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Martha McFarlane McGee Bell

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In honor of women’s history month, we will look at some articles about women from NCpedia as examples of how to trace your female ancestors. This post will focus on verifying the marriages of Martha McFarlane McGee Bell, born around 1735 and died about 1820.

Background

Martha first married John McGee about 1759. According to published memoirs about Martha (see source list below), John had been previously married with two children of his own. John left a will in 1774. At the time of John’s decease, there were five children. A few years later around 1779, Martha married William Bell. Martha died in 1820 while William died in 1821.

Problem

Although there are multiple sources that share information about her, few of them cite documentation to prove any of it. In the absence of reliable sources to back up the information, it is necessary to verify as much as possible through original records.

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Celebrating African American History Month: New in NCpedia

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Celebrating African American History Month: New in NCpedia

NCpedia has new entries to celebrate North Carolina’s African American heritage. These entries were shared with NCpedia by a number of our valued content partners and collaborators: the North Carolina Arts Council, North Carolina State University Libraries, and the State Archives of North Carolina. Visit NCpedia to learn more — and if you have a comment, question or personal story to share about these biographies and historical moments, please let us know by contributing a comment on the article page!  We love to hear from viewers!

African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina: Kinston Area: This article introduces viewers to Kinston’s musical heritage and serves as a launch point for a collection of related biographies and stories:

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Lieutenant J. Tim Brymn, director of the U.S. 350th Field Artillery Band. Image provided by University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives.

John Henry Fortescue: Becoming Guitar Shorty — an entry about a one-of-a-kind, self-taught blues musician from Elm City.

Maceo and Melvin Parker: Early Influences — legendary brothers from Kinston, the Parkers both performed with James Brown and went on to their own solo careers. Maceo Parker received the North Carolina Heritage Award in 2016.

James Brown Band: “Almost Like a Kinston Band”— shares the legendary musician’s influence on and discovery of Kinston musicians.

Geneva Perry: From the International Sweethearts of Rhythm to Adkin High — Geneva Perry, a member of the 1940s all-women, multi-racial big band the International Sweethearts, taught music at Kinston’s Adkin High School.

Adkin High School Walkout 1951, Kinston, NC — shares the historical moment in 1951 when students of Kinston’s racially segregated high school staged a walkout to protest after their plea to the school board for educational resources was denied.

James Timothy Brymn — a Kinston musical legacy and early Jazz composer, Brymn studied at Shaw University and then went on National Conservatory of Music of America. His legendary compositions of the early decades of the 20th century were among the first to use the word “jazz.”

Dazelle Foster Lowe — shares the story of a leader in the establishment of home demostration for the state’s black communities beginning in World War I.

John William Mitchell — Mitchell, a pioneer in the establishment of extension service support for African Americans in North Carolina in the early decades of the 20th century became the first head of the newly created extension service office at N.C. A&T in 1922.

James William Alston — shares the life of a North Carolinian who served in the U.S. Army, worked at the State Museum (today’s Museum of Natural Sciences) and was among the first class of African Americans to be trained as military officers at the all-African American officers training school at Fort Dodge, IA on the eve of World War I.

— Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

End of year gift for fans of North Carolina history, heritage and culture: NCpedia’s new website goes live today!

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End of year gift for fans of North Carolina history, heritage and culture: NCpedia’s new website goes live today!

Greetings old friends of North Carolina’s online encyclopedia, the NCpedia — and new and future friends too!

The new and improved NCpedia! December 2016.

The new and improved NCpedia! December 2016.

After several months of planning, design, programming and testing, NCpedia now has a brand new and updated user interface as of this morning. Same great content — no change there — but with an entirely new look and feel and user experience.

The site traces its history back before the dawn of the web, to frequently asked questions and then brochures created by librarians at the State Library to answer those questions.

Eventually those questions found their way into HTML pages in the 1990s, and then they coalesced into an encyclopedic collection called the eNCyclopedia.  By 2009, the content had grown to several hundred pages — and the site needed to find a new home in a content management system that allowed for expansion, search and a better user experience. The encyclopedia got a new home in Drupal and a new name — and NCpedia was launched.

NCpedia before the reno!

NCpedia before the reno!

Since that time, the content has expanded by more than 26,000 entries, including more than 6,500 encyclopedia articles and the more than 20,000 record volume of the North Carolina Gazetteer (an annotated index of North Carolina place names).  And more than 7,400 images have been incorporated along with maps and interactive features like timelines.  By 2015, it was time for the home to get a reno!

NCpedia is still in Drupal — but the site has received an entire remodel to improve usability, search and find features, and the overall user experience.  We hope you like it!

And if you would like more information about the history of NCpedia, please visit the “About NCpedia” page on the website: http://www.ncpedia.org/about.  We’ve even included some snapshots of the early days and how far the digital encyclopedia has come.  Today the site includes more than 7,000 articles and more than 7,400 images and receives more than 4 million visits per year.

Check it out!

Kelly Agan, Digital Projects Librarian

December 7, Marking the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into World War II and a new NCpedia biography: the first service person from Western North Carolina killed

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December 7, Marking the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into World War II and a new NCpedia biography: the first service person from Western North Carolina killed

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on U.S. military installations at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese and the U.S.’s official entry into the war on December 8.

NCpedia recently published a new entry on a young gentleman from Yancey County named Weldon Burlison. At barely age 30, Burlison was the first reported World War II casualty from western North Carolina and one of the first reported service personnel from North Carolina who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 4, 1941.  Burlison began his military service in the Marines in 1934 and served there for four years.  Following an honorable discharge at the end of his tour in 1938, he immediately re-enlisted, this time in the Army Air Corps (today the U.S. Air Force).  At the time of the attack, Burlison was stationed at Hickam Field at Pearl Harbor.

Drawing from Weldon Burlison's August 5, 1941 letter to Elsie Edwards. From the military collection of the State Archives of North Carolina. Used with permission.

Drawing from Weldon Burlison’s August 5, 1941 letter to Elsie Edwards. From the military collection of the State Archives of North Carolina. Used with permission.

Weldon Burlison’s story, although the details we have are relatively few, came to NCpedia through the State Archives of North Carolina.  The Archives’ military archivist, Matthew Peek, received a very small collection of materials about Burlison that included primarily a few newspaper articles and his obituary in the Yancey Record along with a few letters and postcards shared between Burlison and a friend, Elsie Edwards.  One of the letters was written by Elsie Edwards just a day after the attack on Pearl Harbor and sends her heartbreaking hope that her friend is O.K. Burlison would of course never receive her letter, and it would take several weeks for the envelope and its contents to make it through the military mail, only to be returned to her marked “deceased.”  Here is an excerpt from the NCpedia entry, including her heart-rending words:

On the morning of December 8, 1941, after hearing the news about Pearl Harbor and knowing where Burlison was stationed, Elsie Edward wrote a two-page, heart-breaking letter to him, hoping he is safe and alive. Elsie began her letter by saying “Of course I have a million things on my mind these days. Right now the uppermost thought is ‘I wonder if Snook is safe, if he’s really all right’.” After noting that Americans had abandoned plans for Christmas in order to pray for those military personnel at Pearl Harbor, Edwards wrote, “And let me tell you Weldon, I am one of your many friends who is praying for you!” She would finish writing the letter by 5 focusing on information related to previous correspondence, but finished her letter saying, “I don’t know of very much to say right now. I can’t even be sure you will receive this but I hope you do.”

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