And that is one of the first rules of genealogical research. It can be tedious, exhaustive, and extremely boring work, but when you really find something, the golden rush of Eureka! is priceless. Though, sometimes, it leave you scratching your aching head!
The best place to search the land records is the register of deeds. And there are a handful of counties where you can do this from the comfort of your own home through their websites.
- Craven County from 1737, but quite a few earlier
- Cumberland County from 1754
- Duplin County from 1750
- Edgecombe County from 1759
- Harnett County from 1855
- Johnston County from 1750
- Martin County from 1866
- Nash County from 1777
- New Hanover County from 1728
- Onslow County from 1734
- Pamlico County from 1872, but a few earlier
- Pender County from 1875
- Pitt County from 1762
- Robeson County from 1787
- Sampson County from 1784, but some older Duplin County deeds included
Keep in mind that county boundaries were not static and new counties were formed all the time. An excellent resource for the genealogical researcher in North Carolina to have is The formation of the North Carolina counties, 1663-1943 by David Leroy Corbitt, which can be accessed at the Internet Archive.
I eagerly await the launch of such historical record searches in Beaufort and Hyde Counties. And it would be really awesome if something similar could be done for extinct counties like Albemarle, Bath, and Dobbs. That last isn’t likely, I know, seeing as how most of the relevant documents went up in flames on at least two occasions. But one can dream.
Another source of historical land records is the website North Carolina Land Grant Images and Data. Many original land grants can be read from scanned images of the patent books. Just click “Query” and enter your search parameters. Also, some grants are available through the Register of Deeds and through Ancestry.com.
Now, for some really old records, you can search the Library of Virginia Online Catalog. Select the “Images & Indexes Tab” then double click “Virginia Land Office Patents and Grants in the “Select Database(s) to Search” box.