While some Virginians may have moved south to the Albemarle region of North Carolina as early as the 1650s, the formal settlement of the colony began in 1663 when the King of England granted huge tracts of territory to eight of his nobles, who would be known as the Proprietors. North Carolina grew very slowly and in 1729, the Crown bought back the lands from all of the Proprietors except one, Lord Granville, and North Carolina became a royal colony. In the 1770s, the colony declared its independence along with the other colonies and became the State of North Carolina. All of these changes affected what records were made and kept.
North Carolina did not grow largely from east to west. Instead most of the colonial settlers came south from Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia into the central Piedmont area and then eventually heading west and south. The most important route to the new lands was the Great Wagon Road (also known as the Great Valley Road).
Go to: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Great_Valley_Road
Beginning with 2 counties, North Carolina grew and changed until today there are 100 counties. Important tip for genealogists: When a new county is formed, the old records for that geographical area stay with the old county. You may need to look at more than one set of county records, even if your ancestors stayed in the same place.
Use this chart to find when a county was formed and from what other counties: North Carolina County formation.
Go to: https://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/research/genealogy-and-family-history/family-records/nc-county-formation
This slide show will let you watch North Carolina grow.
Go to: http://www.usgennet.org/usa/nc/state2/amap/nccf.html
Guides to Research in North Carolina:
Marriage records may be found sporadically as far back as the 1700s. They may be public or church records. Marriage licenses since 1868 were usually filed with the county Register of Deeds office. Marriage notices may also be found in newspapers.
Statewide registration of births and deaths began in 1913 although a few cities or counties may have some earlier records. These records were normally kept by the Register of Deeds for each county. Both births and deaths are supposed to be registered in the county where the event happened.
North Carolina Vital Records Guide
Information and links for finding North Carolina Birth, Marriage, and Death Records.
Go to: https://www.ncgenealogy.org/researchguides/vitalrecordsguide/
A Note about FamilySearch.org
Online birth sources include:
Print birth sources include:
Online bastardy bonds (Illegitimate children):
Print bastardy bonds (Illegitimate children):
Online marriage sources include:
Print marriage sources include:
Online divorce sources include:
Print divorce sources:
Online death sources include:
Wills, estate files, and other probate records may also provide a death date along with other information on a family:
According to the Archives of North Carolina, "Since 1760, original wills were under the jurisdiction of the county in which it was probated. Prior to 1760, wills were filed with the Secretary of State and are maintained with these records. When an individual died without a will, the probate of their estate is maintained in separate Estate files."
Archives has the North Carolina Loose Estates, County Index.
Washington County, TN includes early settlers from North Carolina, and was originally part of North Carolina. Washington County was formed from Washington District in 15 November 1777 by Act of the General Assembly of North Carolina. N.C. ceded the land to the Continental Congress on December 22, 1789. In 1792 North Carolina annexed back some land from Washington County and in 1796 the remainder of Washington County became part of the new State of Tennessee.
More and more records and books are being placed online. The sites below are important for North Carolina research.
North Carolina Newspapers Index
Find what North Carolina newspapers were printed in a county or city: North Carolina Newspapers Index, a pdf file.
This is NOT an index to newspaper contents.
Go to: http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p249901coll22/id/18084
Guide to Newspapers on Microfilm in the North Carolina State Archives
Guide to Newspapers on Microfilm in the North Carolina State Archives.
Go to: https://files.nc.gov/dncr-archives/Guide_Master_May_2019.pdf
North Carolina Newspaper Locator
Also search the North Carolina Newspaper Locator for newspaper microfilm by county, town, title, or date range housed at the N.C. Government & Heritage Library.
Go to: https://statelibrarync.org/newspaper/
Genealogical Indexes and Abstracts of Newspapers
Search the State Library of North Carolina's Genealogical Indexes and Abstracts of Newspapers to find indexes to genealogical information in Newspapers. These indexes are located in the State Library's Genealogical Research Room unless otherwise indicated.
Go to: http://statelibrary.ncdcr.libguides.com/c.php?g=151279
More Maps by Topic: see North Carolina Maps
Original land "grants" or "patents" were made by the government at the time: the proprietors, the royal colony, and then the state government. (See North Carolina History above.) Once a piece of land had been granted to its first owner, any future sales were transactions between individuals and were recorded at the Register of Deeds office, usually, but not always, in the county where the land was located. Records of land grants are at the North Carolina State Archives.
Online sources include:
Three useful articles explaining how the systems worked are:
Here are the call numbers in this library for some of the books mentioned in the Archives guide:
In the Tax Assessment Records, you can find information on where your ancestors lived, their occupations, wealth, and luxury items they may have owned.
Author: Gaston County Public Library
Title: Finding North Carolina Ancestors
Revised: 19 March 2021
©Copyright 2015, Gaston County Public Library. All Rights Reserved.