North Carolina County Formation

Today North Carolina has 100 counties, although some of their names, boundaries and borders have changed over time from the formation of the colony's earliest counties in 1664 to the addition of the state's last two counties in 1911.  In fact, during North Carolina's history, several counties were created that later became defunct, renamed, or absorbed into other counties. And the state also created three counties in the 1780s and 1790s that are now part of Tennessee. 

A knowledge of the history of the state's county formation is invaluable knowledge for guiding historical research. Knowing when a county formed or ceased to exist can help guide the resources and collections researchers may want to consider.

A number of resources are available to help with North Carolina historical county research:

  • The table below presents a list of all historical and current counties, including defunct counties, with the date of formation and parent counties. Click on the county name and you'll be directed to a page at NCpedia for that county. NCpedia county pages include a range of information about the history of the county with: links to biographies related to the county; currrent population and census demographic information; geographic and natural heritage information; and more.

To learn more about the history of North Carolina's counties, visit these resources:


County Name Year Parent Counties
Alamance 1849 Orange
Albemarle 1664 Original county (extinct 1689)
Alexander 1847 Iredell, Caldwell, Wilkes
Alleghany 1859 Ashe
Anson 1750 Bladen
Ashe 1799 Wilkes
Avery 1911 Mitchell, Watauga, Caldwell
Bath 1696 Original county (extinct after 1724)
Beaufort 1705 Bath [Pamptecough, 1705-1712]
Bertie 1722 Chowan
Bladen 1734 New Hanover
Brunswick 1764 New Hanover, Bladen
Buncombe 1791 Burke, Rutherford
Burke 1777 Rowan
Bute 1764 Granville
Cabarrus 1792 Mecklenburg
Caldwell 1841 Burke, Wilkes
Camden 1777 Pasquotank
Carteret 1722 Craven
Caswell 1777 Orange
Catawba 1842 Lincoln
Chatham 1771 Orange
Cherokee 1839 Macon
Chowan 1668 Albemarle [Shaftesbury, 1670-82]
Clarendon 1664 Original county (Abandoned by 1667)
Clay 1861 Cherokee
Cleveland 1841 Rutherford, Lincoln
Columbus 1808 Brunswick, Bladen
Craven 1705 Bath [Archdale, 1705-1712]
Cumberland 1754 Bladen
Currituck 1668 Albemarle [Carteret, 1670-82]
Dare 1870 Currituck, Tyrrell, Hyde
Davidson 1822 Rowan
Davie 1836 Rowan
Dobbs 1759 Johnston
Duplin 1750 New Hanover
Durham 1881 Orange, Wake
Edgecombe 1741 Bertie
Forsyth 1849 Stokes
Franklin 1779 Bute
Gaston 1846 Lincoln
Gates 1779 Chowan, Hertford, Perquimans
Glasgow 1791 Dobbs
Graham 1872 Cherokee
Granville 1746 Edgecombe
Greene 1799 Glasgow
Guilford 1771 Rowan, Orange
Halifax 1759 Edgecombe
Harnett 1855 Cumberland
Haywood 1808 Buncombe
Henderson 1838 Buncombe
Hertford 1760 Chowan, Bertie, Northampton
Hoke 1911 Cumberland, Robeson
Hyde 1705 Bath [Wickham, 1705-1712]
Iredell 1788 Rowan
Jackson 1851 Haywood, Macon
Johnston 1746 Craven
Jones 1779 Craven
Lee 1907 Moore, Chatham
Lenoir 1791 Dobbs
Lincoln 1779 Tryon
Macon 1828 Haywood
Madison 1851 Buncombe, Yancey
Martin 1774 Halifax, Tyrrell
McDowell 1842 Rutherford, Burke
Mecklenburg 1763 Anson
Mitchell 1861 Yancey, Watauga, Caldwell, Burke, McDowell
Montgomery 1779 Anson
Moore 1784 Cumberland
Nash 1777 Edgecombe
New Hanover 1729 Craven
Northampton 1741 Bertie
Onslow 1734 New Hanover
Orange 1752 Johnston, Bladen, Granville
Pamlico 1872 Craven, Beaufort
Pasquotank 1668 Albemarle [Carteret, 1670-82]
Pender 1875 New Hanover
Perquimans 1668 Albemarle [Berkeley, 1670-82]
Person 1792 Caswell
Pitt 1761 Beaufort
Polk 1855 Rutherford, Henderson
Randolph 1779 Guilford
Richmond 1779 Anson
Robeson 1787 Bladen
Rockingham 1785 Guilford
Rowan 1753 Anson
Rutherford 1779 Tryon
Sampson 1784 Duplin
Scotland 1899 Richmond
Stanly 1841 Montgomery
Stokes 1789 Surry
Swain 1871 Jackson, Macon
Surry 1771 Rowan
Transylvania 1861 Henderson, Jackson
Tryon 1768 Mecklenburg
Tyrrell 1729 Chowan, Bertie, Currituck, Pasquotank
Union 1842 Anson, Mecklenburg
Vance 1881 Granville, Warren, Franklin
Wake 1771 Johnston, Cumberland, Orange
Warren 1779 Bute
Washington 1799 Tyrrell
Watauga 1849 Ashe, Wilkes, Caldwell, Yancey
Wayne 1779 Dobbs
Wilkes 1778 Surry, District of Washington
Wilson 1855 Edgecombe, Nash, Johnston, Wayne
Yadkin 1850 Surry
Yancey 1833 Burke, Buncombe