By: Constance Seger
on May 2000
Last Updated: 2007-05-14 14:59:04
Last year I discovered a resource at Clayton Library that opened a vast window into one of my family branches, a branch that had long been considered a “brick wall” in terms of finding any reliable information. That resource is the microfilm set of the McCubbins Collection of North Carolina.
My “discovery” of McCubbins began with a genealogical puzzle: My great grandfather arrived in Texas in 1865, and among his possessions was a family portrait painted in North Carolina about 1850. This heirloom, hanging in my parents’ home for many years, shows my great grandfather (a boy of 10 or 12) together with two older sisters. When I began my research on this family, no one living knew the names of the sisters or anything about them or other family members prior to their arrival in Texas. The McCubbins Collection helped me solve much of this puzzle.
Mamie Elizabeth Gaskell McCubbins was the wife of a circuit judge in North Carolina in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She had a passion for genealogical research, and as she traveled with her husband on his rounds, she would research families and North Carolina history in the courthouses and communities she visited. She had frequent and extensive interviews and correspondence with private citizens, and many people shared their own family information with her. Mrs. McCubbins kept extensive notes of all her work, transcribing much of the material onto typewritten sheets and making duplicates to accommodate cross referencing in her files. She organized her collection of notes and other resources by surname and by town or county. She also set up general subject headings into which she collected material not specific to a particular surname or locality.
The original papers of the McCubbins Collection are owned by the Edith M. Clark History Room of the Rowan Public Library in Salisbury, North Carolina, but they have been reproduced on microfilm and form a set of 76 reels arranged in alphabetical order by surname or topic. At Clayton Library, these are housed in cabinet 34, drawer 07, in the second floor microprint area. The film contains copies of Mrs. McCubbins’ notes, books, letters, maps, will abstracts, deeds and other court records, genealogies contributed by the various families she contacted, newspaper clippings, and many other items.
The Rowan Public Library has placed no restrictions on reproducing or publishing information from the collection but does request that a proper acknowledgment be included when publishing or citing material from the collection. The Rowan Public Library has a web page at http://www.lib.co.rowan.nc.us/, which provides helpful information on the collection and on methods for using it. From the web page, go to the link History Room and then to Genealogical Materials to find a detailed explanation of the McCubbins Collection.
My own use of the McCubbins Collection has been quite fruitful. Under the surname Harris, I found the notes of a personal interview Mrs. McCubbins conducted in 1925 with the 92-year-old brother-in-law of my great grandfather. In the notes, this elderly gentleman named all the children of that family, including the boy and the two sisters in the painting, another son who had died, and a third daughter (his wife). I learned further that this third daughter was born when their mother died in 1844. He told Mrs. McCubbins of a visit from his nephew, thereby giving me the married name of the oldest sister. With that name, and a lucky “hit” on the Internet, I have now found all the children of that family, who they married, their burial places, their children, and a detailed accounting of the lives of each. This has been one of my most rewarding discoveries in more than 15 years of family research. Of course, Mrs. McCubbins’ notes represent her own interpretation of the facts, so other research must be done to “prove” the information contained therein. From my own experience with the collection, however, I have found that, except for minor details, Mrs. McCubbins’ material is sound.
The information in the McCubbins Collection is extensive and well organized, and I highly recommend it to anyone researching North Carolina ancestors. Browsing through Mrs. McCubbins’ material, I have enjoyed learning about this lovely state, its history, and its people, and I have developed a strong feeling of gratitude toward Mrs. McCubbins for leaving us such a valuable legacy.