North Carolina Counties and Historical Facts

North Carolina County records vary widely from county to county in both quality and quantity. Some have been carefully preserved while others have been much abused and neglected. Some North Carolina records have simply disappeared.

For genealogists doing research in North Carolina there is no effective replace for an on-site search of county courthouse records.

North Carolina Map of Counties
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North Carolina Map of Counties

North Carolina County Records

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.

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List of North Carolina Extinct Counties

North Carolina has counties that no longer exist because they were discontinued, renamed or merged with another county.

A lot of these counties were established and disbanded within the 19th century; county borders have changed very little since 1900.

These are important for genealogy research purposes. Pay attention where the courthouse records went to if the county was eliminated or joined with some other county.

See the History of North Carolina Counties for more details.

List of North Carolina Counties with Burned Courthouses

North Carolina burned county courthouse
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The damage to courthouses greatly has a bearing on genealogists in every way.

Not only are these historic structures torn from our lifetimes, so are the records they housed: marriage, wills, probate, land records, and others.

Once destroyed they’re lost forever. Although they have been placed on mircofilm, computers and film burn too.

However, not all records were damaged or lost in some counties.
The first item is the county name, followed by the date of courthouse destruction, () describes what caused the destruction and if records were destroyed.

  • Alleghany County Courthouse – 1932 (fire, record loss)
  • Alexander County Courthouse – 1865 (civil war, record loss), 1967 (fire)
  • Craven County Courthouse – 1712 (records destroyed by Indians)
  • Anson County Courthouse – 1868 (fire)
  • Ashe County Courthouse – 1865 (fire, records fragmented)
  • Bladen County Courthouse – 1770 (fire), 1800 (fire), 1893 (fire)
  • Brunswick County Courthouse – 1865 (civil war, record loss), 1957 (clerk’s office fire)
  • Buncombe County Courthouse – 1830 (fire), 1865 (fire)
  • Burke County Courthouse – 1865 (civil war, record loss)
  • Cabarrus County Courthouse – 1876 (fire)
  • Cherokee County Courthouse – 1865 (fire), 1895 (fire), 1926 (fire)
  • Chowan County Courthouse – 1848 (records destroyed by acting clerk)
  • Clay County Courthouse – 1870 (fire, records destroyed)
  • Craven County Courthouse – 1712 (records destroyed by Indians)
  • Currituck County Courthouse – 1842 (fire)
  • Davidson County Courthouse – 1866 (fire)
  • Gaston County Courthouse – 1874 (fire)
  • Greene County Courthouse – 1876 (fire)
  • Guilford County Courthouse – 1781 (fire), 1872 (fire)
  • Harnett County Courthouse – 1892 (fire), 1894 (fire)
  • Haywood County Courthouse – 1932 (records destroyed in move to new courthouse)
  • Hertford County Courthouse – 1830 (fire), 1822 (fire)
  • Hyde County Courthouse – 1789 (fire), 1827 (fire)
  • Iredell County Courthouse – 1854 (fire)
  • Jackson County Courthouse – 1913 (records lost when county seat moved)
  • Jones County Courthouse – 1862 (fire) ‘Courthouse was burned during Civil War battle, many court records destroyed.
  • Lenoir County Courthouse – 1878 (fire), 1880 (fire) Most court records were destroyed
  • Lincoln County Courthouse – 1797 (records may have been destroyed by fire in private home)
  • Martin County Courthouse – 1862 (fire) ‘Courthouse fire destroyed many court records.
  • Mitchell County Courthouse – 1907 (some records destroyed in move to new courthouse)
  • Montgomery County Courthouse – 1835 (fire), 1840 (fire), 1886 (may have suffered record loss from courthouse fire. The clerk said that he saved the records but that they were “in a state of great confusion.”)
  • Moore County Courthouse – 1889 (fire) Courthouse fire destroyed most of the land records and many court records
  • New Hanover County Courthouse – 1789, 1819 & 1840 (all 3 courthouse fires may have destroyed some records)
  • Onslow County Courthouse – 1752 & 1755 (records destroyed by storm)
  • Orange County Courthouse – 1781 (records destroyed when buried in woods to avoid capture or destruction by Cornwallis)
  • Pitt County Courthouse – 1857 (fire) Courthouse fire destroyed most of the court records.
  • Rowan County Courthouse – 1865 (civil war, record loss) records were destroyed by Federal troops
  • Rutherford County Courthouse – 1907 (fire)
  • Sampson County Courthouse – 1921 (clerk’s office fire) Some early court records are missing because of Federal sympathizers in 1865; Clerk’s office fire in 1921. Early deed books of Duplin County prior to 1784
  • Swain County Courthouse – 1879 Courthouse fire destroyed many records and on January 7, 1908 the Courthouse was burned by rioters.  No records were saved
  • Wake County Courthouse – Several deed books were destroyed in register’s office fire in 1832.
  • Warren County Courthouse – 1935 (Some early County records may have been destroyed) County Court Records from abt 1814 -1823 are missing There is a loss of records for around the 1935 time period. Deed Books 15 and 16, 1799-1803, are missing from the court house and from the NC Archives.
  • Washington County Courthouse – County records destroyed by bombardment in Civil War in 1862. Fires have destroyed most of the court records and many of the land records in 1869 and 1881.
  • Watauga County Courthouse – Courthouse fire in 1873 destroyed all of the land records and most of the court records.
  • Wayne County Courthouse – 1781 (records may have been destroyed in courthouse fire)

List of North Carolina Counties

County Date Formed Parent County County Seat
Alamance 1849 Orange County Graham
Alexander 1847 Caldwell, Iredell and Wilkes Counties Taylorsville
Alleghany 1859 Ashe County Sparta
Anson 1749 Bladen County Wadesboro
Ashe 1799 Wilkes County Jefferson
Avery 1911 Caldwell, Mitchell and Watauga Counties Newland
Beaufort 1712 Original county Washington
Bertie 1722 Chowan County Windsor
Bladen 1734 New Hanover County Elizabethtown
Brunswick 1764 Bladen and New Hanover Counties Bolivia
Buncombe 1791 Burke and Rutherford Counties Asheville
Burke 1777 Rowan County Morganton
Cabarrus 1792 Mecklenburg County Concord
Caldwell 1841 Burke and Wilkes Counties Lenoir
Camden 1777 Pasquotank County Camden
Carteret 1722 Craven County Beaufort
Caswell 1777 Orange County Yanceyville
Catawba 1842 Lincoln County Newton
Chatham 1771 Orange County Pittsboro
Cherokee 1839 Macon County Murphy
Chowan 1668 Albemarle County Edenton
Clay 1861 Cherokee County Hayesville
Cleveland 1841 Lincoln and Rutherford Counties Shelby
Columbus 1808 Bladen and Brunswick Counties Whiteville
Craven 1705 Bath County New Bern
Cumberland 1754 Bladen County Fayetteville
Currituck 1668 Albemarle County Currituck
Dare 1870 Currituck, Hyde and Tyrrell Counties Manteo
Davidson 1822 Rowan County Lexington
Davie 1836 Rowan County Mocksville
Duplin 1750 New Hanover County Kenansville
Durham 1881 Orange and Wake Counties Durham
Edgecombe 1741 Bertie County Tarboro
Forsyth 1849 Stokes County Winston-Salem
Franklin 1778 Bute County Louisburg
Gaston 1846 Lincoln County Gastonia
Gates 1778 Chowan, Hertford and Perquimans Counties Gatesville
Graham 1872 Cherokee County Robbinsville
Granville 1746 Edgecombe County Oxford
Greene 1799 Dobbs (Glasgow) County Snow Hill
Guilford 1771 Orange and Rowan County Greensboro
Halifax 1758 Edgecombe County Halifax
Harnett 1855 Cumberland County Lillington
Haywood 1808 Buncombe County Waynesville
Henderson 1838 Buncombe County Hendersonville
Hertford 1759 Bertie, Chowan and Northampton Counties Winton
Hoke 1911 Cumberland and Robeson Counties Raeford
Hyde 1712 Original county Swan Quarter
Iredell 1788 Rowan County Statesville
Jackson 1851 Haywood and Macon Counties Sylva
Johnston 1746 Craven County Smithfield
Jones 1778 Craven County Trenton
Lee 1907 Chatham and Moore Counties Sanford
Lenoir 1791 Dobbs (Glasgow) County Kinston
Lincoln 1779 Tryon County Lincolnton
Macon 1828 Haywood County Franklin
Madison 1851 Buncombe and Yancey Counties Marshall
Martin 1774 Halifax and Tyrrell Counties Williamston
McDowell 1842 Burke and Rutherford Counties Marion
Mecklenburg 1762 Anson County Charlotte
Mitchell 1861 Burke, Caldwell, McDowell, Watauga and Yancey Counties Bakersville
Montgomery 1779 Anson County Troy
Moore 1784 Cumberland County Carthage
Nash 1777 Edgecombe County Nashville
New Hanover 1729 Craven County Wilmington
Northampton 1741 Bertie County Jackson
Onslow 1734 New Hanover County Jacksonville
Orange 1752 Bladen, Granville and Johnston Counties Hillsborough
Pamlico 1872 Beaufort and Craven Counties Bayboro
Pasquotank 1668 Albemarle County Elizabeth City
Pender 1875 New Hanover County Burgaw
Perquimans 1668 Albemarle County Hertford
Person 1791 Caswell County Roxboro
Pitt 1760 Beaufort County Greenville
Polk 1855 Henderson and Rutherford Counties Columbus
Randolph 1779 Guilford County Asheboro
Richmond 1779 Anson County Rockingham
Robeson 1787 Bladen County Lumberton
Rockingham 1785 Guilford County Wentworth
Rowan 1753 Anson County Salisbury
Rutherford 1779 Tryon County Rutherfordton
Sampson 1784 Duplin County Clinton
Scotland 1899 Richmond County Laurinburg
Stanly 1841 Montgomery County Albemarle
Stokes 1789 Surry County Danbury
Surry 1771 Rowan County Dobson
Swain 1871 Jackson and Macon Counties Bryson City
Transylvania 1861 Henderson and Jackson Counties Brevard
Tyrrell 1729 Chowan, Currituck and Pasquotank Counties Columbia
Union 1842 Anson and Mecklenburg Counties Monroe
Vance 1881 Franklin, Granville and Warren Counties Henderson
Wake 1771 Cumberland, Johnston and Orange Counties Raleigh
Warren 1779 Bute County Warrenton
Washington 1799 Tyrrell County Plymouth
Watauga 1849 Ashe, Caldwell, Wilkes and Yancey Counties Boone
Wayne 1779 Dobbs (Glasgow) County Goldsboro
Wilkes 1777 Surry County Wilkesboro
Wilson 1855 Edgecombe, Johnston, Nash and Wayne Counties Wilson
Yadkin 1850 Surry County Yadkinville
Yancey 1833 Buncombe and Burke Counties Burnsville
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