North Carolina Emigration and Immigration
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. The United States Emigration and Immigration Wiki article 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 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. FHL film 1597810, item 2; book 975.6 E3c This atlas shows the formation of counties and the patterns of European settlement.
- 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
- Newsome, Albert Ray, Records of Emigrants from England and Scotland to North Carolina, 1774-1775 (Raleigh, NC : State Dept. of Archives and History, 1962) At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 975.6 A1 no. 30 Digital version available through catalog entry for this book.
- Wayne County, Indiana, settlers from North and South Carolina, FHL film 908530 item 6; book 977.263 H2w
- Meyer, Duane, The Highland Scots of North Carolina, 1732-1776 (Chapel Hill, NC : University of NC Press, ) At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 975.6 F2me
- Johnston, Hugh B., They Moved Away : North Carolinians Who Went to Other States (Wilson, NC : Wilson County Genealogical Society (NC), c1997) At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 975.6 W2j
- Eaker, Lorena Shell, German speaking people west of the Catawba River in North Carolina, 1750-1800 : and some émigrés participation in early settlement of Southeast Missouri (Franklin, NC : Genealogy Pub. Service, c1994) At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 975.6 W2e)
- Tyler H. Blethen and Curtis W. Wood, Jr. From Ulster to Carolina : the Migration of the Scotch-Irish to southwestern North Carolina (Raleigh, NC : North Carolina Dept. of Cultural Resources, c1998) WorldCat 39557158; FHL book 975.6 F2bL
- 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] - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
Three of the major roads used to reach North Carolina were:
Other migration routes are listed on the North Carolina page.
Many researchers know an ancestor was born in North Carolina, but they don't know precisely where. To begin in-depth research in the state, you will need to pinpoint specific counties where your ancestors lived. Jeffrey L. Haines, CG, prepared a list of "people finders" that can help you accomplish this task during different periods of North Carolina's history. See:
- Haines, Jeffrey L. "People Finders for North Carolina," North Carolina Genealogical Journal, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Feb. 2009):5-14. FHL Book 975.6 B2j.
Free native-born North Carolinians, alive in 1850, who had left the state, resettled as follows:
|State||Persons Born in North Carolina||Percentage|
Dorothy Williams Potter in Passports of Southeastern Pioneers 1770-1823 (FHL Book 975 W4p) identifies some migrants from North Carolina into territories that are now Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri.
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 book 978.1 H2ro; digital version at World Vital Records ($).
Useful sources showing migration patterns are:
- Dollarhide, William. Map Guide to American Migration Routes, 1735–1815. Bountiful, Utah: AGLL Genealogical Services, 1997. FHL book 973 E3d This book contains many good maps.
- Billington, Ray Allen. Westward Expansion: A History of the American Frontier. 5th ed. New York, New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1982. FHL book 973 H2bw This book has explanations and maps of settlement and migration of various groups.
Works on migration within and through North Carolina are listed under:
- UNITED STATES - MIGRATION, INTERNAL
- NORTH CAROLINA - MIGRATION, INTERNAL
- These statistics do not account for the large number of North Carolinians who had migrated and died before the year 1850. See: William O. Lynch, "The Westward Flow of Southern Colonists before 1861," The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Aug. 1943):303-327. Digital version at JSTOR ($).