This page will provide you with information that will help you in your genealogy and ancestry research for the state of North Carolina. It includes a timeline for the state, when the state began recording vital records, what US and State census records are available, a map of the counties in the state and link to page showing when counties were formed, and links to a variety of genealogy and ancestry resources for the state of North Carolina.
1524 – Italian exploerer Giovanni da Verrazano arriving at Cape Fear, explores the Carolina coast for France.
1540 – Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto explores the area in search of gold.
1567 – Spanish explorer Juan Pardo builds Fort San Juan in the native village of Joara, in what is now Burke County, North Carolina.
1584 – March 25 Queen Elizabeth I of England granted a charter to Sir Walter Raleigh to search and discover ‘remote and heathen lands’.
1584 – April 27 Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe reach Roanoke Island in July, claim the land and return to England in September.
1585 – Raleigh’s fleet of seven vessels under Sir Richard Grenville read Roanoke Island in June.
1586 – The colonists on Roanoke Island are forced to return to England due to hardships.
1587 – John White with 150 men, women and children found the City of Raleigh & establishes a second English colony at roanoke and becomes Governor.
1587 – August 18 – Elinor White Dare gave birth to a daughter, Virginia Dare, the first child born of English parents in the New World.
1587 – August 22 – John White returns to England for more supplies leaving the thriving colony. Seven Asssistants are left in charge with strict instructions that if the colonists should decide ot leave the fort, they would carve their destination on a tree and add a Maltese cross if they had to leave because of attack.
1590 – August 15 John White arrrives back to Roaoke to find that the settlers have all disappeared. The word “CROATOAN” is found carved into a tree without any crosses or signs of distress. The fate of “The Lost Colony” remains a mystery.
1602 – Sir Walter Raleigh sends samuel Mace of Weymouth on a voyage to Virginia (North Carolina) to explore and search for survivors of the Lost Colony.
1609 – Henry Hudson English and navigator explores the area.
1653 – Nathaniel Batts becomes the earliest permanent settler in North Carolina.
1691 – The area assumed the name of North Carolina.
1705 – The first permanent city is founded at Bath.
1711 – 1711-1713: The Tuscarora War between the Tuscarora Native Americans and European settlers. The Tuscarora are defeated
1712 – North Carolina and South Carolina split and North Carolina becomes a separate Colony.
1718 – The famous pirate Blackbeard is killed by the Royal Navy.
1729 – North Carolina becomes a Royal British Colony.
1781 – The Battle of Guilford Courthouse takes place.
1789 – North Carolina becomes the 12th state.
1828 – Andrew Jackson becomes the 7th president of the United States.
1830 – The Cherokee Indians are forced from their lands in what will be known as the “Trail of Tears.”
1861 – North Carolina secedes from the Union and the Civil War begins.
1868 – The state is readmitted to the Union.
1903 – The Wright Brothers make the first powered airplane flight at Kitty Hawk.
1918 – Fort Bragg is established near Fayetteville.
1959 – Research Triangle Park is created near Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.
On 10 March 1913, the North Carolina General Assembly ratified an act requiring the registration of births and deaths in the state; virtually full compliance was achieved by 1920, with some delayed birth records for earlier dates eventually added.
Most marriages performed before 1668 were not recorded. A 1669 law required that each marriage be registered, but based on the few events that were recorded, compliance was very low. Marriages could be solemnized by Church of England ministers or any member of the colony’s council, including the governor; in 1741, the justices of the peace were extended the right to perform marriages. Citizens had to publish banns three times or obtain a marriage license; most marriages were by publication of banns. When the marriage was by license, the groom executed a marriage bond in the bride’s county of residence; some marriage bonds have survived for about half of North Carolina’s counties.
After 1868, the register of deeds in each county was given the task of issuing marriage licenses.
The superior court in each county has granted divorce decrees since 1814.
See North Carolina Vital Records originally written by Johni Cerny and Gareth L Mark for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources, for more details.
Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org has a variety of online collections. I’ve included many of them in the links section below.
Industry and Agriculture Schedules
Union Veterans Schedules
The first federal census was taken in 1790, and all of North Carolina’s enumerations have survived except Caswell, Granville, and Orange counties. The 1810 U.S. census of North Carolina is complete except for Craven, Greene, New Hanover, and Wake counties. The 1820 census is missing Currituck, Franklin, Martin, Montgomery, Randolph, and Wake counties. Those schedules surviving for the 1890 population schedules are South Point and River Ben townships in Gaston County and Township No. 2 in Cleveland County. The North Carolina State Archives has either bound original copies or microfilm copies of the extant federal censuses of North Carolina.
Apparently there was no colonial census of North Carolina. A census was conducted in 1775 by direction of the Continental Congress, and the enumeration of Pitt County has survived.
For more information and links to online census records, see North Carolina Census at FamilySearch.org.
See North Carolina County Resources for list of counties with district Court #, address, date formed, parent county(ies), and dates first recorded birth, marriage death, land and probate.
Ancestry.com has a variety of online collections. Membership may be required.
FamilySearch.org has a variety of FREE online collections.
NCGenWeb – North Carolina Genweb Project
North Carolina Genealogy Trails
Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness
GenealogySpot – North Carolina
Genealogy Toolbox – North Carolina
North Carolina Genealogical Society
Ducksters – North Carolina State History
eReference Desks – North Carolina History Timeline
Timelines of History – North Carolina
UNC.edu – North Carolina Timeline
NCdPedia – Timelines
DatesandEvents.org – North Carolina History Timeline
Sanders Web.net – North Carolina History Timeline
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