right now the uppermost thought is ‘I wonder if Snook is safe, if he’s really all right’.” After noting that Americans had abandoned plans for Christmas in order to pray for those military personnel at Pearl Harbor, Edwards wrote, “And let me tell you Weldon, I am one of your many friends who is praying for you!” She would finish writing the letter by 5 focusing on information related to previous correspondence, but finished her letter saying, “I don’t know of very much to say right now. I can’t even be sure you will receive this but I hope you do.”


Census Tips: 1830 Census

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Map of county boundaries of NC at the beginning of 1830 The census day of the 1830 federal census occurred on June 1st and twelve months were allowed to complete the census. Information given was as of the census day, not the day of enumeration. In cases like this, the census may have been enumerated on  December 1st with an age given as 12, but that age was as of June 1, 1830, so it’s possible there was a birthday between the census day and the date of enumeration.

The 1830 census was the first to have a printed form for enumerators to use. Not only that, but there were two copies. After the census was finished, one copy went to Washington, D.C. while the other copy went to the clerk of the district court. Because of problems with missing pages with earlier censuses, the senate wanted to ensure that they would not have missing records. In some cases, copies that went to D.C. went missing and copies from the clerks of district courts were sent to replace them. The copies in D.C. were the only ones transferred to the National Archives.


Unlike some past years, the 1830 census had no other supplemental forms. Questions in the census asked for name of the head of the household, age ranges for white males, for white females, for slaves, for free persons of color, age ranges for any deaf, asked if any blind, any and aliens not naturalized.

As with all census records, there are a few issues that may cause trouble finding individuals. The biggest hindrance is spelling of names. Things that can affect spelling include accents and literacy of the enumerator. Some things may seem straight forward like Smith, but they could still be enumerated as Smithe, Smyth, or Smythe, for example.

Sometimes the writing can be faded, the page torn, or bad handwriting, which make things hard to read. A tip I have for discerning the letters in a name that are hard to read is to compare to other names within a few pages. For example, If you see a name that is new to you, but hard to read that looks like Joker, take a look at how the enumerator forms all the letters in the name. You might realize that Joker is actually another name. In this case, the first letter in James and Joseph looked the same;  I compared the -o and -er in Robert and it was very clear that it was -o, but not -er; I couldn’t find a -k to compare, but noticed it looked a lot like n -h. At this point, I had Joh-. I saw an Anna and realized the last letter was an -n giving the name John.

The Government and Heritage Library has microfilm and published indexes for all states that were enumerated, specifically: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida Territory, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan Territory, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia.

Come visit us at the Government and Heritage Library and check it out!

Further Reading

Dollarhide, William. The Census Book: A Genealogist’s Guide to Federal Census Facts, Schedules, and Indexes. North Salt Lake, UT: Heritage Quest, 2000.

Dollarhide, William. Census Substitutes & State Census Records: Volume 1 – Eastern States. Bountiful, UT: Family Roots Publishing Company, 2008.

“United States Census 1810.”

Hinckley, Kathleen W. Your Guide to the Federal Census for Genealogists, Researchers, and Family Historians. Cincinnati, OH: Betterway Books, 2002.

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

Szucs, Loretto Dennis and Matthew Wright. Finding Answers in U.S. Census Records. Orem, UT: Ancestry, 2002.

Thorndale, William and William Dollarhide. Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Census, 1790-1920. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1987.

United States Census Bureau. “1790 Census Overview.”


Free printable charts:

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)



State Archives of North Carolina

Government and Heritage Library

This blog is a service of the State Library of North Carolina, part of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Blog comments and posts may be subject to Public Records Law and may be disclosed to third parties.