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North Carolina Genealogy & Ancestry

The State of North Carolina is bordered by Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia. It has a land area of 53,821 square miles, making it the 28th largest state. As of 2017, its population is 10,273,419.

North Carolina’s capital is Raleigh, with a population of 458,880. Its largest city is Charlotte, which is home to 842,051 residents. Other major cities include Greensboro (287,027 residents), Durham (263,016 residents), Winston-Salem (244,605 residents), Fayetteville (204,759 residents), Cary (162,320 residents), Wilmington (117,525 residents), High Point (111,223 residents), and Greenville (91,495 residents).


The State of North Carolina was named to honor King Charles I (Carolus is Latin for Charles). Its nicknames include Old North State and Tar Heel State. Its motto is “Esse Quam Videri,” To Be Rather Than To Seem.

The state website can be found at https://www.nc.gov/ 

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AlamanceAlexanderAlleghanyAnsonAsheAveryBeaufortBertieBladenBrunswickBuncombeBurkeCabarrusCaldwellCamdenCarteretCaswellCatawbaChathamCherokeeChowanClayClevelandColumbusCravenCumberlandCurrituckDareDavidsonDavieDuplinDurhamEdgecombeForsythFranklinGastonGatesGrahamGranvilleGreeneGuilfordHalifaxHarnettHaywoodHendersonHertfordHokeHydeIredellJacksonJohnstonJonesLeeLenoirLincolnMaconMadisonMartinMcDowellMecklenburgMitchellMontgomeryMooreNashNew HanoverNorthamptonOnslowOrangePamlicoPasquotankPenderPerquimansPersonPittPolkRandolphRichmondRobesonRockinghamRowanRutherfordSampsonScotlandStanlyStokesSurrySwainTransylvaniaTyrrellUnionVanceWakeWarrenWashingtonWataugaWayneWilkesWilsonYadkinYancey

See more information about North Carolina's Counties.

History of North Carolina

English claims on North Carolina date to 1497 when John Cabot visited the New World and claimed the area for King Henry VII. These claims were the basis for Charles I’s 1629 grant of “Carolana” to Sir Robert Heath, who failed to settle Carolina before the execution of Charles I in 1649. During the Commonwealth period in England, many citizens remained loyal to Charles II.

The first permanent English settlers in North Carolina were Virginians who heard glowing reports of fertile bottomlands, abundant timber resources, and an excellent climate. They moved into the Albemarle Sound area around 1650, purchasing land from the local Indian tribes. The Virginia Assembly also granted land along the Chowan and Roanoke rivers to Roger Green in 1653.

When Charles II ascended to the throne of England in 1660, eight men pressed their claims for a reward: Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon; George Monck, Duke of Albemarle; Lord William Craven; Lord John Berkeley; Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury; Sir George Carteret; Sir William Berkeley; and Sir John Colleton. Charles II granted Carolina to the eight Lords Proprietors in 1663. After the claims of Heath’s successors had been disposed of, the grant was revised and extended in 1665.

Two factors heavily influenced the development of North Carolina.

The first was its stormy coastline. Known as the “graveyard of the Atlantic,” it does not include a natural harbor to promote commerce. The only river in North Carolina that empties into the Atlantic is the Cape Fear River, and its approaches are endangered by the Frying Pan Shoals. As a result, except for a few Highland Scots, immigrants to North Carolina generally arrived by overland routes

 The second factor influencing North Carolina’s development was the presence of approximately 35,000 Native Americans. They taught the European settlers important agricultural techniques such as planting row crops and fertilizing plants. The Europeans also learned the natives’ techniques of wilderness war. But the presence of the whites eventually destroyed the native civilization through disease, forceful removal to reservations, and violence.

Another major settlement, New Bern, was founded in 1710 by colonists from Germany, Switzerland, and England under the leadership of Christopher de Graffenried. The colonists landed in Virginia and trekked overland to North Carolina, arriving too late to plant and harvest crops. The settlement somehow still survived and flourished, and New Bern became the largest town in North Carolina during the colonial period.

There was just one problem. The colony was located in the Tuscarora hunting grounds, and the Cary Rebellion of 1711 left the colonists open to attack. The Tuscarora Indian War (1711–15) was the result.

In 1729 the Lords Proprietors excepting Earl Granville John Carteret sold their shares in the provinces of North and South Carolina to King James II of England, ending the proprietary period. North Carolina was the most sparsely settled English colony in America at that time, but it was about to enter a period of great expansion and growth.  A steady stream of Scots-Irish and German immigrants traveled to the region over the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania and through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

The only significant migration that sailed directly to North Carolina was a small group of Highland Scots. The Moravians purchased nearly 100,000 acres in present-day Forsyth County from Earl Granville in 1753. They settled a tract they referred to as “Wachovia.”

The movement for independence from England was strong in North Carolina, and a provincial congress met in New Bern in 1774. Even so, not all North Carolinians supported the revolution. The Highland Scots, in particular, remained loyal to the crown and recruited Loyalist military units.

In 1789, North Carolina ratified the United States Constitution and ceded its western lands, now known as Tennessee, to the federal government. The site for North Carolina’s state capital was located and named Raleigh three years later. Dissatisfaction with the state constitution of 1776, which heavily favored the eastern counties and towns, resulted in the constitutional convention of 1835 and the adoption of a new state constitution.

North Carolina was not ardently secessionist in 1860, but when the federal government requested troops to quell the Southern rebellion, Governor John W. Ellis refused and North Carolina soon joined the Confederacy. It supplied about 125,000 troops to the Confederate Army, more than any other southern state.

Consequently, over 14,000 North Carolinians were killed in action. After the Civil War, North Carolina rapidly developed as an industrial state. Governmental support fostered the growth of the textile, tobacco, and furniture industries for which North Carolina is known.

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