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ECU puts early census records online

(Oct. 24, 2002)   —   Census records that identify the people and places in Pitt County from more than 100 years ago are now easy to find and search thanks to East Carolina University's Joyner Library and its "Pitt County Digital Tobacco History Exhibit."
The exhibit contains county census data from 1900 that can be accessed by anyone, anywhere, at anytime. The records include every piece of information recorded by the census-takers such as occupation, street address, ownership of house or farm and the birthplace of parents.
Over 10,000 records cover residents who lived in and around Bethel, Belvoir, Beaverdam and three different districts of Greenville. About a third of the total population of Pitt County in 1900 is covered and the addition of more township records are planned.
Maury York, the head of the library's North Carolina Collection, said the digitization of the census records is a multi-year project, and every effort is being made to ensure accurate transcriptions from original handwritten records that are being transcribed from microfilm.
"This project is a reflection of our commitment to make our collections accessible to anyone, including schoolchildren and teachers in our area," he said.
This census data is useful in various types of research including genealogical, economic, sociological, geographical, agricultural, and many others, as well as valuable to those whose families lived in Pitt County at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. The information can be searched in different ways, making access to detailed records quick and easy. By having the complete data in the census records transcribed, researchers will be able to perform research on any and all aspects of the census records.
York described the census data as the centerpiece of the "Tobacco" exhibit in that it helps people to understand the socioeconomic context surrounding the tobacco industry in Pitt County in 1900. The information shows the wide range of occupations such as auctioneers, processors, buyers and others employed in the tobacco business outside of the farm.
"When studying history, it is important to look not only at those people who are famous but also the more obscure citizens from the past in order to better understand the time and place being studied," he said.
Joyner Library provides the students and faculty of ECU, as well as the eastern North Carolina community, with a wealth of resources for learning and research. With over one million printed volumes, and over 1 million microforms, housed in a modern and expansive four-story structure, it is the largest library in North Carolina east of Raleigh.
The "Pitt County Digital Tobacco History Exhibit" is one of four online exhibits included among the "Eastern North Carolina Digital History Exhibits." The exhibits along with the census records are available on the Internet at http://www.lib.ecu.edu/exhibits.