Go to NC State Archives webpage
Click on the MARS Catalog link on the left side and a new window will open. It may take a couple of minutes to completely load. You will see the main search page. I have included a screen shot below:
And I get the following 49 pages of results!!! – What???
If you look at the Mars ID, all results have the same first 4 digits – 5200, but different set of 2nd numbers. The first result has a 5200.1 – this is for Alamance County. The next 3 results have 5200.2 – This is for Albemarle County. They are listed alphabetically by county. The Archives uses a set of numbers for county codes. So this is good to know if you are looking for a particular county. I happen to know that Caswell County’s code is “20” and I could scroll through these results until I get to 20, but I’m not going to do that. I’m going to go back and use the search box again.
And then I get 5 results, one of which is my Henry Williams. And you see the county code is in fact, 20.
However, there ARE some wills written before 1776 which have been scanned with digital images accessible from this catalog. You can NOT access them from the Mitchell's Will Index though. They are accessed from the Secretary of State Record Group. (More on this later)
Double clicking on Henry Williams brings up the information for this record:
This record depicts information for this Henry Williams. The will was recorded 1786 in Caswell Co., NC. The call number and MARS Id number are not important.
What's Next? - Head to the Archives
Once you find the will date, person's name and county, you can go to the Archives and look through the will boxes. They are organized by COUNTY first, then alphabetized by last name. Before you can look through the records you have to fill out a Call Slip.
The call numbers start with a 3-digit prefix assigned to the county of interest. Caswell County's 3-digit prefix is 020.
Then the next 3-digits are assigned to document type. For wills, that number is always 801.
The last number of the call number is the box number that contains your ancestor's file. This last number is left blank on the call slip.
You will put your surname on the call slip instead. They will bring you the box that contains the surname for the county of interest. For example, I might find the will of Henry Williams, 1786, Caswell County, using the following call number: 020.801.25. Box 25 containing the surname Williams.
The archivist will give you the whole box and you can only take out 1 file folder at a time. You must keep all documents inside the folder in order at all times. You can request copies be made by filling out a copy request form. Copies are $0.10 a page.
Here's some information on Estate Records at the NC State Archives in my post "A Peek into the NC State Archives: Loose Documents of Estate Records"