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Census Tips: Mortality Schedule

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Mortality schedule of the 1850-1880 census

The Mortality schedule of the U.S. Federal Census was very useful to genealogists. Many states, including North Carolina, did not issue death certificates until the 1900s. The mortality schedule may in some cases allow you to find a death date. Although only enumerating four years, if your ancestor happened to die and was enumerated, the schedule can be a great substitute of a death certificate.

entries on a 1850 Morality Schedule of NC

entries from the Bladen County, NC 1850 mortality schedule page 49

The people who appear in the schedules died within the year prior to census day, which was June 1st for 1850-1880. Only those whose death was recorded died between June 1st of the previous year and May 30th of the current year.  If a death is dated between June and December, it occurred in the preceding year (i.e., 1849, 1859, 1869, or 1879, depending on the year of the mortality schedule it appears in). If the month of death is listed as sometime between January and May, they are for the current year (i.e., 1850, 1860, 1870, or 1880, depending on the year of the mortality schedule).


City Directories: Street Directory

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In the last installment of this series of city directories, I talked about tracing the Pettiford Family in Raleigh City Directories. Today’s topic is about the street directory found within city directories. These can be very helpful in your research. For example, the census may tell you where they lived, but who owned the house they lived in? Some census records in the 1900s will show if they owned or rented a house, which is helpful, but what about the years between the census? City directories help fill in the gap and the street directory can tell you who owned the houses where they lived as well as neighboring houses. Some census years don’t include streets, so the street directory can show where exactly they lived as well as if and when they moved.

Street Directory from the 1918 Raleigh City Directory

Street Directory from the 1918 Raleigh City Directory

I also learned a few interesting things investigating the Pettiford family in the street directory. Many of the places they lived no longer exist or have become businesses or churches, rather than homes. I’ll talk more about this in the next installment of the series this summer. Another thing I learned was about how the city was constructed from 1875-1930 – did you know Oberlin Road was considered a suburb? Almost the entire population of the city of Raleigh lived in what is now the downtown area. Very interesting to see how the city was constructed during this time. So let’s dig in!

Street Directory of 1875

Before 1911, the street directory was little more than a listing of the streets and where they started and ended. In 1875, the first city directory for Raleigh, there was no street directory, but R L Pettiford was living at the end of Johnson St., which went west to city limits according to a later directory. Johnson Street does not exist anymore, but there is a W. Johnson that gives an idea of where it was located.

Street Directory of 1880, 1891

In 1880, R. L. is not listed, but there is an Elizabeth Pettiford living on McDowell Street 1 block north of Lenoir Street. This gives us an exact location of where she lived. The directory for both 1880 and 1891 is very similar: name of street, the beginning location, direction of the street, and the end. Example: “South Person st, from Newbern ave to South st.”

Street Directory 1883

In 1883, the street directory is a bit different. It’s two pages long and written in essay style. Each paragraph lists all the streets that run east-west between two streets that run north-south. There is no directory for 1886.

Street Directory of 1887-1888, 1896

The directories for 1887-1888 and 1896 are examples of another format for the street directory. In this case, they list the city broken into east, west, north, and south. The East side includes Wilmington, Blount, Person, Bloodworth, East, and Swain. As the map shows, all these streets run north-south. Also, the first street listed is the most western street and Swain the furthest east. The west side starts with Salisbury street (parallel to Wilmington) and moves further west. South side begins with Morgan and continues further south, while the north side begins with Edenton and moves further North. Do you see a pattern here? The first four streets listed for each side bound the state capital building. That helps to understand the layout of the city and how the capital building is the center of the city back then. Unique to 1887, there is a map of the city. This map is what is now the downtown area, but some of the streets have different names. Remember back in 1875, R. L. Pettiford lived on Johnson St.? Well this map shows that the street now known as Peace used to be called Johnson.

Street Directory of 1899-1930

Beginning with 1899, Raleigh street directories provide a lot more information. In 1899, the Pettiford family lived on Oberlin Road, but at this time, it is not even listed. In fact, Oberlin is not even listed until 1905, where it says:

Oberlin – (suburb) one mile northwest of city

It continues to say that until 1909. In 1909, there is another line that reads:

Oberlin Road – north from 1107 Hillsboro to Oberlin

Homes on Oberlin Road were finally listed in 1923, but only a few. In 1924, a few more homes were included, and even more in 1925; it wasn’t until 1927 that enough homes were counted to include the Pettiford family members.

The street directory became more detailed in 1907 and continued in the same format through 1930, which is the most recent I viewed for the purpose of this series. For example, in 1917 Alvin B. Pettiford was living at 521 S Wilmington. In the Street Directory, the entry reads “Wilmington S – south from 102 New Bern Av” and beneath that a listing of every home on that street with the owner’s name. 521 S Wilmington was owned by Alvin B. Pettiford.

Home Ownership

As I mentioned earlier, you can find out who owned the home. In the example of 521 S Wilmington, the street directory shows that Alvin owned that home. Another entry in 1917 lists Betty Pettiford, who lived at 521 S Person. According to the street directory in 1917, Ann Mitchell owned the home at 521 S Person. In 1918, Ann Mitchell still owned that home, but in 1919, 521 S Person was owned by John Reaves, and Ann Mitchell (as Anna) owned the home at 713 S Person. I looked back at 713 S Person in 1918 and 713 S Person was vacant. This is good to show how a person can own a home on the same street multiple years, but they were actually different houses.

The 1900 census was the first to ask if the home was rented or owned. The presents an opportunity to use the street directory to find out who owned the home. If you are trying to trace the home ownership of a house, the street directory can help.

The Government and Heritage Library has Raleigh City Directories from 1875-2016. Come and visit us to take a look.

Two African American Newspapers Newly Available Online – Baltimore Afro-American & Norfolk Journal and Guide

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The Government and Heritage Library has two African American newspapers newly available for online research: The Baltimore Afro-American and The Norfolk Journal and Guide! Both newspapers are accessible through the ProQuest Historical Newspapers database.

Currently, these databases are available on site AND to North Carolina state agency employees anywhere with their State Library card. Users may perform keyword and advanced searches as well as browse by publication year, month, and issue number.

The Baltimore Afro-American – Coverage: 1893 – 1988

Provides full text and citation/abstract coverage from April 29, 1893 to February 6, 1988, with some exceptions. This weekly newspaper is published in Baltimore, Maryland, and is still in print with current issues available at

From the newspaper’s Facebook page (accessed 2017-02-24):

The Afro-American Newspaper was founded in 1892 by John Henry Murphy Sr., a former slave, when he combined his church newspaper “The Sunday School Helper” with two other Baltimore newspapers. Murphy led his newspaper to national fame by the time of his death in 1922, when it was led by his son Carl Murphy, who headed the paper for 45 years and established 13 national editions. Many prominent Black journalists and writers have worked for the Afro-American, including William Worthy, J. Saunders Redding, and Langston Hughes. It remains in the Murphy family, today led by publisher John Oliver.

Other reading about the history of the Baltimore Afro-American can be found here: PBS – Newspaper Biographies: The Afro-American

The Norfolk Journal and Guide – Coverage: 1916 – 2003

Provides full text and citation/abstract coverage from September 30, 1916 – December 30, 2003, with some exceptions. This paper was published in Norfolk, Virginia, and was founded on April 14, 1900. It is still printed today with new issues available at

From the newspaper’s Facebook page (accessed 2017-02-24):

The New Journal and Guide is Virginia’s oldest Black weekly newspaper and part of what makes Norfolk great. Now celebrating more than 100 years of continuous publication, we are a proud member of the African American Press comprising some 300 newspapers across the nation.

Other reading about the history of the Norfolk Journal and Guide can be found here: PBS – Newspaper Biographies: Norfolk Journal and Guide

Questions about these resources or researching at the Government and Heritage Library? Please feel free to email us at slnc.reference[at]ncdcr[dot]gov or call 919-807-7450!

Census Tips: 1840 Census

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Map of North Carolina during the 1840 census

Image courtesy of LEARN NC.


The 1840 census began June 1st and ended February 1st of 1841. Information given was as of the census day, not the day of enumeration. In cases like this, the census may have been enumerated on December 1st with an age given as 12, but that age was as of June 1, 1840, so it’s possible there was a birthday between the census day and the date of enumeration.

As in 1830, the 1840 census had a printed form for enumerators to use. Unlike other years, there were no missing census pages for any state. Also, a new state and territory were included: Iowa and the Wisconsin Territory. Although Oregon became a territory by 1840, it was not included.


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