Searching the Archives’ State Agency Collection

In addition to writing records retention and disposition schedules and providing records management guidance, the State Archives of North Carolina preserves and makes accessible for research North Carolina’s government records of enduring value. In a previous post, I explained one way of searching our public access catalog, MARS, for county records. Today I will show you a similar strategy for browsing the State Archives’ state agency holdings. These are the records that have transferred custody from their originating agency and have been accessioned into the State Archives collection.

While the County Records collection is organized by – you guessed it – county, the state agency collection is cataloged by an organization unit called the “record group.” Since the Archives contains records dating back to the beginning of state government, you can imagine the number of reorganizations and name changes have affected North Carolina’s state agencies. A particular record series may not have changed dramatically over the course of a few decades, but the originating state agency almost certainly has. Hence, having a key to the state agency record groups is a good beginning point for browsing our archival holdings. For example, if you are looking for Department of Transportation records, it is helpful to know that there are three main transportation-related record groups: Highways (Record Group 64); Transportation (Record Group 80); and Motor Vehicles (Record Group 81).

Let’s use the records of North Carolina’s State Parks to illustrate how to browse the holdings of an entire record group. Record Group 85 is known as the “Parks and Recreation Record Group.” The record group number translates in the catalog as a “MarsId.”  To browse the holdings, follow these steps:

Begin at the State Archives’ public access catalog, MARS. If you have visited our catalog before, the page may default to the sort of search you last performed (Basic Search, Advanced Search, or Search by Call Number). Try selecting “Search by Call Number” in the blue box to the right of the screen:






For this example, select “MarsIds starting” in the drop down box after “Search For:”

MARS id starting

To retrieve search results for all of the
State state_parks_searchParks records cataloged
at the State Archives, enter 85. like in the image to the right and click “Search.”  (note: it is important to add the period after the record group number)

Here are some of the results of that search:


These series-level results typically correspond with a record series from a Records Retention and Disposition Schedule. If you are interested in viewing these or other state agency record series in the Archives’ collection, e-mail a Public Services archivist at

Click to download a PDF key to the State Agency record group codes: mars_state_agency_record_groups

Want more tips on how to use the MARS catalog? Visit our MARS tutorials on YouTube.


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