I’ve been creeping around the Carolina Room at the Uptown library for the last week and I’m not sure what I’m looking for yet but I’m positive Thomas Cole, local historian and librarian manning this third-floor special collections post, has no idea what to do with me. After all, most people come up here with a specific research project in mind and, according to Tom, most of them are retirees.
What can I say? I like books, silence, wifi, old stuff and Charlotte and this room abounds in all.
The Carolina Room houses the state’s largest genealogical collection in a public library with more than 40,000 bound volumes available for on-site review (nothing leaves the room). They’ve got biographical and surname files, archival materials, music archives, census records, photographs, maps, newspapers and more. I love it.
Although my new friend (who doesn’t know he’s my friend) Tom is skeptical this collection is of interest to our “young Charlotte” audience, I think there’s more than enough reason to drop by. Here are three…
(1) You can research the history of your neighborhood.
The filing cabinets to the right when you walk in store neighborhood files filled with newspaper clippings, posters, maps and other artifacts that tell the untold story of your favorite hoods. I dug out folder 2/3 of the Plaza Midwood collection and found all kinds of cool stuff. It’s kind of just a jumbled mess and I like that because I am kind of a jumbled mess and I also get to feel like an explorer. There is no Google, no CTRL+F. Just dig.
(2) You can research the history of your family.
My paternal Granddaddy Donald keeps a thorough record of Levans history so I know some things but not enough about who we were as a family before I was me. Knowing what I do know, I found my way to the Georgia section of the genealogical archives and a Roster of the Confederate Soldiers of Georgia. There in plain black and white on the Muster Roll of Company K, 34th Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry of the Confederate States of America is my great-great-granddaddy Pleasant Levans (spelled wrong but definitely the right guy). I know this part of my history but I’ve never held it in my hand like that and it is a moment best described as intense. You, too, can stand mouth agape in the Carolina Room staring at a page and wondering how you’ll be immortalized 150 years from now in 34 characters: “No later record.” (We actually have lots of later records. Here he is in 1890.)
You can pick up a free family tree chart to help guide you through the research process as far back as seven generations, but use a pencil because extra copies are 25 cents if you mess up.
(3) You can just explore.
There’s a lot of cool stuff in here, some of it enlightening and some of it disheartening but all of it a little piece of who we are as a whole.