North Carolina History

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Effective family history research requires some understanding of the historical events that affected your family and the records about them. Learning about wars, governments, laws, migrations, and religious trends can help you understand political boundaries, family movements, and settlement patterns.

State, county, and local histories often contain biographical sketches of local citizens, including important genealogical information. This may be one of the best sources of information for some families.

The following important events in the history of North Carolina affected political boundaries, record keeping, and family movements:

1560s:  The area that is now North Carolina was visited by the Spaniard Pardo and his soldiers. Records are at the North Carolina State Archives.

1650s:  The first permanent settlements were made in the Albemarle Sound area by colonists from Virginia.

1706–1725:  French Huguenot, German, and Swiss colonists founded towns near the coast.

1730–1770:  Scottish Highlanders immigrated directly to North Carolina ports. People of Ulster Scottish and German descent arrived from Pennsylvania and Virginia using the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road.

1753:  Moravian colonists arrived.

1760–1768:  Private citizens formed groups to protect law and order. This was known as the Regulation Movement. The participants were known as Regulators.

1768–1771:  The War of the Regulation took place.

1789:  North Carolina became a state and ceded what is now Tennessee to the United States government.

1850:  One-fourth of all native North Carolinians had left the state and were living in other states or territories.

1861:  North Carolina seceded from the Union. It was readmitted in 1868. About 125,000 North Carolina men served in the Confederate armed forces during the Civil War, more than from any other Confederate state.

1862–1907:  Twenty-four counties in southern and western North Carolina suffered major losses of records, mostly due to fire and war.

North Carolina histories are available in all major research centers. A good example is:

Lefler, Hugh T., and Albert R. Newsome. 'T'he History of a Southern State, North Carolina' Rev. ed. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, c1973. (FHL book 975.6 H2Lh, 1973.)

County and local histories are another good source of information on the early history of places, religions, and early residents. The Family History Library has histories of nearly all counties in the state. Many histories are indexed. Some indexes are listed in the "Biography" and "Genealogy" sections of the United States Research Outline (30972). A bibliography of county and local histories for North Carolina is:

Stevenson, George. North Carolina Local History: A Select Bibliography. Rev. ed. Raleigh, North Carolina: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, c1984. (FHL book 975.6 H23sg.)

The Draper Manuscript Collection is a significant regional source including records of North Carolina.

Draper, Lyman Copeland. Draper Manuscript Collection'. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Library, 197–?. (On 147 FHL films beginning with 889097.) The Draper Manuscript Collection consists of nearly 500 volumes of manuscripts, papers, and books collected by Lyman Copeland Draper about the history of the Trans-Allegheny West, a region including the western areas of the Carolinas and Virginia, all of the Ohio River Valley, and part of the upper Mississippi Valley from the 1740s to 1830. The collection is divided into 50 series. Some series are titled by geographic area, some by the names of prominent frontier leaders, and some by topic. The bulk of the collection consists of notes from interviews, questionnaires, and letters gathered during Draper’s extensive travels and research to learn about frontier history. Personal papers are much more rare in the collection than government or military records. The collection includes many items of a genealogical or biographical nature. For an inventory and partial indexes, see:

Harper, Josephine L. Guide to the Draper Manuscripts. Madison, Wisconsin: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1983. (FHL book 977.583/M1 A3h.) This guide gives series and volume descriptions for some of the Draper manuscripts. There are several indexes at the end of the book, including a name and subject index, an additional personal data index, and a list of references to North Carolina.

Wolfe, Barbara Schull. Index to Lyman C. Draper Manuscripts'. Logansport, Indiana: B.E.S. Wolfe, 19-–. (FHL book 977.583/M1 A3w.) The name index gives series and volume numbers, but is not complete.

North Carolina local histories can be found in the Family History Library Catalog by using a Place Search under: