Monday, April 27, 2015

Guest Blogger - Lisa Lisson


How to Begin Your North Carolina Genealogy Research
Were your ancestors from North Carolina? Have you ever wondered how to begin looking for your North Carolina roots?

There are many resources for searching out your North Carolina ancestors – far too many to list here.  However, knowing a few basic tips before starting your North Carolina research will help you progress further and quicker.

Location, Location, Location
Know the history of the location where your ancestors lived.

North Carolina is bordered by Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina and even a small portion of Georgia. The boundaries of North Carolina changed over the course of history. State boundaries and county lines evolved through the years. At times, the boundaries, including the state line, were hotly contested. If your North Carolina ancestor lived close to the Virginia or South Carolina state line, be sure to check the neighboring state’s records for your ancestor.

Today, North Carolina is subdivided into 100 counties, but that has not always been the case. As the state’s population grew and migrated further south and west, new counties were formed and old county lines changed. Western North Carolina counties originally in North Carolina eventually became part of Tennessee. For more information refer to Tennessee Counties Originally in North Carolina.

As a genealogy and family history researcher, you must know your ancestors’ location within their time period. Your ancestor did not necessarily move, but their records may be in a different county due to a change in the county line or the creation of a new county. Knowing the history of the county (counties) where your ancestors lived is crucial for locating their records. For more information on the formation of North Carolina counties refer to North Carolina County Formation.

Location of North Carolina Records
Original Records

The North Carolina genealogy researcher will find the centralization of the state’s records helpful. The State Archives of North Carolina is located in Raleigh and contains records from all 100 counties including former North Carolina counties now in Tennessee. This means you can research an ancestor in multiple North Carolina locations without needing to leave the building. The archives also have a search service or can refer you to a local genealogist if more extensive work is needed.

What if you are not able to get to the State Archives of North Carolina?

Check with the individual counties to see what records (or copies of records) they retained. Remember that many of these records may be available online at FamilySearch.

Online Records

Fortunately for the genealogist, more and more genealogical records and resources are being made available online.  

Know What Records Exist for Your Ancestor’s Location

Birth and death records were not required in North Carolina until 1913. Initially, compliance with this requirement was not met. Delayed certificates filed months or even years after the event can be found.

A loss of county records due to fire or other disaster can hinder your research.  Unfortunately, North Carolina has a number of burned counties in which many county records were lost.  If your ancestor was from a “burned county”, first determine which (if any) records survived the fire. Next, check for possible church records, newspapers or federal records (such as census records and land grant records) for the area. The individual counties’ genealogical or historical societies’ websites can assist you in knowing what records exist.

Best of luck hunting ancestors in the Tarheel state!


Lisa Lisson is a genealogist, blogger and Etsy-prenuer who writes about her never-ending pursuit of ancestors, the “how” of genealogy research, and the importance of sharing genealogy research with our families. Specializing in North Carolina and southern Virginia research, she also provides genealogical research services to clients. In researching her own family history, Lisa discovered a passion for oral history and its role in genealogy research.

When not tracking ancestors through the records, Lisa enjoys spending time with her husband and two “almost” grown children.
You can find Lisa online at LisaLisson.com , Twitter, Pinterest, and her Etsy store Esther’s Place – Heritage Inspired Gifts.

1 comment:

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