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North Carolina Estates Files

From the North Carolina Department of Archives and History and the site has made available nearly 3.4 million images relating to the settlement of family estates in 68 our of 100 counties in North Carolina. The years covered range from 1663 to 1979, so a vast amount of information on an estate is available.

For decades what happened in a family estate was completely detailed in written records. It had to include what happened to any children under the legal age of 21, who survived, where and who received money, land and even at one time, who inherited the family slaves.

Not all of the 68 counties have all the years, 1663 to 1979, many times because that county did not exist in 1663. Some of the older counties with documents back to the 1660s include: Catawba, Cumberland, Currituck, Ashe and Beaufort. Also not every county in the database has all estate records for that county.

This information can help provide names of relatives, how they are related (very important item), ages, death date, occupations, residences, and of course the wealth of a person. Use the search box to place a surname. Placing the surname ‘Walton’ produced 136 listings. Sometimes it is good to just use a surname (unless it is Smith) because given names (or use of initials) could be quite varied.

If you locate a possible ancestor click on that name and a summary of dates and places will appear. If it is still the possible same ancestor then click on the ‘view’ to look over the estate file. Keep in mind there are usually numerous pages to an estate file, not just one page. With John Walton, 1799 there were 38 pages. Use the arrow above the digital image to go to the next page. Many are handwritten, especially the older ones. You can enlarge each page, save it to your computer or print it. With the longer legal documents it may be in two parts (two separate pages scanned). What can be super interesting is viewing an ancestor’s signature at the end or throughout such records.

The lists or inventory of possessions and who get what items is another interesting element in the file. A description along with a value is attached to each item. Things like beds, chest of drawers, horses, carriages, even the departed’s clothes and boots can be on the inventory.

if you can any North Carolina ancestors covering this wide selection of years, use the search engine and see if there is a listing. They could have been in a county you were not even aware of, so do check.

Photo: Inventory list for John Walton of Chowan County.

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