Like the stately trees that earned it the nickname City of Oaks, Raleigh, NC, embodies history and vitality with a dash of Southern charm. Thriving business and shopping venues, combined with a lively arts scene and its status as state capital, have propelled Raleigh into one of the fast-growing cities in America. But like the oaks, Raleigh doesn’t take its roots for granted—which makes it a great place to search for yours.
Steeped in history
Sifting through records
Cemetery records: Raleigh’s oldest burial ground, City Cemetery, was established in 1798. Raleigh City Cemeteries Preservation offers interment databases for City Cemetery, Mt. Hope Cemetery and O’Rorke Cemetery. Transcribed gravestone inscriptions for many Raleigh-area cemeteries are on the Wake County NCGenWeb website. Cemetery buffs visiting the city may want to head to the scenic grounds of Historic Oakwood Cemetery.
• Genealogy Research/State Library of North Carolina
• North Carolina Digital Collections
• Online North Carolina Death Indexes
• Wake County NCGenWeb
• Wake County Genealogical Society
• Wake County Genealogy
• Wake County, North Carolina Research Wiki
• Carolina Families: A Bibliography of Books about North and South Carolina Families by Donald M. Hehir (Heritage Books)
• NGS Research in the States Series: North Carolina by Jeffrey L. Haines (National Genealogical Society)
• North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History by Helen F. M. Leary (North Carolina Genealogical Society)
• Raleigh: City of Oaks by James Vickers (American Historical Press)
Archives & Organizations
• North Carolina Genealogical Society
Box 30815, Raleigh, NC 27601
• Olivia Raney Local History Library
4016 Carya Drive, Raleigh, NC 27601, (919) 250-1196
• Raleigh FamilySearch Center
5060 Six Forks Road, Raleigh, NC 27609, (919) 783-7752
• State Archives of North Carolina
109 E. Jones St., Raleigh, NC 27601, (919) 807-7310
• State Library of North Carolina
109 E. Jones St., Raleigh, NC, 27601, (919) 807-7460
• Wake County Clerk of Court
316 Fayetteville St., Box 351, Raleigh, NC 27602, (919) 792-4000
• Wake County Historical Society
Box 2, Raleigh, NC 27602
• Wake County Register of Deeds
421 Fayetteville St., Suite 300, Raleigh, NC 27601, (919) 856-5460
Nickname: City of Oaks
State: North Carolina
County: Wake (1771)
County seat: Raleigh
Parent counties: None; original county
Area: 144 square miles
Primary historical ethnic groups: English, German, Irish, African-American, American Indian
Primary historical industries: Government, education, textiles, retail, publishing
Records at a Glance
Privacy regulations: None for uncertified copies
Research tips: Request copies from Wake County Register of Deeds (ROD) using the online Birth or Death Certificate Application, indicating “Uncertified” in Section C. Use North Carolina birth and death databases on FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com.
Research tips: Start with the gravestone databases on Wake County NCGenWeb and Raleigh City Cemeteries Preservation.
• Begin: 1880
• Research tips: Check the Raleigh directories on Internet Archive, or head to the state library.
• Begin: 1785
• Research tips: Deeds from 1785 to 1936 are on microfilm at the state archives and FHL. Request copies from
• Begin: 1868
• Research tips: Search online indexes at FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com first, as their collections include some earlier marriage bonds. Order post-1868 certificates from Wake County ROD.
• Begin: 1771
• Research tips: Browse through digitized probate records on FamilySearch.org, or find original books at the Wake County Clerk of Court.
1771: Wake County created
1782: North Carolina becomes 12th US state
1792: General assembly selects site for capital city named Raleigh
1831: Fire destroys first statehouse
1840: Raleigh & Gaston Railroad begins operation with 86 miles of track
1861: Confederate troops drawn to Raleigh training grounds
1865: Shaw University, first coed college for African-Americans, opens
1880: The News & Observer consolidated as city’s daily newspaper
1889: North Carolina State University holds initial classes
1929: Curtiss-Wright Flying Field airport opens
1959: Research Triangle Park created
1988: A category F4 tornado causes $75 million in damages
Top 5 Historic Sites
S. Martin Street near Moore Square, Raleigh, NC 27601, (919) 821-8023
Wander the cobblestone streets three blocks from the COR Museum to find a lively 1914 market with Old World ambience and unique shopping, food purveyors and entertainment.
2. City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St., Raleigh, NC 27601, (919) 996-2220
In a historic building in the center of downtown, see exhibits on Raleigh’s early days, civil rights and the evolution of media. Interactive tours are available.
3. Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road, Raleigh, NC 27603, (919) 856-6675
Stroll this serene waterside park with walking trails, an 18th century gristmill and waterfall, and a kid-friendly history center. Mill tours are offered weekends seasonally.
This state museum features a variety of exhibits on life in North Carolina from prehistory through the 20th century. Current displays include North Carolina in the Civil War, vintage tourism memorabilia and Civil War-era freedom documents. On the website, click History Highlights for timelines of North Carolina history.
5. State Capitol
1 E. Edenton St., Raleigh, NC 27601, (919) 733-4994
Enjoy a self-guided or audio tour of the Greek Revival-style capitol building, completed in 1840, with its stately grounds and “Capitol 1863” Civil War exhibit. Free guided tours are offered on Saturdays.
• North Carolina State Research Guide download
• State Research Guides, 2nd edition CD or e-book