Research at the Wilkes Heritage Museum
I work in Wilkesboro at the Wilkes Heritage Museum which offers an impressive 20,000 square feet of exhibits throughout the old courthouse, the 1859 jail, and the Robert Cleveland house. Everyone who visits is amazed at the wide-variety of artifacts that are on display to tell the story of the county's history. Information on touring the museum is available on the Wilkes Heritage Museum website
. But that's not all the museum offers.
The Wilkes Heritage Museum occupies the old Wilkes County Courthouse.
Many people aren't aware that the museum also offers a variety of resources for researching genealogy and Wilkes County history. As the museum is a non-profit organization, a donation is requested for these services. It's important that you call ahead before visiting to be sure that staff will be available to help you find what you need.
Here are some of the research tools that are available at the museum:
- The George and Joyce McNeil Cemetery Database
This database includes over 54,000 burials across 750 cemeteries in Wilkes County. Much of this research was done in the 1980s and 1990s, and some of the cemeteries no longer exist. Each cemetery is entered with GPS coordinates, and a Google map of all of them is available at the museum.
- Map Collection
A wide variety of maps from the 1800s and 1900s are available for research. Some maps are narrowly focused on a few streets in town; some are state-wide maps; and many are somewhere in between. One of the earliest maps shows the street layout of downtown Wilkesboro in 1848.
- Sanborn Insurance Maps
These color-coded maps provide a unique view of what the towns of Wilkesboro, North Wilkesboro, and Ronda looked like in the early 1900s. They show the locations of stores, factories, homes, roads, railroads, and any other structures that represented a fire risk to the town. These maps have been digitally overlaid on today's map to illustrate what the areas looked like over 100 years ago.
- Photos Collection
A continuously-growing collection of scanned photos showing the people and places of Wilkes County. The earliest photos are from the mid-1800s.
- Civil War Soldiers
A list of Civil War soldiers who had ties to Wilkes County provides the regiment and company that the soldier served in. This can be used to look up the soldier's record in the 20-volume book series "North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865: A Roster". Most of the men on this compiled list lived in Wilkes County. Some were from surrounding counties who happened to enlist in Wilkes.
- Genealogy Room
The genealogy room includes family history research and books compiling various county records such as censuses, deeds, births, deaths, marriages, and court records. Most of these books are for Wilkes County, but there are also some that pertain to surrounding counties.
- Research Library
Similar to the genealogy room, the research library includes a wide-ranging collection of books about the places and culture of Wilkes County. Topics include music, schools, churches, moonshine, NASCAR, Daniel Boone, the Civil War, and the early settlements of Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro. File cabinets include folders for loose papers on hundreds of topics. Scrapbooks and photo albums are also available in the reserach library.
- History Programs
Throughout the year, the museum provides special programs on a particular aspect of the county's history. Past and future programs include the use of herbs in the nineteenth century, the history of beekeeping, the early settlement of the Yadkin River, and stories about Stone Mountain families.
- Research Assistance
Call ahead to make sure museum staff will be available to help you find what you're looking for.
- Volunteer Opportunities
If you enjoy history and want to be with like-minded people, consider volunteering at the museum! Volunteer opportunities can include greeting visitors, giving tours, and other tasks depending on your interests and abilities.
See the Wilkes Heritage Museum website
for more information about tours, upcoming events, and support opportunities. Or call the museum at 336-667-3171.
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222 Sundance Cir
Statesville, NC 28625
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