North Carolina Office of Archives & History Department of Cultural Resources
Historical Publications Section The Colonial Records Project
Jan-Michael Poff, Editor
Historical Publications Section
4622 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-4622
Phone: (919) 733-7442
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Print Bookshelf

Last Updated 7/23/01

Ye Countie of Albemarle in Carolina


No. 1


Most historical research cannot be approached in a pre-planned manner. The broader knowledge one has of his subject, however, the more logical his approach may be. The selected titles cited here are intended merely as guides for research in Carolina history during the period of the seventeenth century. Many of them contain useful bibliographies which will lead the reader along to discover other interesting volumes for himself. They have all been consulted in connection with the editing of these documents, but not all of the sources, particularly the obscure and rare volumes, used by the editor have been recorded here.

Any good history of North Carolina will contain something on the colony in the seventeenth century, but there is no detailed account of the colony during that period. We have nothing comparable to Thomas J. Wertenbaker’s Virginia Under the Stuarts, 1607-1688 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1914), or Edward McCrady’s The History of South Carolina Under the Proprietary Government, 1670-1729 (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1897). Many North Carolinians, however, continue to quote such early state historians as Francis L. Hawks, John H. Wheeler, and Hugh Williamson whose sources were unfortunately limited and whose conclusions consequently are not always valid. Following the publication of the ten-volume set of The Colonial Records of North Carolina (Raleigh: various publishers, 1886-1890), edited by William L. Saunders, a whole new source of original documents was at hand for the use of the historian of the seventeenth century. Samuel A’Court Ashe for his History of North Carolina (Greensboro: Charles L. Van Noppen, 1908) made the first use of this collection in writing a general history of the state. It is not without factual error, however, and Ashe lacked the historical training necessary for careful interpretation of many of the documents at his disposal.

Better histories of the state, but naturally with only a proportionate share of their contents devoted to the seventeenth century, are R. D. W. Connor’s North Carolina, Rebuilding an Ancient Commonwealth, 1584-1925 (Chicago: The American Historical Society, Inc., 1929, 2 volumes), and The History of a Southern State, North Carolina (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1954) by Hugh Talmage Lefler and Albert Ray Newsome. Both are readable and based on both original [72] documents and monographs and special studies of limited scope. The former devotes approximately 43 pages to the seventeenth century, while the latter has some 26 pages. An occasional minor error in a name or a date may be found in these two histories, but even so they are better than anything else we have relating to the North Carolina region for this period.

Undoubtedly the most detailed study of the whole region of Carolina in the seventeenth century is a two-chapter section in volume III of Charles M. Andrews’ The Colonial Period of American History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1934-1937, 4 volumes). These chapters, entitled “Carolina: The Beginnings” and “The Two Carolinas: Later Years,” occupy 86 pages, the last few of which hastily cover the period between the end of the century and the surrender of the Proprietors’ charter in 1729. Our chief complaint with this account is one which must be repeated for others as well: an undue stress is laid on the Ashley River settlement. In Andrews’ favor, however, it should be noted that he indicates more familiarity with European sources, and particularly with those in England, for Carolina history than any other of our historians. Andrews, thanks to the broader scope of his history, is better able to relate the events in Carolina with events in other colonies, both on the continent and in the West Indies. His citation of sources can be an excellent guide for further reading and research.

There are other general histories of the colonial period which devote a portion of their contents to Carolina. John A. Doyle’s English Colonies in America (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1889, 3 volumes) cites manuscript sources in England in many cases, yet in others there are references to such questionable secondary accounts as George Chalmers’ Political Annals of the Present United Colonies and Hugh Williamson’s The History of North Carolina. Doyle too lays excessive emphasis on the Charles Town settlement in the southern part of the province.

Herbert Levi Osgood’s The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1904-1907, 3 volumes) has a lucid chapter on Carolina which contains useful references to both manuscript and printed sources.

Oliver P. Chitwood’s A History of Colonial America (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1931) has an acceptable 23-page chapter on “The Founding of the Carolinas.” It is documented, and there is a list of “Selected Readings,” though most of them deal with the eighteenth century.

[73] Two volumes in the Original Narratives of Early American History series have material on Carolina. Charles M. Andrews’ Narratives of the Insurrections, 1675-1690 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1915) contains edited documents relating to Culpeper’s Rebellion. The Narratives of Early Carolina, 1650-1708 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1911) edited by Alexander S. Salley, Jr., contains several of the early promotional tracts, as well as some other contemporary accounts.

An account of the various promotional schemes will be found in the Brown University doctor of philosophy thesis of Hope Frances Kane, “Colonial Promotion and Promotion Literature of Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, 1660-1700.” An abstract of this thesis was published in 1948 by Edwards Brothers, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Anyone seriously interested in the details of our seventeenth century history must eventually come to study some of the numerous monographs and articles in historical journals on this period. The annual bibliography, Writings on American, History (Washington: various publishers, 1902-date), will serve as a guide to much useful and interesting material. New discoveries of fact, reinterpretations based on recently found sources, and corrections of earlier writings often appear in these forms. It frequently takes years for their revisions to be incorporated in histories published in book form. Often some monographs and articles deal with such minute subjects or are of such limited interest that what they report is never recorded elsewhere.

A random selection of useful monographs and articles on seventeenth century Carolina subjects, by way of illustration, follows:

Charles M. Andrews, “Captain Henry Wilkinson,” South Atlantic Quarterly, XV (July, 1916), 216-222.

John Spencer Bassett, The Constitutional Beginnings of North Carolina (1663-1729). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1894.

Kemp P. Battle, “The Lords Proprietors of North Carolina,” The North Carolina Booklet, IV (May, 1904), 5-37.

Ernest Taylor Bynum, “Seven Years of Unwritten History of North Carolina, 1669-1676,” Trinity Archive, V (May, 1892), 314-319.

William P. Cumming, “The Earliest Permanent Settlement in Carolina, Nathaniel Batts and the Comberford Map,” American Historical Review, XLV (October, 1939), 82-89.

[74] ______________ “Naming Carolina,” North Carolina Historical Review, XXII (January, 1945), 34-42.

Junius Davis, “Locke’s Fundamental Constitutions,” The North Carolina Booklet, VII (July, 1907), 13-46.

Shirley Carter Hughson, The Carolina Pirates and Colonial Commerce, 1670-1740. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1894.

Hugh T. Lefler, “A Description of ‘Carolana’ By a ‘WellWilIer,’ 1649,” North Carolina Historical Review, XXXI (January, 1955), 102-105.

Paul M. McCain, The County Court in North Carolina Before 1750. Durham: Duke University Press, 1954.

Lawrence N. Morgan, “Land Tenure in Proprietary North Carolina,” James Sprunt Historical Publications, XII (1912), No. 1, 41-63.

North Carolina Under the Proprietary Government, a 42-page pamphlet presumably prepared by William L. Saunders, but without publisher or date. A note on the first page says that it was “Not printed for circulation but for convenience of examination, correction, &c.”

Stephen B. Weeks, “William Drummond, First Governor of North Carolina, 1664-1667,” The National Magazine, XV (April, 1892), 616-628.

The seeker after seventeenth century Carolina history can seldom afford to be selective. Sources are so scarce that all possibilities must be combed with care. John Bennett Boddie’s Seventeenth Century Isle of Wight County, Virginia (Chicago: Chicago Law Printing Company, 1938) is an example of an unlikely sounding title which actually is extremely useful for our purposes. It has much on the early Carolina settlers who moved down from Virginia. Other Virginia county histories are worth investigating as is much of the genealogical material pouring from the press and the duplicating machines these days. They must, of course, be used with caution, and the source of the information they contain should be taken into consideration.

Such Virginia sources as the Legislative Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia, Minutes of the Council and General Court of Colonial Virginia, and the Journals of the House of Burgesses (Richmond: Virginia State Library, various dates) and William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being A Collection of All the Laws of Virginia From the First Session of the Legislature, In the Year 1619 (New York and elsewhere: Printed [75] for the Editor, 1819-1823, 13 volumes) are all extremely useful for the very early period of settlement. E. G. Swem’s Virginia Historical Index (Roanoke: Stone Printing and Manufacturing Co., 1934-1936, 2 volumes) is a valuable detailed index to a number of Virginia historical publications.

The North Carolina Historical and Genealogical Register, edited by J. R. B. Hathaway of Edenton, was published quarterly between 1900 and 1903. The three volumes include large numbers of seventeenth century documents printed in full, and there are abstracts of many official records of the period.

J. Bryan Grimes’ Abstract of North Carolina Wills (Raleigh: E. M. Uzzell, 1910) and his North Carolina Wills and Inventories (Raleigh: Edwards & Broughton, 1912) both contain much that throws light on the everyday lives of early Carolinians. Location and descriptions of real property are sometimes given, and there are numerous lists of personal property including household goods and books.

No effort should be spared by the determined researcher to locate and use unpublished manuscripts of the period. The Secretary of State in Raleigh is custodian of early land grants of which there are approximately a thousand for the period 1693-1720.

The State Department of Archives and History, Raleigh, has the following series of records for this period:


Peter Carteret, 1664-1675 (the documents printed in this volume)

John Archdale Papers, 1694-1707 (photostats), 1 box


Several photostats of documents dated before 1700


General Court Minutes, 1693-1695, 1 volume

General Court Minutes, 1695-1712, 1 volume

General Court Papers, 1690-1716, 1 volume


Vice-Admiralty Papers, 1697-1738, 1 volume


Custom House Papers, Port of Roanoke, 1682-1760, 1 volume


Albemarle County Papers, 1678-1699, approximately 30 items including tax lists, deeds, patents, receipts, bills of sale, etc.


Chowan County Papers, 1685-1699, approximately 12 items including agreements, bills of sale, list of tithables, list of sundrys consigned, etc.


Perquimans Precinct Court Minutes, 1688-1693, 1 volume
Perquimans Precinct Court Minutes, 1698-1699, approximately 80 pages
Perquimans Precinct Births, Marriages, Deaths, and Flesh Marks, 1659-1739, 1 volume


Wills, 1663-1789, 36 volumes
Council Minutes, Wills, Inventories, 1677-1701, 1 volume
Deeds, Wills, Inventories, 1695-1712, 1 volume
Administrators’ Bonds, 1680-1800, 20 boxes
Guardians’ Bonds, 1686-1764, 1 box



1661-1767, 1 box


1663- 40 boxes, hand copied from originals in England


1535- 105 boxes, photocopies from originals in Spain

A few seventeenth century records survive in at least two courthouses in North Carolina. The Chowan County courthouse in Edenton houses deeds dating from 1699, Minutes for the General Court of 1684, and an Act of the Assembly of Albemarle dated 1689. The Perquimans County courthouse in Hertford has deeds dating from 1685.

Perhaps some seventeenth century manuscripts are privately owned in North Carolina. Among those at “Hayes” in Edenton are a number for the period 1676-1865. The Cupola House, also in Edenton, has manuscripts for the period 1695-1884.

The Southern Historical Collection in Chapel Hill has microfilm of the manuscripts at “Hayes” and at the Cupola House. [77] Among various collections of family papers there are seventeenth century documents, both originals and copies, in the Chapel Hill depository.

The Library of Congress has the John Archdale Papers, 1694-1706, and the New York Public Library has some manuscripts relating to the Daniel Coxe claim to Carolina.

Finally, English sources should, by all means, be explored in seeking information about Carolina in its earliest days. The extensive series of volumes in the Calendar of State Papers Domestic (London: various publishers, various dates) and Calendar of State Papers America and West Indies (London: various publishers, various dates) are essential and extremely fruitful sources. In the same category is the long run of reports of the Historical Manuscripts Commission which began in 1870 and is still being issued. There is an index to the reports issued during the period 1870-1911.

Certain standard reference works can make the way of the researcher easier. The Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1928-1944, 21 volumes), the Dictionary of National Biography (London: Oxford University Press, 1949-50, 22 volumes), and the Biographical History of North Carolina (Greensboro: Charles L. Van Noppen, 1905-1917, 8 volumes) are extremely useful for biographical information. The Manual of North Carolina (Raleigh: E. M. Uzzell, 1913), compiled by R. D. W. Connor, has a special section of historical information which includes a register of colonial officials, but it is badly in need of revision based on information which has come to light since 1913. A perpetual calendar frequently can be of real service in trying to untangle dates prior to 1752. A good general history of England during the seventeenth century and another one of colonial America, both well indexed, will often come in handy.

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