The Society Archives has been collecting material relating to the history of the Lower Cape Fear and its inhabitants since the 1950s. Today the Archives contains a research library of approximately 3,000 volumes, several thousand photographs, and several hundred cubic feet of archival material.
Genealogical material has been a mainstay of the collections at the Historical Society of the Lower Cape Fear since its inception. Beginning with the work of Ida Brooks Kellam — who scoured deed books, wills, cemetery records, newspapers, and other resources to create a collection of thousands of cards indexing these resources by name, as well as compiling folders of material on hundreds of local families — the Society has long been a key source for genealogists interested in the families of the Lower Cape Fear.
Today, the starting point for any genealogist is our genealogical vertical file, with 8 file drawers of folders on over 1,000 local families. Building on Ida Kellam's research, these files have been maintained over the years as additional newspaper clippings, family correspondence, research notes, and more have been added. This collection is supplemented by a collection of 36 boxes of genealogical notes on many local families compiled by previous researchers. A list of family names covered by these and other collections is available online.
For families or individuals on which files are not available, we also maintain a collection of vital statistics published by the Old New Hanover Genealogical Society and others. These invaluable volumes include indexed census records, cemetery records, tax records, and more, for both New Hanover and the surrounding counties.
Other resources of interest to genealogists include city directories, which often give the occupations of the inhabitants of an address, and the deed research of Elizabeth McKoy, who painstakingly transcribed and indexed tens of thousands of colonial and early 19th century deeds, copying plats by hand over many years.
Architectural researchers — both the merely curious and those who, by vocation or avocation, have taken an interest in architectural history or preservation — will find much of interest in the archives. Better-known structures may have a folder in our vertical file of buildings and houses; other structures are described in a separate vertical file of blocks in the downtown Wilmington area. Additionally, our extensive map collection contains Sanborn Insurance maps for much of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These maps offer detailed drawings of building footprints and note architectural features such as construction materials, number of stories, location of chimneys, property line boundaries, etc.
City directories can provide valuable information about the occupants of a building over the years.
The Archives and Research Library, located in the Latimer House at 126 South Third Street in downtown Wilmington, is open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 AM to 3PM and by appointment — please call us at (910) 762-0492. In addition, researchers are encouraged to contact the archivist by email - /research-center.
Non-members of the Society will be charged a $5.00 reading fee to use the Archives. Also, in-depth research requests by mail, e-mail, or phone will incur a $15.00/hour research fee for society members or a $25.00/hour research fee for non-members.
Photocopies are available by mail.