Early North Carolina Records
Editors Note: Today’s post contains some fantastic information from J. Mark Lowe, CG(SM) about early NC record sources. Mark has a near encyclopedic knowledge of southern history and sources from many years of lecturing, researching, and writing about the south.
By the late 17th century, planters of the Carolina tidewater region held most of the political power and the best land. Along the waterways, settlers quickly learned to combine agriculture and commerce, and marketplace cities became a major source of prosperity. Hardwood forests brought revenue, along with production of rice and indigo. By 1750 more than 100,000 people lived in the two colonies of North and South Carolina.
The Colonial and State Records (of North Carolina) were published as ten volumes covering from 1662-1776, while the sixteen volumes of State Records cover the years from 1776 through 1790 with some supplements. Unfortunately, the record set is not perfect. Some early records appear in later volumes, and the material is not firmly listed in chronological order. Originals of most of this series reside at the North Carolina State Archives. Online, the most comprehensive and useful site belongs to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. A published index is available at this site and on Ancestry.com.
Colonial and State Records http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.html/volumes
Master Index http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.html/indices/A
Researching early records is rewarding, but takes effort. Two favorite early North Carolina multiple volume record sets edited by William l. Saunders and Walter Clark form the basic resource on early records.
William L. Saunders (ed.), The Colonial Records of North Carolina, (Raleigh: State of North Carolina, 10 volumes, 1886-1890). The volumes cover the time period 1662–1776.
Walter Clark (ed.), The State Records of North Carolina (Winston and Goldsboro: State of North
Carolina, 16 volumes, 1895-1907). Time period 1776–1790, with some entries as early as 1730 and early laws 1669–1773. Earlier entries appear in later volumes, so check carefully the contents of each volume to insure you do not miss relevant entries.
Here’s an example of an index entry.
Several volumes of great Carolina information are available online. One of my favorites is Benjamin Swaim’s The North Carolina Justice. Mark commented that “…as a young researcher, this volume helped me understand the choices being made on the frontier, and the consequences of those choices.”
Besides those discussed, here are some additional resources to consider.
- Clark, Walter, History of the Superior and Supreme Courts of North Carolina. Raleigh: 1919.http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p249901coll37/id/14068
- Johnson, Guion G., Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1937.http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/johnson/johnson.html
- Ray, Worth S. Ray’s, Index And Digest To Hathaway’s North Carolina Historical And Genealogical Register : With Genealogical Notes And Annotations. Austin, Tex.: W.S. Ray, 1945.https://familysearch.org/search/catalog/1838789?availability=Family%20History%20Library
- Schenck, David, North Carolina, 1780-’81: Being A History Of The Invasion Of The Carolinas By The British Army Under Lord Cornwallis. Raleigh, N.C.: Edwards & Broughton, 1889https://books.google.com/books?id=zSpCAAAAIAAJ
- Swaim, Benjamin. The North Carolina Justice. Raleigh: J. Gales & Son, 1839.https://books.google.com/books?id=LZhNAQAAMAAJ
- Wheeler, John H. Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians. Columbus, Ohio: Columbus Printing Works, 1884.https://archive.org/details/reminiscencesmem00whee
- ———, Historical Sketches Of North Carolina, From 1584 To 1851 : Compiled From Original Records, Official Documents And Traditional Statements, With Biographical Sketches Of Her Distinguished Statemen, Jurists, Lawyers, Soldiers, Divines, Etc. Philadelphia: Lippincott Grambo, 1851.https://archive.org/details/historicalsketch00whee
Finally, some of the most interesting early records are contained in the Moravian Archives in Winston-Salem. Many of the church documents, letters, and diaries have been translated, transcribed, and published in thirteen volumes as Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Covering 1752–1879, several of the volumes are online. Volume I (1752-1771) is available on archive.org. https://archive.org/details/recordsofthemora01frie
For more NC church records, visit the FamilySearch wiki about this subject. https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/North_Carolina_Church_Records