Materials in our Collections

A rundown of what's contained in the Heritage Center's archives...

heritage reading roomResearchers of local history and genealogy can access an exceptional collection of materials in the Margaret McLemore Lee Reading Room and the Brown-Ross Audio-Visual Room. We hold approximately 2,000 books, 800 reels of microfilm, 300 maps/atlases, 50,000 photographic images, 400 private collections of books and papers, and vertical files on genealogy, biography, and local history.
Local history materials relate exclusively to Johnston County, while the focus for genealogical records primarily includes the eastern half of North Carolina and the Virginia Tidewater region.
In addition, genealogy researchers may "roam the world" with us via the Internet! We have subscriptions to and that visitors to our Reading Room may use at one of several public terminals available.

From your own computer, you may do online searches of our catalogued items through the following links from our Website (click on title for immediate access):

Heritage Center's Archival Inventory - including artifacts, photographs, microfilms, maps, audio-visual recordings, and more

Public Library's Online Catalog - including Heritage Center's collection of reference books on local history and genealogy

Some of the materials available for genealogical research at the Heritage Center:

Searchable Databases Online (click on title for immediate access):

Printed Materials:

  • U.S. Census, 1784-1787
  • North Carolina Census Indexes, 1790-1870
  • Johnston County Census Records, 1850-1920
  • Marriages, 1764-1920
  • Wills, 1746-1870
  • Court minutes, 1759-1850
  • Cemetery directories
  • Bible records
  • Family histories, including various materials on file as well as published genealogies
  • Military service records
  • Civil War Collection, including history books and files on various subjects
  • School yearbooks, 1920s to the present: Click here for a list of what we have
  • Historic Architecture Survey files

Microfilm Collections:

  • North Carolina Census Records, 1790-1930
  • Johnston County Deeds, 1759-1947
  • Marriage Register, 1760-1979
  • Wills, 1761-1968
  • Other Courthouse records, starting 1712
  • Church records
  • Civil War prison and service records
  • Newspapers, 19th Century to the present - with obituaries index

What historical items will the Heritage Center accept for our archives?
Click here to read our Acquisition of Artifacts Policy

Researching our collections in person

We welcome any serious researcher to use our library's facilities. We're open 9-5 Monday-Friday and on Saturday by appointment. Admission is free of charge. All materials are non-circulating and not available for inter-library loan. A photocopier and microfilm reader-printer are available for use by our patrons for a nominal fee. Staff members are on duty at all times to help you with your search.

Please visit us in person at:

The Johnston County Heritage Center
241 E. Market Street
(at the corner of Market and Third streets)
Downtown Smithfield, North Carolina
Telephone (919) 934-2836


Requesting information by mail

Image of Historical BooksThe Heritage Center staff, for a fee starting at $30 per hour, will do limited research of records available within our collections and then mail the results to you.

For genealogical information, send us your research request in writing and include the following information: individual name to be researched; dates of birth, death, marriage, etc., if known; and location(town or township) and dates of residence in Johnston County, if known. Please include your e-mail address so our staff can contact you promptly if necessary.

Historical requests (non-genealogical) should also be made in writing. Queries should be made with respect to a specific topic, person, or event, giving precise dates whenever possible. Please include your e-mail address so our staff may contact you promptly if necessary.

A minimum fee of $40 is required for each search request, payable in advance. Actual charges are calculated at $40 per hour required by our staff to fulfill a particular request. (NOTE: A minimum fee of $80 is charged for lineage society research performed by our staff searching for the proofs needed for membership.) E-mail us at to determine how fees may be handled for your particular scenario.

Once you're clear about your charge, make a personal check or money order payable to the Johnston County Heritage Center and mail with your written request for information to:

Johnston County Heritage Center
PO Box 2709
Smithfield, NC 27577

Page last updated:  November 2, 2023