North Carolina Office of Archives & History Department of Cultural Resources
Historical Publications Section The Colonial Records Project
Jan-Michael Poff, Editor
Historical Publications Section
4622 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-4622
Phone: (919) 733-7442
Fax: (919) 733-1439
'Colonial Records Project'
Colonial Records

Last Updated 5/06/11


Since 1961, the North Carolina Colonial Records Project has sought to increase accessibility to the State’s colonial, Revolutionary, and early national history.

In order to realize this goal, the project publishes a series of volumes containing documents foundational to an understanding of the colonial period of that history. It also has undertaken long-term programs of copying documents in foreign repositories.

The accomplishments of both the publication and copying components of the Colonial Records Project have been recognized nationally in various ways: scholarly reviews, financial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and numerous private sources, and the grant of the coveted Award of Merit by the American Association for State and Local History.

Although the North Carolina Colonial Records Project is an agency of state government, from the beginning the project has also enjoyed substantial and crucial private support.



Generations of researchers are familiar with the ten-volume series The Colonial Records of North Carolina, edited by William L. Saunders and published from 1886 to 1890. This series was shortly followed by the twenty volumes of The State Records of North Carolina (1895-1911), edited by Walter Clark.

In 1963 a new series of Colonial Records was launched. The inaugural volume of The Colonial Records of North Carolina [Second Series] printed the key constitutional documents of early Carolina, such as royal charters and the Fundamental Constitutions. Volumes II-VI focus on records of the various higher courts in the colony to 1730, while volumes VII-IX concern the Council, the body advising proprietary and royal governors on the exercise of their extensive powers. The documents in volumes X-XII will tell the story of the Church of England in colonial North Carolina. Subsequent volumes will have as their themes the governorship of Arthur Dobbs (1754-1765); and the Regulation, the important sociopolitical movement of the later colonial era.

The exacting editorial standards of selection, transcription, annotation, and indexing so apparent throughout the second series have drawn scholarly acclaim, as have the substantial introductions to each volume.

The latest venture in publication is a series of softcover titles featuring selected documents on themes such as society, piracy, warfare, religion, slavery, Indians, and the family, among others. It is envisioned that these publications will be of use to established scholars, and also suitable for introducing students to the richness of early North Carolina’s documentary legacy. Titles in this series include Society in Early North Carolina, edited by Dr. Alan Watson, North Carolina Headrights: A List, 1663-1744, compiled by Caroline B. Whitley, and African Americans in Early North Carolina, edited by Dr. Alan Watson.

Overseas Copying Program

The program of locating and copying documents in foreign repositories began in 1969, and until 1993 it employed fulltime, resident researchers in England and Scotland. During these years over 75,000 items were individually described, copied (microfilmed or photocopied), and placed in the State Archives of North Carolina for use by the public. The work in both nations was supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and by private and State funding. The great majority of these documents have never been published, and in their totality they illuminate many aspects of North Carolina’s early history that before had been shrouded in shadow. The Colonial Records has drawn extensively on the overseas items for that series and will do so increasingly in the future. Access to more and more of the material is facilitated by use of MARS the electronic finding aid developed by the State Archives, with staff of the Colonial Records Project adding descriptions on a continuing basis.

The Carolina Charter Corporation
An indispensable source of encouragement and support for the Colonial Record Project from its inception, the Carolina Charter Corporation has provided much of the funding for research and copying in foreign repositories. This organization, with a membership drawn from public-spirited citizens of the State, sponsored the copying programs in England and Scotland, as well as a similar effort in Ireland. Currently the corporation is sponsoring a preliminary search for French-language documents relating to North Carolina. Major funding for the work of the Carolina Charter Corporation has come from the North Carolina Society of the Cincinnati, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Kellenberger Foundation, in addition to gifts from numerous other organizations and individuals.

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