North Carolina Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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North Carolina Probate Records, 1735-1970 .
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
North Carolina, United States
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Flag of North Carolina
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Location of North Carolina
Record Description
Record Type Probate
Collection years 1735-1970
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites



What is in the Collection?

The collection consists of probate matters recorded at county courthouses in North Carolina for the years 1735 to 1970. However, most of the records in this collection are from 1800-1930. Probate records are court documents and may have involved loose papers or bound volumes. These files included all documents related to estate settlement including:

  • Wills
  • Inventories
  • Receipts
  • Accounts
  • Administrations
  • Appraisals
  • Minutes
  • Bonds
  • Petitions
  • Guardianships
  • Settlements
You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for North Carolina Probate Records, 1735-1970.

Collection Content

Sample Images

What Can this Collection Tell Me?

Probate records include petitions, inventories, accounts, decrees, oaths of executors, forms about guardians and other court documents. Information in entries includes:

  • Name of testator or deceased
  • Names of heirs such as spouse, children, and other relatives or friends
  • Names of witnesses
  • Residence of testator
  • Lists of belongings, property, and so forth
  • Document and recording dates (Sometimes the date of death will be given. Recording dates are also used to approximate event dates, i.e. a letter of administration was usually written shortly after the time of death.)

Most probate records in North Carolina were created on a county level though many were later sent to the North Carolina State Archives. For the colonial period, dozens of North Carolina wills were proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in London, England. The contents of probate records vary greatly depending on the prevailing law and the personality of the record keeper.

Probate records are used to legally dispose of a person’s estate after his or her death. The probate process transfers the legal responsibility for payment of taxes, care and custody of dependent family members, liquidation of debts, and transfer of property title. The transfer is to an executor or executrix if the deceased had made a will, to an administrator or administratrix if the deceased had not made a will, or to a guardian or conservator if the deceased had heirs under the age of twenty-one or if heirs were incompetent due to disease or disability.

The death date, residence, and other facts that were current at the time of the probate proceeding are quite reliable, though there is still a chance of misinformation. The records may omit the names of deceased family members and those who have previously received an inheritance, or the spouse mentioned may not be the parent of the children mentioned.

How Do I Search the Collection?

To begin your search it is helpful to know:

  • The name of the deceased.
  • The approximate death or probate date.
  • The place of residence.
  • The names of family members and their relationships.


View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page:
To search the collection you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒ Select the "Browse" link in the initial search page
⇒ Select the "County" category
⇒ Select the "Volume Title and Year" category which takes you to the images

Look at each image comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine if the image relates to them. You may need to look at several images and compare the information about the individuals listed in those images to your ancestors to make this determination. Keep in mind:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names or variations of their name throughout their life.

What Do I Do Next?

When you have located your ancestor’s probate record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. Add this new information to your records of each family.

I Found Who I was Looking for, What Now?

  • Use probate records to identify heirs and relatives.
  • You may be able to use the probate record to learn about adoptions or guardianship of any minor children and dependents.
  • Use the document (such as the will) or the recording dates to approximate a death date.
  • Use the information in the probate record to substitute for civil birth and death records since the probates exist for an earlier time period.
  • You may be able to use the probate record to learn about land transactions.
  • Use the birth date or age along with the residence or place of birth of the deceased to locate census, church, and land records.
  • Use the occupations listed to find employment records or other types of records such as military records.
  • Compile the entries for every person who has the same surname as the deceased; this is especially helpful in rural areas or if the surname is unusual.

I Can’t Find Who I’m Looking for, What Now?

  • Check for variant spellings of the surnames.
  • Check for a different index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.


Known Issues with This Collection

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See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached article. If you encounter additional problems, plea se email them to support@familysearch.org. Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.


Citing This Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.  

Collection Citation:

"North Carolina Probate Records, 1735-1970." Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2016. Citing County courthouses, North Carolina.

Image Citation:

The image citation is available by clicking on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen. You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for North Carolina Probate Records, 1735-1970.


How Can I Contribute to the FamilySearch Wiki?

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.