300 years of NC legal probate records help trace family histories

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Disputes over a will, trust, or other probate document are difficult for surviving family members. Our law firm has extensive experience in probate litigation, representing both estates in will contests and other disputed probate matters. There is, however, another interesting use for legal records associated with probate matters. When you are researching your family history, probate records are some of the most valuable documents you’ll come across.


In some periods of history, birth, marriage, and death records are unavailable. Probate records, created after an individual’s death, often survive these time periods, and contain personal details unlike any other records. It can be fascinating to discover the people and possessions your ancestors cared about, which can offer clues to their personalities. An inventory of an estate’s assets can reveal personal details about the deceased’s occupation and lifestyle. There may also be references to debts, deeds, and other documents related to the settling of the estate.


The most extensive collection of documented U.S. wills and probate records is available on

ancestry.com. Remarkably, you can discover 300 years of North Carolina wills and probate records dating from 1665-1998. The ancestry.com collection includes images of probate records for all counties in the state of North Carolina.


Probate records can be challenging to access because originals are kept in courthouses across the country. The North Carolina collection took years to compile from a collection of microfilm brought together from multiple courthouses over time and organized into a single source to search. The website warns, “Some localities and time periods may not be included because they were not available to be acquired as part of this collection, or the records may have been lost or destroyed before the effort to collect them all began.” If the probate record you are looking for is from a county or year range that is not included in the ancestry.com collection, you can try contacting the appropriate county courthouse to see if the records are available there. Good luck with your sleuthing!


Richard Manger, principal of Manger Law Firm, has extensive experience in litigation and settlements, with a focus on personal injury and workers’ compensation law. We are proud of the strong relationships of loyalty and trust we develop with our clients. We go above and beyond to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. You can contact Richard Manger via email at ram@mangerlaw.com, or by calling (336) 882-2000.

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