McDowell County, North Carolina Genealogy

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McDowell County, North Carolina
Map of North Carolina highlighting McDowell County
Location in the state of North Carolina
Map of the U.S. highlighting North Carolina
Location of North Carolina in the U.S.
Founded 1842
County Seat Marion
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United States  Gotoarrow.png  North Carolina  Gotoarrow.png  McDowell County

County Courthouse


McDowell was formed in 1842 from Rutherford and Burke Counties. It was named in honor of Colonel Joseph McDowell, an officer of the Revolution. It is situated in the west central part of North Carolina, bounded by Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Henderson, Mitchell, Rutherford, and Yancey counties. The court was ordered to be held at the home of Jonathan L. Carson until the county seat could be established. The act also named commissioners to select a site as near the center of the county as possible, acquire land, lay out a town by the name of Marion, and erect a courthouse. Marion is the county seat.

Parent County

1842--McDowell County was created 19 December 1842 from Rutherford and Burke Counties.
County seat: Marion [1]

Boundary Changes

Record Loss


Populated Places

Neighboring Counties





McDowell County Courthouse
21 S Main Street
Marion, NC 28752
(828) 652-7717


McDowell County Courthouse
21 S. Main Street
Marion, NC 28752
Register of Deeds

McDowell County Register of Deeds have images of deed records from 1971 online:
Search for McDowell County Deeds

Local Histories





The Clerk of Superior Court is elected for four years and must be a resident of the county in which he or she is elected. Unlike clerks of court in other states, the Clerk of Superior Court in North Carolina has numerous judicial functions.

As judge of probate, the Clerk has exclusive original jurisdiction over matters relating to the probate of wills, and the administration of estates, including appointing personal representatives, auditing their accounting, and removing them from office if necessary. The Clerk also presides over many other legal matters including adoptions, incompetency proceedings, condemnation of private lands for public use, and foreclosures. The Clerk is responsible for all clerical and record-keeping functions of the district and superior court. In addition, the Clerk receives and disburses money collected each year from court fees and fines.

McDowell County Clerk of the Superior Court
(828) 652-7717

Has probate records starting from 1841, if they haven't been transferred to State Archives. Contact the Clerk of the Court to confirm which records are available at their office. 

It is generally more cost effective to obtain records at the County level, however, the North Carolina State Archives has originals and/or copies of most older County records.

North Carolina State Archives
4614 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-4614

Check their Guide to Research Materials for what kinds of records are available, and also download their forms torequest information by mail.


Vital Records

The Register of Deeds is the custodian of various records which are filed for safe-keeping. Examples of documents housed are numerous types of deeds, deeds of trust, leases, assignments, powers of attorney, separation agreements, contracts, cancellations, assumed names, partnerships, corporations, notices of foreclosure, notices of bankruptcy, releases, restrictive covenants, military discharges, financing statements and terminations, birth and death records, maps and plats.

The Register also issues marriage licenses (see the link below for more information) and administers the oath of office to notaries public. As a service to McDowell County citizens, the Register of Deeds records and keeps copies of all documents pertaining to land and issues certified copies or photocopies of same, as required.

Deed images are available for download from January 1, 1971 to the present day at the Register of Deeds website.

McDowell County Courthouse
21 S. Main Street
Marion, NC 28752
Register of Deeds

Societies and Libraries 

Web Sites


  1. The Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America,10th ed. (Draper, UT:Everton Publishers, 2002).