All of us who are missing family history information as a result of lost records share your frustration. For what it is worth, I have many ancestors whose records where housed at least during a period in Burke County -- and lost in the fires described below. My wife's family came out of an area where nearly all public records prior to 1779 were burned during two different courthouse fires in Kinston.
However, every recorded deed is matched by original copies, in the hands of the grantee and/or grantor. In the case of Burke County, records from the courthouse were burned during/after the Civil War as part of Stoneman's Raid in 1865. I am buying the private copies of those burned deeds when they come available on eBay -- if I can afford them.
Second, the NC Archives maintains collections both of microfilmed copies of the (recorded, i.e. transcribed) deed books, but also seperate collections of original deeds and other records that provide a small window into the burned records, where they can be searched by everybody.
Thankfully, the Secretary of State's Office in NC maintained the original land grant records. The originals of those are also housed in the NC Archives -- though original land grants from most counties are no longer available except in microfilm form, to avoid wear and tear on the originals. I work with those all the time.
Thus, I have been buying these private records to help fill in the blanks in the public record created by fires and other events -- totally legally. The only actual county-owned record I have purchased (the first execution docket from the superior court of Caldwell County -- in fact, likely a stolen record) was purchased with the knowledge of the SBI in order to donate it to the NC Archives (where the other Caldwell records from that period are also housed).
I have seen some other probably illegal records for sale from time to time on eBay, and make a practice of reporting those to the SBI of the relevant state.
I am grateful personally to others who are also trying to help assemble the private copies of these records to help fill gaps in the public record, and keep hoping someone will buy and donate records that fill in my personal gaps -- including some from early Burke County!
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