If your ancestors came to North Carolina in the 1600s, there is a good chance they lived in an abolished county at some point. Some abolished counties, such as Dobbs County, were created after 1700. As genealogy researchers, we are taught when boundaries change and new counties are formed records created in the original county stay there rather than moved to the new county; however, that leads to the question of what happens with records created in abolished counties.
Map of NC in 1760 showing the location of Dobbs County – Image courtesy of Learnnc.org
Dobbs County Formation and Records
Let’s take a look at Dobbs County, created in 1758 from part of Johnston County. Only a few records exist; there are some wills, which are in the Thornton W. Mitchell’s will book index. There were also deeds, which are not dated. Dobbs County was abolished in 1791 when it split into Glasgow and Lenoir Counties. Any records that were mixed in with Lenoir County records have been destroyed by court house fire in 1878 and again in 1880.
Image courtesy of LEARN NC.
The 1840 census began June 1st and ended February 1st of 1841. Information given was as of the census day, not the day of enumeration. In cases like this, the census may have been enumerated on December 1st with an age given as 12, but that age was as of June 1, 1840, so it’s possible there was a birthday between the census day and the date of enumeration.
As in 1830, the 1840 census had a printed form for enumerators to use. Unlike other years, there were no missing census pages for any state. Also, a new state and territory were included: Iowa and the Wisconsin Territory. Although Oregon became a territory by 1840, it was not included.
The census day of the 1830 census occurred on June 1st and twelve months were allowed to complete the census. Information given was as of the census day, not the day of enumeration. In cases like this, the census may have been enumerated on December 1st with an age given as 12, but that age was as of June 1, 1830, so it’s possible there was a birthday between the census day and the date of enumeration.
The 1830 census was the first to have a printed form for enumerators to use. Not only that, but there were two copies. After the census was finished, one copy went to Washington, D.C. while the other copy went to the clerk of the district court. Because of problems with missing pages with earlier censuses, the senate wanted to ensure that they would not have missing records. In some cases, copies that went to D.C. went missing and copies from the clerks of district courts were sent to replace them. The copies in D.C. were the only ones transferred to the National Archives.
The fourth federal census occurred in 1820 with the census day as August 7, 1820. Thirteen months were allotted. As with earlier censuses, there was no printed forms for enumerators to use.
The 1820 census is mostly intact, but six counties have lost census records. Those counties are Currituck, Franklin, Martin, Montgomery, Randolph, and Wake. If your ancestor lived in one of those counties, there are possible substitutes that you can use. It should be noted that Currituck has very few records before the mid-1800s. Martin County had a court house fire in 1884 that destroyed many records and Montgomery had a fire in 1835 that also destroyed records. Below are substitutes you can use for these counties mentioned; they have the following records close to 1820:
- Tax: Franklin, Randolph, Wake
- Court records (can include Jury lists) Currituck, Franklin, Montgomery, Randolph, Wake
- Deeds and land records (which include witnesses): Franklin, Martin, Randolph, Wake