North Carolina Emigration and Immigration
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 NORTH CAROLINA - MINORITIES.
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.
- 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.
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. Learn more about these record collections at United States Emigration and Immigration
- 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.
FHL films 830231 (first of 26) 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.
- Indexes to these minor ports lists
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. FHL films 418161–418348) A comprehensive list of about 140,000 immigrants to America from Britain is:
- Indexes to these minor ports lists
North Carolina passenger lists and other lists of immigrants can be found in the Family History Library Catalog by using a Place Search under:
- NORTH CAROLINA - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
- NORTH CAROLINA, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
Three of the major roads used to reach North Carolina were:
Other migration routes are listed on the North Carolina page.
Free native-born North Carolinians, alive in 1850, who had left the state, resettled as follows:
|State||Persons Born in North Carolina||Percentage|
Robertson compiled a list of North Carolinians living in Kansas in 1860:
- Robertson, Clara Hamlett. Kansas Territorial Settlers of 1860 Who were Born in Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina: A Compilation with Historical Annotations and Editorial Comment. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1976. FHL 978.1 H2ro; digital version at World Vital Records ($).
Useful sources showing migration patterns are:
- Dollarhide, William. Map Guide to American Migration Routes, 1735–1815. Bountiful, Utah: AGLL Genealogical Services, 1997. (Family History Library book 973 E3d.) This book contains many good maps.
- Billington, Ray Allen. Westward Expansion: A History of the American Frontier. 5th ed. New York, New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1982. (Family History Library book 973 H2bw 1982.) This book has explanations and maps of settlement and migration of various groups.
Works on migration within and through North Carolina are listed under:
- UNITED STATES - MIGRATION, INTERNAL
- NORTH CAROLINA - MIGRATION, INTERNAL
North Carolina. Salt Lake City, Utah: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Family History Department, 1998, 2001.
- These statistics do not account for the large number of North Carolinians who had migrated and died before the year 1850. See: William O. Lynch, "The Westward Flow of Southern Colonists before 1861," The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Aug. 1943):303-327. Digital version at JSTOR ($).