North Carolina Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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North Carolina Probate Records, 1735-1970
This article describes a collection of records at
North Carolina, United States
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Flag of North Carolina
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Location of North Carolina
Record Description
Record Type Probate
Collection years 1735-1970
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites

What is in This Collection?

The collection consists of probate matters recorded at county courthouses in North Carolina for the years 1735 to 1970. However, most of the records in this collection are from 1800-1930. Probate records are court documents and may have involved loose papers or bound volumes. These files included all documents related to estate settlement including:

  • Wills
  • Inventories
  • Receipts
  • Accounts
  • Administrations
  • Appraisals
  • Minutes
  • Bonds
  • Petitions
  • Guardianships
  • Settlements

To Browse This Collection

You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for North Carolina Probate Records, 1735-1970.

What Can These Records Tell Me?

Probate records include petitions, inventories, accounts, decrees, oaths of executors, forms about guardians and other court documents. Information in entries includes:

  • Name of testator or deceased
  • Names of heirs such as spouse, children, and other relatives or friends
  • Names of witnesses
  • Residence of testator
  • Lists of belongings, property, and so forth
  • Document and recording dates (Sometimes the date of death will be given. Recording dates are also used to approximate event dates, i.e. a letter of administration was usually written shortly after the time of death.)

Most probate records in North Carolina were created on a county level though many were later sent to the North Carolina State Archives. For the colonial period, dozens of North Carolina wills were proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in London, England. The contents of probate records vary greatly depending on the prevailing law and the personality of the record keeper.

Probate records are used to legally dispose of a person’s estate after his or her death. The probate process transfers the legal responsibility for payment of taxes, care and custody of dependent family members, liquidation of debts, and transfer of property title. The transfer is to an executor or executrix if the deceased had made a will, to an administrator or administratrix if the deceased had not made a will, or to a guardian or conservator if the deceased had heirs under the age of twenty-one or if heirs were incompetent due to disease or disability.

The death date, residence, and other facts that were current at the time of the probate proceeding are quite reliable, though there is still a chance of misinformation. The records may omit the names of deceased family members and those who have previously received an inheritance, or the spouse mentioned may not be the parent of the children mentioned.

Collection Content

Sample Images

How Do I Search This Collection?

Before searching this collection, it is helpful to know:

  • The name of the deceased
  • The approximate death or probate date
  • The place of residence
  • The names of family members and their relationships

Search the Index

Search by name by visiting the Collection Page.
  1. Fill in the search boxes on the Collection Page with the information you have
  2. Click Search to show possible matches

View the Images

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page:

  1. Select the County
  2. Select the Volume Title and Year to view the images.

How Do I Analyze the Results?

Compare each result from your search with what you know to determine if there is a match. This may require viewing multiple records or images. Keep track of your research in a research log.

What Do I Do Next?

When you have located your ancestor’s probate record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors.

I Found the Person I Was Looking For, What Now?

  • Use probate records to identify heirs and relatives
  • You may be able to use the probate record to learn about adoptions or guardianship of any minor children and dependents
  • Use the document (such as the will) or the recording dates to approximate a death date
  • Use the information in the probate record to substitute for civil birth and death records since the probates exist for an earlier time period
  • You may be able to use the probate record to learn about land transactions
  • Use the birth date or age along with the residence or place of birth of the deceased to locate census, church, and land records
  • Use the occupations listed to find employment records or other types of records such as military records
  • Compile the entries for every person who has the same surname as the deceased; this is especially helpful in rural areas or if the surname is unusual

I Can’t Find the Person I’m Looking For, What Now?

  • Check for variant spellings of the surnames
  • Check for a different index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties
  • Consult the North Carolina Record Finder to find other records

Known Issues with This Collection

Important.png Problems with this collection?
See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached article. If you encounter additional problems, plea se email them to Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.

Citing This Collection

Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.

Collection Citation

"North Carolina Probate Records, 1735-1970." Images. FamilySearch. : 14 June 2016. County courthouses, North Carolina.

Image Citation:
When looking at an image, the citation is found on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen.

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