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

CountyDate FormedParent CountyCounty Seat
Alamance1849Orange CountyGraham
Alexander1847Caldwell, Iredell and Wilkes CountiesTaylorsville
Alleghany1859Ashe CountySparta
Anson1749Bladen CountyWadesboro
Ashe1799Wilkes CountyJefferson
Avery1911Caldwell, Mitchell and Watauga CountiesNewland
Beaufort1712Original countyWashington
Bertie1722Chowan CountyWindsor
Bladen1734New Hanover CountyElizabethtown
Brunswick1764Bladen and New Hanover CountiesBolivia
Buncombe1791Burke and Rutherford CountiesAsheville
Burke1777Rowan CountyMorganton
Cabarrus1792Mecklenburg CountyConcord
Caldwell1841Burke and Wilkes CountiesLenoir
Camden1777Pasquotank CountyCamden
Carteret1722Craven CountyBeaufort
Caswell1777Orange CountyYanceyville
Catawba1842Lincoln CountyNewton
Chatham1771Orange CountyPittsboro
Cherokee1839Macon CountyMurphy
Chowan1668Albemarle CountyEdenton
Clay1861Cherokee CountyHayesville
Cleveland1841Lincoln and Rutherford CountiesShelby
Columbus1808Bladen and Brunswick CountiesWhiteville
Craven1705Bath CountyNew Bern
Cumberland1754Bladen CountyFayetteville
Currituck1668Albemarle CountyCurrituck
Dare1870Currituck, Hyde and Tyrrell CountiesManteo
Davidson1822Rowan CountyLexington
Davie1836Rowan CountyMocksville
Duplin1750New Hanover CountyKenansville
Durham1881Orange and Wake CountiesDurham
Edgecombe1741Bertie CountyTarboro
Forsyth1849Stokes CountyWinston-Salem
Franklin1778Bute CountyLouisburg
Gaston1846Lincoln CountyGastonia
Gates1778Chowan, Hertford and Perquimans CountiesGatesville
Graham1872Cherokee CountyRobbinsville
Granville1746Edgecombe CountyOxford
Greene1799Dobbs (Glasgow) CountySnow Hill
Guilford1771Orange and Rowan CountyGreensboro
Halifax1758Edgecombe CountyHalifax
Harnett1855Cumberland CountyLillington
Haywood1808Buncombe CountyWaynesville
Henderson1838Buncombe CountyHendersonville
Hertford1759Bertie, Chowan and Northampton CountiesWinton
Hoke1911Cumberland and Robeson CountiesRaeford
Hyde1712Original countySwan Quarter
Iredell1788Rowan CountyStatesville
Jackson1851Haywood and Macon CountiesSylva
Johnston1746Craven CountySmithfield
Jones1778Craven CountyTrenton
Lee1907Chatham and Moore CountiesSanford
Lenoir1791Dobbs (Glasgow) CountyKinston
Lincoln1779Tryon CountyLincolnton
Macon1828Haywood CountyFranklin
Madison1851Buncombe and Yancey CountiesMarshall
Martin1774Halifax and Tyrrell CountiesWilliamston
McDowell1842Burke and Rutherford CountiesMarion
Mecklenburg1762Anson CountyCharlotte
Mitchell1861Burke, Caldwell, McDowell, Watauga and Yancey CountiesBakersville
Montgomery1779Anson CountyTroy
Moore1784Cumberland CountyCarthage
Nash1777Edgecombe CountyNashville
New Hanover1729Craven CountyWilmington
Northampton1741Bertie CountyJackson
Onslow1734New Hanover CountyJacksonville
Orange1752Bladen, Granville and Johnston CountiesHillsborough
Pamlico1872Beaufort and Craven CountiesBayboro
Pasquotank1668Albemarle CountyElizabeth City
Pender1875New Hanover CountyBurgaw
Perquimans1668Albemarle CountyHertford
Person1791Caswell CountyRoxboro
Pitt1760Beaufort CountyGreenville
Polk1855Henderson and Rutherford CountiesColumbus
Randolph1779Guilford CountyAsheboro
Richmond1779Anson CountyRockingham
Robeson1787Bladen CountyLumberton
Rockingham1785Guilford CountyWentworth
Rowan1753Anson CountySalisbury
Rutherford1779Tryon CountyRutherfordton
Sampson1784Duplin CountyClinton
Scotland1899Richmond CountyLaurinburg
Stanly1841Montgomery CountyAlbemarle
Stokes1789Surry CountyDanbury
Surry1771Rowan CountyDobson
Swain1871Jackson and Macon CountiesBryson City
Transylvania1861Henderson and Jackson CountiesBrevard
Tyrrell1729Chowan, Currituck and Pasquotank CountiesColumbia
Union1842Anson and Mecklenburg CountiesMonroe
Vance1881Franklin, Granville and Warren CountiesHenderson
Wake1771Cumberland, Johnston and Orange CountiesRaleigh
Warren1779Bute CountyWarrenton
Washington1799Tyrrell CountyPlymouth
Watauga1849Ashe, Caldwell, Wilkes and Yancey CountiesBoone
Wayne1779Dobbs (Glasgow) CountyGoldsboro
Wilkes1777Surry CountyWilkesboro
Wilson1855Edgecombe, Johnston, Nash and Wayne CountiesWilson
Yadkin1850Surry CountyYadkinville
Yancey1833Buncombe and Burke CountiesBurnsville
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