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Okay… buy and share some land records!

What a week this has been! It’s the week of the 2021 Family History Conference of the National Genealogical Society — virtual, of course, and not the conference we all hoped for in Richmond this year. But NGS rose to the challenge for a second year and… well… wow.

Tuesday The Legal Genealogist got to play MC on the first SLAM Idea Showcase — where societies, libraries, archives and museums could (in my words) strut their stuff for the genealogical community. The scope and range of projects undertaken for our benefit was absolutely breathtaking. More than 30 separate videos submitted that are available right now on the NGS YouTube channel.1

Wednesday and yesterday were the LIVE! days of the conference, with presentations ranging from “Leveraging Genetic Networks to Break Down Brick Walls,” a great DNA presentation by Angie Bush, to my own “Wilde Beasts, Sabbath Breakers, and Incorrigible Rogues: Early Virginia Laws.”

And, as always happens whenever there are multiple tracks, a presentation I really wanted to hear was up against my own. So, last night, when things quieted down, I fired up my NGS account and sat to learn from North Carolina researcher and land expert David McCorkle in his talk, “Easily Find Your North Carolina Ancestor’s Land History and Neighbors Using”

I came away richer in knowledge — and poorer in the checkbook.

And I love it.

And I’m perfectly happy to drag you along for the ride if you have anybody — anybody at all — who passed through North Carolina.

Thomas Davenport grant

David’s website — — is enough to make any genealogist giddy. What he’s doing is indexing and digitizing all of the land grant records for North Carolina, covering the years 1663 through 1960. Land grants are how land originally went from the sovereign (the King or Lord Proprietor or State) to a private owner, and the records are on microfilm at the North Carolina State Archives. Some of them are available on Ancestry or unindexed on FamilySearch. But nowhere except on this free-open-to-the-public research website are the images and indexes so readily accessible.

Right now the website contains:

• Searchable data for 216,000 land grants including names, dates and locations for years 1663 through 1960, including 10,000 grants in what is now Tennessee
• 51,000 Images of all 200+ existing Land Patent Books with complete metes and bounds for each patent (Unique to this website!)
• 200,000 Images of loose documents (surveys, warrants, receipts) for a number of NC counties, with more on the way
• 41,000 Images of all Granville District Grants including signed deeds, warrants, and surveys (Unique to this website!)2

All of what’s there now made me richer in knowledge. I actually have copies now of the pages of the land patent books with some of my ancestors’ grants.

And it’s that “with more on the way” part that has me poorer in the checkbook. Because we can help get all the rest of the images of the loose documents that exist on this website, linked to that fabulous searchable index, and readily accessible to all researchers with North Carolina roots.

Just by buying some land records, through a contribution to benefit

Here’s the story. The North Carolina State Archives will sell any roll of its microfilm — fully digitized — for $16. So a contribution of $16 to the newly-formed North Carolina Historical Records Online (NCHRO) — a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation registered in the State of North Carolina to support the project — will put one roll of land patent records microfilm online.3

We can choose to simply donate — any amount, it doesn’t have to be a multiple of $16 — without specifying what specific records should be acquired, and we’ll be making a fully-tax-deductible contribution to North Carolina Historical Records Online. There’s a full explanation of how to do that at “Get the Shucks Online!” at the NCHRO website with a click-here-donate buttton. (The shucks were the envelopes into which the loose papers were stuffed years ago.)

We can, if we prefer, donate for the purpose of getting the records from a specific county online faster, and again there are directions for that on the same page. It’s still fully tax-deductible; the big difference is we need to first contact NCHRO about what we want to fund, to make sure nobody else has already contributed for that. (Hands off Burke and Granville Counties, y’all. I got them covered. But I’ll be soooooo grateful if you crowdsource Rutherford, Yancey, Clay and Macon… just to name a few…)

And what kind of goodies may be in those loose papers? Well, take a look at the image above. That’s just part of the survey for a patent for one of my North Carolina kin. Any set of loose papers should have that sort of document.

Even if our ancestors didn’t get a land patent, these records tell us who they might have lived with or near, or worked for. They may have been chain carriers on a relative’s survey. They tell us who settled our part of North Carolina and when. There’s so much we can learn from these. And this is the easiest fastest way to get these records online — free, forever — for all of us to use.

So… check out for a fabulous website to access North Carolina land grant records.

Then cough up $16 (or more!) and help get the rest of those loose papers online — the info again is “here.

Everyone who ever had ancestors in North Carolina will be grateful.

Me included.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Buy some land!,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 21 May 2021).


  1. For more on this, see “SLAM! Idea Showcase,” NGS 2021 Conference, National Genealogical Society ( : accessed 21 May 2021).
  2. See “What’s Here,” ( : accessed 21 May 2021).
  3. See generally “Get the Shucks Online!,” North Carolina Historical Records Online ( : accessed 21 May 2021).
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