North Carolina Counties records can vary extensively from county to county in either quality as well as quantity. Some have already been very carefully conserved while some have been significantly misused and neglected. Some North Carolina records have purely vanished. For genealogists carrying out research in North Carolina you will find no effective replace to have an on-site search of county court house records. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia
North Carolina county history stretches over 340 years, beginning in 1668 with the creation of Albemarle County and ending with the 1911 creation of Avery and Hoke counties. Five counties have since been divided or abolished altogether, the last being Dobbs County in 1791.
In 1664 there were 3 counties created by the Lords Proprietor in Carolina. They were Clarendon, Craven, and Albemarle counties. In 1667 Clarendon County was dissolved. Its population never grew beyond 800 people. Craven County stayed in existence, but was located in what is now South Carolina. Around 1668 Albemarle County was divided into the precincts of Carteret, Berkeley, and Shaftesbury. Those precincts were divided and renamed, in 1681, to Currituck, Chowan, Perquimans, and Pasquotank. By 1689 those precincts were, for all intents and purposes, acting as if they were counties. Bath County was created in 1696. In 1705 it was divided into 3 precincts, called Pamptecough, Wickham, and Archedale. In 1739 all existing precincts were declared counties by North Carolina’s Provincial Government. At that time both Bath and Albermarle counties were dissolved.
The FHL, North Carolina State Archives and Allen County Public Library all have centralized collections of county records available. Other information, such as will and deed books, may be found at the county seats.
Many county clerks recorded documents and records from their parent counties when the new counties were formed. Sometimes all records were simply transferred. So, some counties may have records on file that are older than the counties themselves. The county seat is home to the register of deeds, which keeps vital records for the county. Probate records cab be found in the superior court clerk’s office. Other court records may also be available there, but many have been transferred to the North Carolina State Archives. Probate records include estate records and wills. Land records may include plats, grants, deeds, and other documents. Court records may consist of bastardy bonds, dockets, constables’ bonds, apprentice bonds, account books, orders, and court minutes. Not all records are still extant. Some have been destroyed in fires and other circumstances over the years.
See also a list of links to county and county seat government run websites.