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Beaufort Co., NC Wills Index

1700 - 1900


To better understand and appreciate Beaufort Precinct and County, and it's records, we must begin with a brief history of its parent county, Bath. Bath County, N.C. was formed in 1696, taking in the settlements on the Pamlico and Neuse Rivers, some of the settlements south of Albemarle Sound, and later, including those down the coast to the South Carolina line (Bath had been under the jurisdiction of Albemarle County prior to 1696). In 1705 Bath County was divided into 3 precincts: (1) Wickham (became Hyde Co. in c1712); (2) Pamtecough (became Beaufort Co. c1712); and (3) Archdale (became Craven Co. c 1712). When Bath County was abolished in 1739 its 7 precincts (Hyde, Beaufort, Craven, Carteret, New Hanover, Bladen, and Onslow) became counties. For you Hyde County researchers, remember that Hyde County (Wickham Precinct) began just east of Bath at Mellyne's (later Sinclare's) Creek on the west side of the Matchapungo (later called Pungo) River and on the north side of the Pamlico River including all the land from the creek eastward to Matchapungo Bluff, near present day New Holland. If you're looking for an older will then it would behoove you to check the Beaufort County records as well as Hyde.

What few records exist for Bath County are scattered in the courthouses of some of its early precincts, and in the Archives in Raleigh. Bath County's earliest recorded deeds, for example, date from 1700 and are included in Beaufort Co. Deed Book One (1701-1729). However, several early Bath County deeds and other documents, some dated before 1700, may be found in the records of Albemerle County and its precincts...most of the earliest records of Craven and Hyde Counties have not been preserved. From extant records one may conclude that Bath County's principal seat of government was at the town of Bath (founded 1705) in Beaufort Precinct. Beaufort and Hyde Precincts are known to have held joint sessions of court, apparently in Beaufort.

Eighteen Bath County wills (1702-1718), mostly for Beaufort and Hyde Precincts, were recorded in Beaufort Precinct and may be found in Beaufort Co. Deed Book One and are NOT on record in the will books in the Beaufort Co. Clerk's Office. Also ten of the eighteen do NOT appear in Grimes' "Abstracts of North Carolina Wills 1663-1760" probably because the originals of the ten were never sent to the Secretary of State as required by law. In fact, over 60 more Beaufort County wills dated 1720 to 1760 were retained in the courthouse and later copied into the Old Will Book and thus do NOT appear in Grimes' volume. [NOTE: Detailed abstracts of all these oldest Beaufort County wills 1702-1770, a total of 103 wills, were published in "The North Carolinian" March and June 1959 and December 1960 issues.]

Beaufort County's Clerks of Court delayed over 100 years before they commenced recording wills, not starting until 1808. From 1808 to 1868 all wills were recorded in what are designated as "Orphan Books", and in addition to wills, these volumes also contain inventories, accounts, sales, and divisions of estates, guardian accounts, year's allowances to widows, etc. There are 13 volumes of these Orphan Books, "A" thru "M" covering 1808-1868, including volumes labeled "C1" and "C2" but no wills were recorded in "C1"; there never was a volume "J". Will Book 1 commenced in 1868, and beginning 1868 wills only were recorded in the will books.

As stated earlier, beginning in 1705 Bath County contained 3 precincts, and by the time Bath was abolished in 1739, it contained 7 precincts. Grimes listed around 68 Bath County wills dating from 1707-1739 but it would take considerable research and study to ascertain to which of the 7 precincts each belonged. It is probable that at least a few of the 68 belongs to Beaufort Precinct. Grimes also listed around 112 wills for Beaufort Precinct and County 1704/5 to 1774. Of the 112, only 9 are on record in the Beaufort Courthouse (one in Old Will Book and eight in Deed Book One). The originals of the remaining 103 were not recorded in the county but were sent to the Secretary of State.

In the late 1800's or early 1900's, perhaps, Beaufort County copied its loose, unrecorded wills (472 of them) into a volume designated as "Old Wills 1720-1842 (actually 1720-1860). At least 16 of the wills were recorded twice, once in the Old Will Book, and again in Orphan Book A or B. Thus there are 472 wills in Beaufort's Old Will Book 1720-1860 (including at least 16 duplications); 618 wills in the Orphans Books Vols. A thru M (1808-1868); 297 wills in Will Book 1 (1868-1893); and 90 wills in Will Book 2 (1893-1906) - making a total of 1447 wills. Plus the 18 in Beaufort Deed Book One (1701-1729); plus the 112 in Grimes for a grand total of 1577, with duplications bringing the figure down to around 1550.

Only a few of the wills proved before 1700 have survived in the records identified in the State Archives as Secretary of State wills. A majority of the counties have transferred all or part of their surviving original wills to the State Archives, however, some counties have kept all or part of them. There has been major loss both of recorded and original wills from fire, war, natural disasters or carelessness.

In 1963 the late William Perry Johnson began publication of a series which he entitled "Index to North Carolina Wills, 1663-1900". The research that led to that work was begun at least as early as 1955, and by 1973 lists of recorded wills in 23 counties had been published, Beaufort County being one of the 23. After publishing the fourth volume of his index, Johnson discontinued the project, in part, because of poor health. In 1977 Thornton W. Mitchell expressed an interest in continuing and completing the will index. Johnson loaned Mitchell his notes which were then microfilmed. Although Johnson included some alphabetical listings of the original wills that were in the State Archives, he did not compare the recorded and original versions of the same will. In 1987 Thornton W. Mitchell published his book (a compilation of his own research and that of Mr. Johnson) entitled "North Carolina Wills: A Testator Index, 1665 - 1900".

With his permission before he passed away in 2003, we are using Thornton Mitchell's index to wills as the basis for this Beaufort County wills project with the remarks section being used for the differences between Johnson's research and Mitchell's research.

The legend of abbreviations used in Mitchell's work is as follows:

AR - indicates that the original (or copy) is in the NC State Archives in Raleigh, NC

AR/CRX - a record in the State Archives that has been out of legal custody and the provenance can not be proved

CCR - Colonial Court Records. The 3-digit number following the symbol is the State Archives box number

CTY - indicates the original will (or copy) is in the custody of the county clerk of superior court

DB - Deed Book. Followed by a book or volume number, and page number

LGB - Land Grant Book in the office of the NC Secretary of State. The wills in Land Grant Book 4 are numbered and the digits following the LGB symbol are document numbers.

N - No county was indicated within the will

ND - indicates that neither the registered nor original will bore either a probate or signature date

Nunc. - indicates a nuncupative or oral will

OB - Orphan Book. This is followed by a book or volume number and page number

OWB - Old Will Book. This is followed by a book or volume number and page number

RB - Record Book. This is followed by a book or volume number and page number

RW - Record of Wills. This is followed by a book or volume number and page number

SS - Secretary of State records in the State Archives. This is followed by a 3 or 4-digit number which is the shelf number of a volume in the SS group, then the page number.

SS/AR - The Secretary of State loose wills in the State Archives

WB - Will Book. This is followed by a book or volume number and page number

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To Order Copies of Estate Records, Wills, etc., see:


Contact Information:
Phone: (919) 807-7310
Fax: (919) 733-1354

Mail should be addressed to:
North Carolina State Archives
4614 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, N.C. 27699-4614

Sources: North Carolina Wills: A Testator Index 1665 - 1900 by Thornton W. Mitchell © 1987, 1992
Index to North Carolina Wills 1663 - 1900 by William Perry Johnson © 1963
Source: Last Will and Testament of Pamplico Township, Goose Creek Island: 1700-1980, by Odell Spain, Hobucken, N.C. 28537

Will Index originally transcribed by Kay M. Sheppard & John B. McGowan and prepared by Sallie Gargis.
Individual Will Abstracts transcribed by various contributors as indicated.

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Beaufort Co., NC Estates Index Page

2010 Kay Midgett Sheppard