Note: The History Museum of Burke County is not a repository for genealogy information and does not provide genealogy research.
Burke County Genealogy, Family History Resources and Other Information
North Carolina Room
The North Carolina History Room located in the Morganton Branch of the Burke County Public Library System has an extensive collection of genealogical resources available for Burke, many other NC counties and also other States. The room is open during regular library hours. The North Carolina Room, through their curator and volunteers provides responses to genealogy and family history queries.
Phone: 828 764 9266
Mail and Location: 204 South King Street, Morganton, NC 28655
The Burke County Genealogical Society
The Burke County Genealogical Society was formed in November 1982 to encourage and aid in the accumulation and preservation of the historical and genealogical records of the Burke County area. The Society offers memberships, has quarterly meetings for members, publishes a quarterly award- winning journal, and offers several genealogical publications for sale. The Society annually publishes in their journal a list of members with contact information and the surnames they are researching. The society does not provide genealogy research, but does provide financial support and donation of materials to the NC Room of the library.
Mail: PO Box 661, Morganton, NC 28680-0661
The Burke County Historical Society
The Burke County Historical Society provides financial support and donates materials to the NC Room of the library. They do not provide genealogy research. They have published some significant historical and genealogical books about Burke County. The Heritage of Burke County Vol II and The History of a North Carolina County by Dr. Edward W. Phifer Jr. have been significantly reduced in price and may be ordered from the Historical Society. They may also be purchased at the shop in the History Museum of Burke Co. (Heritage Vol. I is out of print.)
Mail: PO Box 151. Morganton, NC 28680-0151
Phone: 818 764 9266 (The NC Room of the Morganton Library)
The NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
The NC Archives (in Raleigh) collects, preserves, protects and provides access to historically significant archival materials and public records. Digital collections are available on line. They publish information about records they have by county and many county libraries have this information.
Phone: 919 897 7300
The Burke County NC Gen Website
This site, a part of the US Gen Web, offers much information about Burke County that is helpful to one seeking family history information. The local genealogical society web page listed above is on this site.
Some General Information for the Family History Researcher About Burke County
Formation of the County
Burke County was formed in 1777 from Rowan County, with Morganton being the county seat. Parts of the following present-day North Carolina counties were formed entirely or partially from Old Burke County: Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cleveland, Haywood, Iredell, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Rutherford, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey.
Records which were recorded in Old Burke County were not transferred from Burke to any of the newly formed counties. Your ancestor could have never moved, but resided in several different counties due to changing county boundaries. Burke County is considered a “burned county” with respect to records. Several sources indicate court records were destroyed on April 17 1865 by Federal troops during Stoneman’s Raid on the county. Many of the deeds prior to April 1865 were destroyed. Only about 90 wills survived, but copies of many estate records did survive. Documents relating to may have been destroyed, but many of the court minutes did survive. Many tax lists, road records, Morgan District Superior court records, and other records did survive and are at the NC Archives in Raleigh.
Vital Statistics records for births and deaths were first required in NC in 1913 by an act of the legislature. Marriage records were kept beginning in 1868. Prior to 1868 records were kept of marriage bonds, many of which survive.
In 1950 The NC Division of Archives and History began their local records program and valuable records no longer needed in daily operations were removed to the State Archives. As time allows, these records are treated, restored, and/or microfilmed and then made available to the public. Many of these records are being transcribed and published by genealogists and historians and are available through local libraries or genealogy societies.
Burke County, due to the destruction of records, did not have copies of the more than 6,000 land grants which were recorded beginning in 1777 and represented original ownership of a tract of land. Thanks to a project by the local historical society, copies of these land grant records were made from the originals on file with the Office of Secretary of State at the time. The copies are housed in the NC History Room of the Morganton Library. An index to them can be found on the Burke Co NC Gen Web site (see above). In addition, a project is ongoing to transcribe the land grants and plot them (on a present-day map) into Deed Mapper software. The NC Room of the Morganton library maintains this information on one of their computers.