Tag Archives: Book Reviews

Just for North Carolina Researchers: Guide to County Records in the NC State Archives

Do you have ancestors who lived in or passed through North Carolina and stayed a while? If so, how many times have you checked the North Carolina State Archives to determine what records they might have that are not found at the county court in your location of interest?

In general, state archives are an under-used resource for most genealogists. Many less experienced researchers might have only a slight awareness that there is a state archive repository. Another reason for its under-utilization may be that archive holdings aren’t always the easiest websites to search and, if you find records you’d like to view, they might only be in microfilm format.

North Carolina, in my opinion, has one of the best state archives in the country. I’ve never visited, but it actively adds to its collections, digitizes records left and right AND has a great guide to viewing its holdings for each of the 100 counties in the state.

The Guide to County Records in the North Carolina State Archives, Twelfth Revised Edition, 2009 is a reference book to which every North Carolina researcher should have access.

The format of the book is very straightforward. Each county in the state, presented in ABC order, has a list of Original Records and Microfilmed Records found in the North Carolina State Archives. These records include everything from bonds to election and land records to school records to wills and everything in between. There is also a handy map at the beginning of the book illustrating counties with lost records.

Personally, I prefer books that I can hold in my hand if I need to flip through lots of pages so I found a copy of this book on Amazon for just under $11. The University of North Carolina Press sells the same book for $19.

However, I want to share an even better find that I stumbled on by accident – the State Archives constantly updates the collections list for every county AND they are available for FREE on the website.

Take a look at this:

Guide to Research Materials in the North Carolina State Archives: County Records

There is a Word doc for every county in North Carolina. The file is in the exact same format as the information in the published book, so essentially this is an up-to-date version of the 2009 book, available online. FOR FREE!

If you have North Carolina ancestry, this link should be bookmarked on your computer!



The Covenanters of Scotland 1638-1690 by David Dobson: Book Review

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of review and I have received other books from Genealogical Publishing Company, also for review. However, my opinions are my own and not influenced by outside sources.

Do you have Scottish ancestors who appear in the American colonies in the mid 1600s? If so, they may have emigrated for one of several reasons. They might have left Scotland for better economic prospects or they might have been transported against their will for minor offenses.

It is also possible that your Scottish ancestor left because of religious and/or political turmoil, which was rife in England and Scotland in the 1600s.

Who were the Covenanters? The Scottish Covenanters were Presbyterians who bound themselves to maintain their religious doctrine as the one and only form of religion in Scotland. They were active in both Religious and political scuffles in the 1600s. I actually wrote a post about them in 2021 and listed several resources to learn more about this lesser known group.

One author that I included on the 2021 list is the subject of today’s book review – David Dobson, who is a prolific compiler of early U.K. records. Dobson is a meticulous gatherer of people and facts which would be difficult, if not almost impossible, for most genealogists to uncover on their own in the original records.

The Covenanters of Scotland 1638-1690 is his newest publication.

The book opens with a four-page introduction explaining who the Covenanters were and why they caused so much turmoil. That is followed by a two-page reference list, citing the source for each person’s details, with a very short glossary and several pages of historical black and white images.

The remainder of the book (263 pages) consists of an alphabetized list of identified Covenanters with short sketches detailing their offenses, activities and /or life outcome.


Bruce, Alexander, a servant of mason John Hamilton, a rioter in Edinburgh, imprisoned in Edinburgh Tolbooth, was transported via Leith about the Phoenix of Leith bound for Virginia in April 1666.

If you happen to be a descendant of Alexander Bruce, you’ve just won of genealogy lottery!

Alexander Miller and James Miller, both of Colliston and possibly related given the circumstances, were charged for attending conventicles and both were outlawed on 29 August 1672.

Finally, Patrick or Peter Russell, then in Edinburgh Tolbooth, was transferred to Dunnotar Castle, Kincardineshire, on 29 July 1685, was banished to the Plantations on 18 August 1685, then transported via Leith about the Henry and Francis bound for East New Jersey on 5 September 1685, landed there on 7 December 1685.

While most of the names in the list are men, there are some women, who were charged with anything from harboring a Covenanter to actually rioting in the street!

The entries make for interesting reading even if there are no known Covenanters in the family tree.

David Dobson’s newest book is a must for library collections and for those interested in Covenanter history.

The Covenanters of Scotland 1638-1690 by David Dobson, published by the Clearfield Company, Baltimore, Maryland, 2023, can be purchased online at the Genealogical Publishing Company for $43.00.

Dividing the Land: Book Review

Dividing the Land: Early American Beginnings of Our Private Property Mosaic by Edward T. Price is an oldie, but goodie published in 1995 by The University of Chicago as Geography Research Paper No. 238.

The second portion of the title – Early American Beginnings of Our Private Property Mosaic – is what drew me in as a genealogist who has dug up family roots in many of today’s states.

Take a look at the Table of Contents and see if you, too, might not also be drawn to want to know more about how colonial land was parceled out and how it has transitioned to modern needs.

I. Introduction
1. Framework of the Land
II. The New England Region: Dividing Land by Townships
2. Beginnings: Communal Land Division
3. Diffusion of Townships
4. Tradition Recedes: Commercially Founded Towns
III. The South Atlantic Region: Land Division by Individual Choice
5. Colonial Beginnings
6. Control and Disposition of Land
7. Seventeenth-Century Land Division
8. Eighteenth-Century Colonial Land Division
9. Farms and Plantations in the Colonial South
10. The National Period
IV. The Middle Atlantic Region
11. New York: the Dutch Period, 1624-64
12. New York’s English and American Periods: Lordly Estates and Land Developers’ Tracts
13. Land Division in New Jersey, and on the West Bank of the Delaware River up to 1682
14. Pennsylvania and Delaware: The Penn Proprietorship
V. Louisiana and Texas: Land Division Initiated under France & Spain
15. Louisiana Land Division Patterns
16. The Many Templates of Texas Land Division
VI. Perspective
17. Summary, Conclusion, Aftermath

These six sections are followed by four Appendices, the Glossary, Table of Measures, a 24-page (!!) Bibliography and the index. There are also numerous maps and tables throughout the book, illustrating the many shapes (long and skinny, square, meandering borders, etc.) our land lots took.

As the author points out in the first chapter, the availability of land was the bait that drew settlers to the colonies in the early days and it was land that encouraged our westward expansion. Land was the common denominator that offered the promise of economic opportunity.

However, each of the regions – New England, South Atlantic, Middle Atlantic and Louisiana-Texas – parceled out everything from small lots to huge land grants in very different ways.

Dividing the Land is not one’s typical genealogy book. It is scholarly to the extent that it is filled with footnotes and bibliographic citations, but it is not “dry” reading.

A fascinating look is provided as to how companies ran the business of selling land, how local control soon became the norm, the cultural influences of the English, Dutch, French and Spanish ways of land distribution and the why and how our towns were laid out and settled.

Dividing the Land: Early American Beginnings of Our Private Property Mosaic serves as a mini-encyclopedia to understanding the development of American land ownership.

This book is probably not everyone’s cup of tea because of its limited topic. However, land distribution is an important link to understanding the social, cultural and economic  history of an area, which, in turn, had a strong effect on the lives of each of our ancestors. For that reason, I’d recommend at least reading this book. You will have a much stronger understanding of the grip that land ownership had on our ancestors.

Used copies are available online starting in the $40 range, so it isn’t cheap. Many college libraries have this title in their collections, so check WorldCat for a copy near you that you can browse or read before deciding whether or not to add this book to your reference collection.