Monday, October 3, 2011

North Carolina Probate Records on

I have been looking for the parents of Jesse Dunlap, my fifth great-grandfather. I found an article written about Jesse Dunlap in the book A History of Boone County Arkansas (p. 217) in which it is said that Jesse Dunlap was born in Stokes County, North Carolina in 1783. The only problem is that Stokes County wasn’t formed until 1789.

But all information is good information in my opinion, so I decided to use that as a starting point. Whenever I am looking for someone’s parents and I don’t have anything to go on except a location, I usually start by looking through the wills for that surname in that location.

The North Carolina State Archives has access to the Mitchell’s Will Index through their online catalog called MARS. Sometimes a person didn’t write a will, but there are items relating to their estate recorded in the county in which they died. Items relating to a person’s estate have been scanned and digitized by Although the digital items have not been indexed, they are browsable online for FREE on their website and many of the county records have indexes contained within the bound books.

Some genealogists might wonder what the benefit of such documents are if you can’t do a collection-wide textual search for your ancestors’ names. I still find the images useful. I loaded the images for the North Carolina Probate Records, 1735-1970 and then selected Stokes County. Under Stokes County, there are 5 sets of wills – volumes 1-5. 

Volumes 1, 3, and 5 have an index at the beginning; volumes 2 and 4 do not. I do not want to miss any Dunlaps who might have recorded a will in either of these two volumes, so I look through both volumes, one image at a time. Volume 2 has 184 images which is roughly about 90 pages total because each image is a scan of two pages of the book. As I “browse” through each image, I look for the signature or name of the person who wrote the will. I don’t actually have to read each wills, but merely scan through the images for the short block of text that looks like a signature to see if it is a Dunlap. Here is an example of a will written by Fredric Hausen.

I don’t have the best attention span, but browsing through 182 images is not that bad. It took me about 40 minutes to look through this volume containing 182 images. Unfortunately I did not find any Dunlaps in this volume. Volume 4 will probably take me another 40 minutes as it is 197 images.

Have you checked out FamilySearch’s latest browsable images? North Carolina and South Carolina Probate Records have been very valuable to me these days!


  1. Ginger, thanks for the news. I still have a link to your post from June 16th of this year, "Looking for Wills at the NC State Archives - Updated" that I've used to locate a couple of wills mentioned in my sources as being of interest to me in my family lines. Do you know if Family Search will be digitzing the wills that are indexed by MARS and making them available online as well? Thanks for all you do. I always enjoy your blog, and I really should write more often! :)
    Tim Jones

  2. Hi Tim! Yes, the wills are contained in this database "North Carolina Probate Records, 1735-1970". Most of the counties have a will index that you can browse. At this time, these images are not indexed, so you can only browse through the images one page at a time.