Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Offline for now. Check back later.

This blog is suspended for the time being.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Benefactors to humanity - pt. 2

The previous post singled out Herman Ferguson of the Olde Mecklenburg Genealogical Society for praise as one of the army of genealogical researchers who transcribe local records, making them more accessible to researchers. Mecklenburg County is lucky to have other diligent researchers compiling and abstracting records of marriages, wills, deeds, and court minutes. We are lucky that one of them - Margaret Hofmann - has agreed to give a talk as part of the library's annual Novello festival of reading in October. Her participation in this high-profile event reflects her importance as a genealogist and researcher and the importance of genealogy as an area of interest among library users. The formal announcement of the Novello line-up will be August 3. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Benefactors to humanity

The Carolina Room relies on book donations more than other branches of the library. Works of history at the town and county level and works of genealogy attract small groups of loyal readers. Extra copies become available infrequently. Over the years, we have received gifts of manuscripts, out-of-print, and rare books that have broadened and deepened the collection.

One type of historical/genealogical work never fails to impress me: the transcription of local records. Diligent researchers have indexed years of old newspapers, combed through handwritten books in county courthouses or ventured out to find and decipher old tombstones. Thanks to such work performed over the past century and more, the Carolina Room has at least partial transcriptions of records from every county in the state, and many in South Carolina as well. A noteworthy recent addition came from Herman Ferguson of the Olde Mecklenburg Genealogical Society, who has expanded his transcription of Mecklenburg County Court Minutes. The most recent volume extends the transcription back to 1764. These records exist in the original form and in microfilm, but reading them is an incredible chore. Herman Ferguson and others like him are benefactors to humanity.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Shifting Periodicals

With the fiscal year drawing to a close, the Carolina Room will be saying goodbye to some online resources and out-of-county newspapers. Budget pressures obliged the library to give up its subscription to NC Law, a Lexis-Nexis product that allowed visitors to the Carolina Room to search the general statutes and case law of North Carolina. (We retain printed copies of the statutes, of course.) For the same reason we will be dropping our subscriptions to the print editions newspapers from Columbia, SC, Greenville, NC and Raleigh. Back issues of the News and Observer are still available in microfilm.

Visitors to the Carolina Room will notice that fewer periodicals are being displayed face out and fewer bound periodicals are on the shelves. We have had to shift them to make room for the growing collection of biographies. The least used of the old periodicals have been moved to storage, though they are still accessible if need be.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Librarian Jane Johnson

Back from New Hampshire!

Our own Jane Johnson has recently returned from the New England Regional Genealogical Conference in Manchester New Hampshire. She was the only public librarian among the 58 speakers at that event. So, in addition to representing the Carolina Room and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library, she represented the whole branch of public librarianship among these professional researchers, archivists, and professors.

Jane's talk was entitled "It Took a Village". She explained to genealogists what kind of information could be gleaned from orphan records. In addition to her point about genealogical research methods, she was also making a historical point about the way early American communities dealt with the problem of children without parents. A court-appointed guardian would agree to be responsible for the care and education of the child - for boys this meant until the age of 21, for girls until marriage. They accepted responsibility for the children in return for reimbursement of expenses. Thus did families - with the guidance of the court - share burdens and insure children's welfare. Orphans had it hard, no doubt. Jane explained that they were prime candidates for dangerous careers that took them far away - like sailor, soldier, miner, or Pony Express rider. (One wonders what life choices female orphans could make if they felt the need for escape.) Even so, an imperfect life within a community was much better than neglect.

For genealogical purposes, Jane explained, orphan records contain a wealth of information - more than the census or even a will might offer. The orphans themselves do not figure as prominently as the guardians and all the tradespeople whom they deal with. From reading the records over the years one learns the names of store owners, cobblers, blacksmiths - anyone who provided goods or services for which the guardians requested reimbursement. Early censuses do not link name to professions, but orphan records do. A genealogist may use them to uncover information about someone who was neither an orphan nor a guardian, but who appeared on account of services rendered.

Thank you, Jane!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Finding Opportunities in Changing Times

"80% of the South's total spindleage" was within 150 miles of Charlotte. - Charlotte Observer, Oct. 29, 1929.

The exhibit space in the hallway outside the Carolina Room gives us a remarkable opportunity to show off our holdings to the world, or at least to the fellow staff members and hardy patrons who make it up to the third floor.

Our new exhibit concerns the history of business in Charlotte. It is entitled "Finding Opportunities in Changing Times". The theme conveys, we hope, an uplifting message to current residents. Generations before ours have also had to wonder what the new basis of Charlotte's prosperity would be. The way forward has always come from developing the assets of the old economic regime. The production of raw materials - gold and cotton - created the first concentrations of wealth here, for instance. When the markets for sellers of those commodities were no longer as strong, the key to a new economic future was the railroad. It had developed to serve the old industries, but it made Charlotte the center of the Southern textile trade. So did road improvements facilitate the growth of the trucking industry here and the steady influx of population lead to growth in real estate, finance, and government. Who knows what the new information infrastructure will lead to?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Geotagging historical images

The two ladies pictured above are stopped at the North Church Street entrance to the Selwyn Hotel, which opened at Church and Trade in 1907.

The Carolina Room's website,, boasts an extensive collection of historic photographs of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. With a little inspiration from other local history libraries and some guidance from the Web Services team here at the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, we can now link those photos to points on a Google map, thus showing the exact modern location of a photograph taken decades ago. For the first results of our efforts in that direction click on the link below.

Leave a comment! Tell us how you like it.