Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, January 6, 2014 8:48 pm

19th-century records in Franklin County destroyed

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:48 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I don’t know whether this happened out of malice or just ignorance, but either way it’s terrible: Franklin County, N.C., records dating to the 1840s and only recently re-discovered in a courthouse basement were destroyed, apparently before many of them could be cataloged.

Now, in fairness, N.C. law allows certain public records to be destroyed after certain periods of time. But it does not require them to be destroyed, and some records, such as land deeds, are supposed to be maintained pretty much in perpetuity. I’d like to think that everything was done correctly here, but, as the author points out, the way it was handled, we just don’t know. And even if nothing was destroyed illegally, there is a nontrivial possibility that a bunch of stuff that everyone from professional historians to amateur genealogists would like to look at is gone forever.

UPDATE: A follow-up post. More details, but no more real knowledge.


  1. This is more than just a loss of history. If there were land deeds or documents destroyed, this smells of cover up. During winter break I happen to be doing some research on my family in this county(Louisburg), I learned that there were several free African American families who owned land in Franklin and other NC counties pre civil war. Many of these families no longer own this land and they migrated to towns like Durham and Greensboro. We know that some African Americans who owned land in the south had that land taken away or were driven off the land. Could this be the case here?

    Comment by rasjames — Wednesday, January 8, 2014 9:44 am @ 9:44 am

  2. I’m not ruling out the possibility of malfeasance, I’m just saying that we don’t have enough information now to be able to say either way on this point. But since I posted this, the comments on the posts to which I link have provided additional background and context, none of which makes the state archives folks look good. This bears watching and digging, and as Franklin County is in Raleigh’s back yard, I’m hoping that The News & Observer and can dig deeper into this and get more facts.

    Ultimately, someone needs to be held accountable, and by “held accountable,” I mean “fired,” at the least. Even if no crime was committed, we can say even on the basis of the information made public only to this point that this case involved grossly inappropriate behavior by an agency charged with preserving records rather than destroying them.

    Comment by Lex — Wednesday, January 8, 2014 11:47 am @ 11:47 am

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