Marriage Records Survey: Durham County, North Carolina

Copyright © 2010 by Jordan Jones

Originally published at Used by permission of the author.

I visited the Durham County Register of Deeds, 200 East Main Street, Durham, NC 27701-3649 to survey their marriage records. The office is quite accessible. It is in the middle of downtown Durham, with ample, reasonably priced parking in a parking structure next door. The Register of Deeds is in the basement of the old courthouse, directly across the street from the modern Durham County Government Building.

Access to the records is remarkably open. The records room is located behind the public reception area. One of the clerks lets you in to examine the records on your own. There is good light in the street-level basement where the marriage records are in open filing cabinets. A table, chairs, pencils, and scrap paper are available to researchers.

The records range from 1897 to the present. Because of institutional segregation, African-American and white marriage records are separate from 1897 until 1975. Older records are in plastic sleeves, one to a record. More recent records are in manila pouches, one per month of records.

Although Durham County was established in 1881, and most marriage records are no earlier than December 1898, the earliest marriage record in the office is a marriage certificate dated 27 Feb 1897 but recorded 30 May 1900. The certificate provides the names and ages of the bride and groom (Maggie Williams, 18, and John Mitchel, 22). It also names the father of the bride (Chas. Williams). The parents of the groom are listed as “unknown,” and the mother of the bride as “dead.” This is an African-American record, which may explain some of the gaps in information, as African-American records were not treated with equanimity at the time, and John Mitchel would have been born circa 1875, only ten years after the end of the Civil War.

The office contains only marriage certificates. It does not contain marriage licenses, marriage returns, marriage registers (more on these later), marriage bonds, marriage intentions, or consents for the marriages of minors. (The office also contains other vital records, including original death and birth records. Death certificates are available from 1991 to 2010. Previous records may be out for digitization.) Aside from the gap from 1881-1897, I did not see any gaps in the marriage records. The Family History Library has several reels of microfilmed marriage registers (FHL 812817, FHL 812818, FHL 812819, and FHL 812820, covering the marriage register volumes 1-8 from 1881-1965); the North Carolina State Archives also has these films. The Family History Library also has microfilmed records (FHL 812820) covering marriage licenses from 1898-1905, which are probably the records I was looking at, though they are called marriage certificates on the original documents.

The personnel indicate that there are no known gaps in the records. They did not know where the registers were, but said they might be at the North Carolina State Archives. While the records from 1897-2010 are all available, the index have been temporarily removed for conservation, with a planned return date of the middle of June 2010. Some of the marriage records are stamped as “Filmed by North Carolina Dept. of Archives and History.” There is also a digitization project that is intended to put the death, birth, and marriage records online within the Register of Deeds’ local network.

The records are open to the public. There appear to be no restrictions as to who can view or copy any of the records. Once I found a records I wanted to copy, the clerks directed me to a self-service copier. The copies were a reasonable $0.10 each.

More recent documents, such as the 1975 application, license and certificate of marriage for Lafayette Barnes and Catherine Estes Roberson have more detailed information about the spouses. The records add the birth dates, and not simply the ages of the parties marrying, as well as their birth places, and the birth places of their parents. The forms also include the addresses of the spouses and the addresses of their parents, if they are living and the addresses are known.

Durham County, North Carolina, Marriage Records, unnumbered certificate, 27 Feb 1897, recorded 30 May 1900. John Mitchel to Maggie Williams; Register of Deeds, Durham.

Durham County, North Carolina, Marriage Records, no. 698144, recorded 26 Dec 1975, Lafayette Barnes to Catherine Estes Roberson; Register of Deeds, Durham.

Phil Upchurch 3 upcoming presentations

This was sent out to the Wake County Genealogy Society Members.

Phill Upchurch and his wife will be in NC May
25-June 15, 2010. While in the state, Phil will be making 3
presentations that I want to let you know about.

1. June 8, 2010 at 7:00 PM at the Halle Cultural Center in Apex, N. C.
Title “Houses, Lands, and Histories of Some Western Wake County
Families” By Phil Upchurch and Kim Wrenn. Kim has done extensive
research on homes in western Wake and her work will be showcased in this
presentation. Jointly sponsored by The Apex Historical Society and The
Halle Cultural Arts Center in downtown Apex.

2. June 10, 2010 at 6:30 PM in the Methodist Church in Louisburg, N.C.
Title “Upchurch and Related Families of Franklin County, N. C.” Phil will
have a handout showing intermarriages for the period 1750-1850. Dunn
Township, where the Upchurches lived, was actually a part of Wake County
from 1771 to 1787. Sponsored by the Franklin County Heritage Society.

3. June 13, 2010 at 6:30 PM at Inwood Baptist Church on Lake Wheeler
Road in Wake County. Title “The Formation of Inwood Church and it’s
Impact on People.” Phil’s ancestors helped to form this Church in 1877 and he
grew up in this Church. The presentation will tell of his memories and of
the results of research on the subject. Cousins will perform musically.
Sponsored by The Board of Deacons and the Historical Committee of Inwood
Church. There will be a Church Supper at 5:00 PM in the Hospitality Room
of the Church prior to the meeting to allow all who come to get
acquainted. Please bring a covered dish.

The Public is cordially invited to all three meetings Any publicity you
can give to these three events will be appreciated.

If related to these meeting subjects or would like to contact Phil directly, he can be reached at Phil

Annual Durham Neighborhoods Hike is Saturday, April 10th

Join the Sierra Club and Get Up & Go Durham on April 10th, 2010 at 9:00 AM for our annual neighborhood hike through East Campus, West Durham & beyond. This walking tour will be narrated by our local history lover John Schelp.

Saturday, April 10 at 9:00 AM
Meet at Markham & Buchanan

Was Duke Chapel really going to be built in Walltown? What Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist went to EK Powe school? What song writer for Nora Jones and Lou Rawls was “born on a kitchen table” behind Magnolia Grill? Why is Ninth Street called Ninth Street? Where did Madonna take early dance lessons?

Come along and find out…

1920 Street Map: Trinity College is shown on the right while the Erwin Cotton Mill is on the left (where the three railroad spurs extend north into the mills). The West Durham mill village is north, west and south of the mills. Walltown and Trinity Heights are north of the college while Trinity Park lies to the east. Courtesy of Durham County Library.

The 4-mile loop starts at Markham & Buchanan (at the old City limits).

We’ll start by walking past the homes of Duke’s famous faculty and coaches on Buchanan, including the father of Duke basketball. We’ll go down Watts Street, past Trinity Park park, and then walk across East Campus to Ninth Street.

We’ll stroll up Ninth, past EK Powe, and see the South Ellerbe Creek Nature Area. We’ll walk through an old mill village, see some old liquor houses and a parsonage that was ordered from the Sears catalogue. We’ll continue up Oakland, past Oval Park, and Indian Trail Park in the Watts-Hillandale neighborhood.

We’ll head east along the West Ellerbe Trail in the 17-acre wood, then walk past the old Watts Hospital and cross Club Blvd (near 9th Street). We’ll go down a hidden alley, head over to Walltown and hear about Duke’s original plans to build here. Then through Trinity Heights and back to where we began.

You’ll see a little nature and learn some Durham history along the way. We might even get into current events in the Bull City.

Local history lover John Schelp will narrate along the way. You don’t have to register. Parking is available on streets near Markham and Buchanan.

2008 Walking tour. Image courtesy of Ildar Sagdejev

Co-sponsored by the Sierra Club and Get Up & Go Durham.

Please visit the History of Old West Durham website for more information.

More Durham County Links added

The website was just recently updated with some new links which can be accessed on the right side of the page under the heading Durham County Links:

Duke Special Collections Library
Durham County Library’s North Carolina Collection
Durham County Mailing List
Durham County Message Board (
Durham County Message Board (
Durham County Records Archives
Durham-Orange County Genealogical Society
UNC Southern Historical Collection

SPARROW, Junius H. – (d. 1970)

From the Durham Herald, 17 Nov 1970

Junius H. Sparrow

Chapel Hill – Junius H. Sparrow, 57, of Rt. 6, Chapel Hill, died Monday at his home after suffering an apparent heart attack. Funeral services will be conducted Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church by the Rev. R. H. Kelly. Burial will be in the church cemetery.

Surviving are his widow, Mrs. Lucille Oakley Sparrow; his mother, Mrs. Junius A. Sparrow of Rt. 3, Chapel Hill; three sisters, Mrs. Jessie Williams of Carrboro, Mrs. Martin Sparrow of Rt. 6, Chapel Hill, and Mrs. Robert Wilson of Durham; and three brothers, Waldo of Rt. 6, Chapel Hill, Vernon of Rt. 3, Chapel Hill, and Billy Sparrow of Chapel Hill.

LATTA, J.O. – (d. 1921)

From the Durham Herald, 25 Aug 1921

Mr. Latta suddenly dies in Warehouse

J. O. Latta of Lebanon township
dropped dead at 5 o’clock this after
noon in the Banner warehouse. Heart
trouble was given as the cause of his
death; The deceased was 70 years of

Mr. Latta had come to the city ____
market a quantity of produce and was
walking around in the warehouse when
death came. According to his relatives
he had been in good health recently
and his death came as a severe shock to
relatives and friends.
Surviving are three children, Mrs.
Eva Atkins, Mrs. A. T. Roberts, and
W. I. Latta, the latter being of At-

Funeral services have not been arr-
ranged as yet in the absence of the
son of the deceased who is expected in
the city today.

D-OGS CIG Meeting Summary – January 9, 2010

The Durham-Orange Genealogical Society (D-OGS) Computer Interest Group (CIG) met on Saturday, 9 January 2010 at the Chapel Hill Public Library. There were 10 members in attendance.

Carol Boggs moderated. She opened the meeting with a call for a new monthly CIG moderator to take over. Some of the duties she outlined of the moderator include the following:

–          Organize speakers and meeting presentations

–          Build an agenda and email it to the D-OGS members mailing list, the CIG members list (Carol’s own personal email distribution list – members email addresses are hidden by using the “BCC” method of emailing – this is maintained within an excel spreadsheet that was built from the roll call lists Carol collects during each meeting) to Richard Ellington to include in the newsletter and to the webmaster, Ginger Smith, to include on the meeting announcement page of the D-OGS website

–          Secure and utilize a laptop to hook up to the projector that is provided by the library

–          Collect relevant website addresses emailed from members that can be discussed during the meeting

The group discussed having members rotate as moderators each month. A sign-up sheet was passed around for people to sign up for a month that they would like to moderate. Carol has already secured a speaker for February’s meeting – Luba Sawczyn will discuss the general tools you can use online from home, including NCLive and HeritageQuest. Five other members have already identified a month they will moderate the group. We hope others will sign up for the remaining months.

The group also brainstormed about some CIG program ideas that would be of interest to our members:

–          One member suggested a program on how to do African American research in Orange County. Two of our members are currently doing this in North Carolina and could offer suggestions on how to find the records you are looking for. Carol thought this would make a great publication idea as a Resource Guide as well.

–          Currently two of our CIG members are writing books. We talked about how one decides on various formats and distribution of the books. Carol is using TMG to write her book and is already at 513 pages without pictures or charts! Barbara hopes to put her book on a CD which she will then distribute to family members. She will leave printing options up to the family members. was suggested as a good Print On Demand (POD) publisher source for family members to use to print copies of their family history books. will print either paperback or hardback books on demand and ship.

–          Taking a field trip to a local library

–          How to do Native American research in Orange County and/or North Carolina.

–          A “show and tell” of a research problem that can be shared with the group with the hopes of help on finding or locating resources that would assist in the research efforts

Carol showed pictures of the genealogy section of the new Hillsborough branch of the Orange County Public Library and a layout of where and how it is situated in the library. She showed pictures of equipment, stacks, and the exit door. We are concerned about where all of the materials were transferred to and that the security system is not yet working at the exit, but we understand that it will shortly be in operation according to the library director, Lucinda Munger.

The following links and information were shared with the group:

–          Carol shared the Harvard University Open Collection Program which contains immigration records to the US from 1789-1930

–          Carol shared the Information about social security numbers and what they mean in genealogy terms

–          UNC-G’s Digital Library on American Slavery

–          Nerissa mentioned the book, Branson’s North Carolina Business Directory. Volume 7 which was published in 1890 and is available in full text at Google books. It is divided by counties and is an excellent genealogy resource. Ginger pulled it up at Google books and we took a look at it

–          Holt Anderson reminded us of the Candlelight Tours that go on every December. Hillsboro has its historic homes open each year. They are open and decorated for Christmas

–          What Darwin Never Knew program on the Nova Channel aired on 29 December 2009. Check the website for a transcript or video of this program.

Carol shared her big find on the Reed family she is researching that resulted from an internet query she submitted. One person of interest to her was Samuel Burrage Reed, a Manhattan architect. He built the James A. Bailey House in Harlem. The new owner contacted her to see if she had any information on this house. Ginger googled the house and we watched a video tour of the house.

Ginger showed how to use the Dropbox online utility to store and share files between multiple computers and the internet. This utility can be downloaded from and installed on your PC or Mac. If you are using a PC, the utility will install a folder called “My Dropbox” in the “My Documents” section of windows explorer. Files and folders can then be dropped into this folder. Contents of this folder are then automatically uploaded to the website. Contents can be accessed from any computer with the Dropbox utility. Carol and Ginger are still trying to work out the kinks with the sharing feature of this utility. A file can be shared and in doing so, a link is created which can then be emailed to the person you would like to share the file with. They can use the link to access and download the file.

Our meeting closed with Nerissa who sent around a copy of a will she is transcribing for the Duplin County NCGenWeb site. She needed help transcribing a few words from the will.  We were able to decipher all four words!

Ordering Birth and Death Certificates

All certified copies of birth and death records must be requested and obtained at the Durham County Register of Deeds Office, located on the ground floor of the County Administration Building, at 200 East Main Street. Records will no longer be disbursed at the Public Health Department. The office hours of the Register of Deeds Office are 8:30 to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. The fee schedule for ordering certified copies of birth and death certificates can be found here. Certified copies of birth and death certificates cost $10.00.

For more information call (919) 560-0495 or visit the Durham County Register of Deeds website here.