An explanation of Pleas and Quarter Session Minutes in North Carolina

This type of court emulates a court which met quarterly in Great Britain. In early colonial America, it also had criminal jurisdiction. The genealogist should always examine the minutes of this court. And for good reason. It is similar to the (later) Inferior Court Minutes which registered everything from wills, administrations, inventories, and estates in general. The colonial North Carolina court recorded last wills and testaments as they were entered for probate, detailed inventories, distributions, sales of perishable goods and who purchased them, names of orphans and who they were apprenticed to, appointments of adminstrators, bonds, road commissioners and a general description of road junctures, adjoining lands and ferries. These minutes tell the story of the neighboring lands and what was happening. Simply a mention of your ancestor’s name is reason enough to search them, because you discover the years that he resided in that county, as well as some of his personal affairs, like proving deeds as he purchased and sold property, registering of brands (animals), the appointments of church wardens, and districting lines drawn through his property. So often, the genealogist is unable to locate a last will and testament in the will books. The minutes will mention that it was filed as well as the date, even if it was not found in the will books. You simply have too much to gain to overlook this valuable source!

The North Carolina county records are available to members of




Author of 100+ genealogy books. Owner of 8 genealogy websites available by subscription.

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Jeannette Holland Austin

Jeannette Holland Austin

Author of 100+ genealogy books. Owner of 8 genealogy websites available by subscription.

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