You don’t need to be a genealogist to know the importance of counties as records keepers. From birth to death records, and many others in between, county governments and courts have long issued and kept some of the most important records to family history researchers. Unfortunately for genealogists, the past is not the same as the present. The county your ancestors farm was in 100 years ago, may not be the same county it was in 110 years ago. No, the farm did not move. However, just as countries can change their boundaries, so can cities and states. It doesn’t even take wars to make county lines move, there are plenty of other reason.
So, just how does a person know what county their ancestors may have lived in a given year? With luck, you can find a book like The Formation of the North Carolina Counties 1663-1943. For those with ancestors who lived or passed through North Carolina, possibly leaving evidence in the form of county records, will find David Leroy Corbitt’s book most useful in identifying counties. All counties in North Carolina, whether they exist today or are now defunct, are listed in this book.
Each county, listed alphabetically of course, includes a synopsis of its formation along with quotes from various sources, though most from one or two key legal references, describing the land and the county boundaries. For example: “That that part of Albermarle County lying on the West side of Chowan River, being part of Chowan Precinct, bounded to the Northward by the line dividing this Government from Virginia, and the Southward by Albemarle Sound and Morattuck River, as far up as Welch’s Creek, and then including both sides of said River, and the Branches thereof, as far as the limits of this government,…”
This volume thoroughly vets North Carolina county lines. According to the author, “If it does not contain enough to hlep substantially in locating definite boundary lines.”
Find The Formation of the North Carolina Counties 1663-1943 and similar books at Family Roots Publishing.