History & Facts of North Carolina Counties

North Carolina Counties  •  North Carolina Extinct Counties  •  North Carolina Burned Courthouses

North Carolina County 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.

North Carolina is divided into 100  Counties. Each county serves as the local level of government within its borders.  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.

North Carolina Counties

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.

County Date Formed Parent County County Seat
Alamance January 29, 1849 Orange County Graham
Alexander January 15, 1847 Caldwell, Iredell and Wilkes Counties Taylorsville
Alleghany 1859 Ashe County Sparta
Anson March 17, 1749 Bladen County Wadesboro
Ashe November 18, 1799 Wilkes County Jefferson
Avery February 23, 1911 Caldwell, Mitchell and Watauga Counties Newland
Beaufort 1712 Original county Washington
Bertie 1722 Chowan County Windsor
Bladen 1734 New Hanover County Elizabethtown
Brunswick January 30, 1764 Bladen and New Hanover Counties Bolivia
Buncombe December 5, 1791 Burke and Rutherford Counties Asheville
Burke April 8, 1777 Rowan County Morganton
Cabarrus November 15, 1792 Mecklenburg County Concord
Caldwell January 11, 1841 Burke and Wilkes Counties Lenoir
Camden April 8, 1777 Pasquotank County Camden
Carteret 1722 Craven County Beaufort
Caswell 1777 Orange County Yanceyville
Catawba December 12, 1842 Lincoln County Newton
Chatham April 1, 1771 Orange County Pittsboro
Cherokee January 4, 1839 Macon County Murphy
Chowan 1668 Albemarle County Edenton
Clay February 20, 1861 Cherokee County Hayesville
Cleveland January 11, 1841 Lincoln and Rutherford Counties Shelby
Columbus December 15, 1808 Bladen and Brunswick Counties Whiteville
Craven December 3, 1705 Bath County New Bern
Cumberland February 19, 1754 Bladen County Fayetteville
Currituck 1668 Albemarle County Currituck
Dare February 3, 1870 Currituck, Hyde and Tyrrell Counties Manteo
Davidson December 9, 1822 Rowan County Lexington
Davie December 20, 1836 Rowan County Mocksville
Duplin March 17, 1750 New Hanover County Kenansville
Durham 1881 Orange and Wake Counties Durham
Edgecombe 1741 Bertie County Tarboro
Forsyth January 16, 1849 Stokes County Winston-Salem
Franklin April 14, 1778 Bute County Louisburg
Gaston December 21, 1846 Lincoln County Gastonia
Gates April 14, 1778 Chowan, Hertford and Perquimans Counties Gatesville
Graham January 30, 1872 Cherokee County Robbinsville
Granville June 28, 1746 Edgecombe County Oxford
Greene November 18, 1799 Dobbs (Glasgow) County Snow Hill
Guilford December 5, 1771 Orange and Rowan County Greensboro
Halifax December 12, 1758 Edgecombe County Halifax
Harnett February 7, 1855 Cumberland County Lillington
Haywood December 15, 1808 Buncombe County Waynesville
Henderson December 15, 1838 Buncombe County Hendersonville
Hertford December 12, 1759 Bertie, Chowan and Northampton Counties Winton
Hoke February 17, 1911 Cumberland and Robeson Counties Raeford
Hyde 1712 Original county Swan Quarter
Iredell November 3, 1788 Rowan County Statesville
Jackson January 29, 1851 Haywood and Macon Counties Sylva
Johnston June 28, 1746 Craven County Smithfield
Jones April 14, 1778 Craven County Trenton
Lee March 6, 1907 Chatham and Moore Counties Sanford
Lenoir December 4, 1791 Dobbs (Glasgow) County Kinston
Lincoln April 14, 1779 Tryon County Lincolnton
Macon 1842 Burke and Rutherford Counties Marion
Madison January 27, 1851 Haywood County Marshall
Martin March 2, 1774 Buncombe and Yancey Counties Franklin
McDowell December 19, 1842 Halifax and Tyrrell Counties Williamston
Mecklenburg November 3, 1762 Anson County Charlotte
Mitchell February 16, 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 December 29, 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 January 11, 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 January 20, 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

North Carolina Extinct Counties

North Carolina seems to have counties that no longer are in existence. They were recognized by the state, provincial, or territorial government. Most of these counties were established and disbanded during the 19th century; county boundaries have modified little since 1900 in the great number of states. These counties should be researched when performing genealogy and family history research. Pay close attention where the courthouse records went to if the county was eliminated or merged with a different county.

  • Albemarle County: (Formed in 1664, divided into Carteret, Berkeley, and Shaftesbury precincts about 1668 and abolished in 1739 when precincts were declared counties.. Miscellaneous records from 1678-1737)
  • Bath County: Formed in 1696, divided into Archedale, Pamptecough, and Wickham precincts about 1705. Pampticough Precinct was renamed Beaufort Precinct in 1712,  Wickham Precinct became Hyde Precinct in 1712, and Archdale Precinct became Craven Precinct about 1712.  In 1739 the three precincts were abolished and were declared counties.
  • Bute County: (Formed in 1764, abolished in 1779. Records transferred to Warren and Franklin Counties)
  • Clarendon County: (Formed as an original County 1664 and abolished in 1667)
  • Dobbs County: (Established in 1758 from Johnston County, abolished in 1791. Divided into Glasgow and Lenoir Counties)
  • Glasgow County: (Formed in 1791 from Dobbs County, renamed Greene in 1799)
  • Tennessee County: (Formed in 1788 from Davidson County Tennessee County, ceded to the United States in 1790 as part of the Southwest Territory (later Tennessee)
  • Tryon County: (Formed in 1768 from Mecklenburg County, Divided into Lincoln and Rutherford Counties in 1779. Records transferred to Lincoln County)
  • Washington District: Ceded to the United States in 1790 as part of the Southwest Territory (later Tennessee)

North Carolina Counties with Burned Courthouses

The harm to North Carolina courthouses tremendously has a impact on genealogists in each and every way. Not only are these types of historic buildings torn from each of our lifetimes, so are the records they stored: marriage, wills, probate, land records, among others. Once destroyed they're destroyed permanently. Even though they happen to have been put on mircofilm, computers and film burn as well. The most heartbreaking side of this is the reason that almost all of our courthouses are destroyed as a result of arsonist. However, not all records were lost. A number of North Carolina counties have endured a loss of records due to courthouse fires, floods, and theft.

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)
Copyright © 2014 GenealogyInc.com,