North Carolina Emigration and Immigration

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Portal:United States Emigration and Immigration >North Carolina

The "Emigration and Immigration" section of the United States Research Outline lists several important sources for finding information about immigrants to this country. These sources include many references to people who settled in North Carolina. Tracing Immigrant Origins introduces the principles, research strategies, and additional record types you can use to identify an immigrant’s original hometown.


The earliest pre-statehood settlers of North Carolina were generally of English descent and came from Virginia and South Carolina to the Coastal Plain region, between 1650 and 1730. In the early 1700s, small groups of French Huguenot, German Palatine, and Swiss immigrants founded towns on the coast. Between 1729 and 1775, several thousand Scottish settlers came directly from the Scottish Highlands and the Western Isles to settle the upper Cape Fear Valley.

During the same period, many Ulster Scots and Germans came overland down the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road into the central and western portions of the state. African Americans were brought to North Carolina very early and now constitute about one-fifth of the state’s population. Histories of Germans, Scots, and African Americans are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under:


To learn about settlement patterns in North Carolina, see:

Clay, James W. North Carolina Atlas. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1975. (Family History Library book 975.6 E3c; film 1597810 item 2.) This atlas shows the formation of counties and the patterns of European settlement.

Although most of the Cherokee Indians were removed from North Carolina in the late 1830s, some remained and many of their descendants still live in the western part of the state. See Indians of North Carolina for further information about American Indians in North Carolina.

North Carolina did not attract heavy settlement after the Revolutionary War and lost much of its population in the westward movement to Tennessee, Illinois, and other new states and territories.


North Carolina’s treacherous coastline prevented significant immigration by sea. Most immigrants arrived at major northern ports such as New York, Baltimore, Boston, and Philadelphia.

There are some incomplete lists of passengers for five minor ports in North Carolina: Beaufort, 1865; Edentown, 1820; New Berne, 1820–1865; Plymouth, 1820–1840; and Washington, 1820–1848. The records of these ports are listed in:

United States. Bureau of Customs. Copies of Lists of Passengers Arriving at Miscellaneous Ports on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts and at Ports on the Great Lakes, 1820–1873. National Archives Microfilm Publications, M575. Washington, DC: National Archives, 1964. (Family History Library films 830231–46.) For indexes to these lists, see:

United States. Bureau of Customs. A Supplemental Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Atlantic and Gulf Coast Ports, 1820–1874. National Archives Microfilm Publications, M334. Washington, DC: National Archives, 1960. (Family History Library films 418161–348.) More detailed information on U.S. immigration sources can be found in the "Tracing Immigrant Origins" FamilySearch Wiki article.

A few published lists of colonial immigrants are indexed in:

Filby, P. William. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. 21 vols.Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1981–. (Family History Library book Ref 973 W32p.) There are several cumulative indexes. Supplemental volumes are issued annually.

A comprehensive list of about 140,000 immigrants to America from Britain is:

Coldham, Peter Wilson. The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607–1776, and British Emigrants in Bondage, 1614–1775. Brøderbund Software, Novato, California, 1996. (Family History Library CD-ROM no. 9, pt. 350 for The Complete Book... and Family History Library CD-ROM no. 2150 for British Emigrants). This is not circulated to Family History Centers. North Carolina immigrants are numerous. The records may show British hometown, emigration date, ship, destination, and text of the document abstract.

Useful sources showing migration patterns are:

Dollarhide, William. Map Guide to American Migration Routes, 1735–1815. Bountiful, Utah: AGLL Genealogical Services, 1997. (Family History Library book 973 E3d.) This book contains many good maps.

Billington, Ray Allen. Westward Expansion: A History of the American Frontier. 5th ed. New York, New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1982. (Family History Library book 973 H2bw 1982.) This book has explanations and maps of settlement and migration of various groups.

North Carolina passenger lists and other lists of immigrants can be found in the Family History Library Catalog by using a Place Search under:


Works on migration within and through North Carolina are listed under:



North Carolina Research Outline. Salt Lake City, Utah: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Family History Department, 1998, 2001.