State Courthouse Records
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North Carolina Government records cover a broad range of genealogy subject areas that can help you as part of your research, such as land ownership, courts, taxes, and naturalization’s. Given that North Carolina court records cover such a wide selection of topics, they could aid you in many different ways. As an example, they could aid you in finding ancestors’ residences, identify occupations, locate financial information, determine citizenship status, or shed light on relationships between individuals. The whole thing relies upon on the type of court records that the ancestors” names show up in. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia.

North Carolina Courthouse records change extensively from county to county in both level of quality and volume. You will find different kinds of court records that are most likely to possess information related for your genealogical research below.

State Court Records
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North Carolina Court Records

COURT OF PLEAS AND QUARTER SESSIONS (CA. 1670–1868) – This was the basic county court of North Carolina. Therefore, it was sometimes called the precinct court or county court or before 1739, or the inferior court after 1806 .

The county court heard minor civil matters, usually debt-related, by the justices of the peace. It also handled misdemeanors, probate, levying and expending of local taxes, matters dealing with public works (buildings, roads, bridges, ferries, and mills), summoning and selection of jurors, and many other local matters. In 1868, the county superior court assumed these responsibilities and the court of pleas and quarter sessions was abolished.

Although minutes from the county court provide valuable genealogical information, they are usually unindexed. You can fill in gaps in the local records by using files from the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

GENERAL COURT (1670–1754) – This court was known by different names: the court of grand council, the grand court, and the Court of Albemarle. The General Court heard appeals from the county court. It also heard original cases for all criminal cases punishable by loss of life or limb. Sometimes the General Court would hear large estate probate, especially if it consisted of land in several counties. In 1739, three district courts were added, and the district courts replaced the General Court in 1754.

DISTRICT COURTS (1754–1806) – District courts, which replaced the General Court in 1754, presided over all equity cases. The ourts did not function during the period of 1771 to 1778, but after they resumed, the county courts assumed probate matters. In 1806 Superior Courts in each county replaced the district courts.

SUPERIOR COURT (1806–PRESENT) – Beginning in 1806, there was a Superior Court in each county that shared responsibilities with the county courts. These courts usually presided over serious criminal cases or civil cases involving large amounts of money. When the county courts were abolished in 1868, they assumed all county matters.

COURT OF CHANCERY (1663–1776) – The court of chancery consisted of the governor and council. While it operated, equity cases could only be heard in the Court of Chancery. This included division of land between partners, enforcement of contracts, and other non-criminal cases. The district courts took over equity cases in 1782, and the equity system was completely abolished in 1868 by the new state constitution.

COURT OF CONFERENCE (1799–1805) AND SUPREME COURT OF NORTH CAROLINA (1805–PRESENT) –  This is the highest court in the state. The court used to be served by the district superior court judges; however, in 1818, Supreme Court justices began being chosen by election. In cases that were appealed to the State Supreme Court before the twentieth century, the entire case file was usually transferred to the higher court.

Most original court records from before 1900 are at The North Carolina State Archives, and the Family History Library has copies on microfilm. See Also Research In Court Records.

State Land Records
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North Carolina Land Records

In the mid-to-late eighteenth century, North Carolina still had a large amount of unsettled land. This drew immigrants from Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Some of the land that Virginia granted to its citizens was actually over the North Carolina border, which was not clear until the border was surveyed by Colonel William Byrd of Westover.

It was not difficult to patent land in North Carolina. A person desiring land would submit an application, or land entry, to the land office. A warrant was then issued by the land officer, who could have been the secretary of state (1669–1776), the agents of Earl Granville (1748–76), or the county entry taker (1778–present). The land was then surveyed according to the warrant and a plat was sketched. This plat was filed in the land office until 1777. After that time, the plat would be recorded by the register of deeds. Finally, the land patent was issued and recorded. The North Carolina State Archives has indexes for land grants and related matters. If you write to the archives, include in your request the full name of the grantee and the county in which the gr