The following compilation of shipping data was taken from the voluminous Port Records of the Treasurer’s and Comptroller’s Papers in the North Carolina State Archives—the single most valuable and comprehensive records of maritime activity in North Carolina in the colonial and early statehood periods. Unfortunately, even these records are far from complete, whole decades of activity in the various ports having left no trace in the surviving documents. Most of the extant records date from the latter half of the eighteenth century, especially from the 1780’s. Only a precious few survive from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, all from Port Roanoke.
Despite the many sizable gaps, however, these Port Records comprise a remarkable treasure trove of information for maritime historians and students of early North Carolina commerce, containing many thousands of entries on individual ships, owners, captains, destinations, ports of landing, cargoes, and various related subjects. Even those well versed in the published literature on North Carolina’s maritime history may will be surprised by the rich diversity of trading routes, mercantile arrangements, and commodities revealed in these records.
In so far as was possible, the abstracted records of each of the following ports have been arranged in chronological order with the periods indicated: Bath (1761-1790), Beaufort (1757-1790), Brunswick (1765-1796), Currituck (1755-1789), Roanoke (1682-1792), Swansborough (1788-1795), and “Unknown Ports” (1756-1791). Excluded from this compilation were the relatively few eighteenth century items from Port Edenton and the scattered records of several ports from the nineteenth century.
While every effort has been made to present the following data in an accurate and readily useful form, certain editorial liberties have been taken with respect to both arrangement and content. Not every item of information, for example, was included from every record, especially with regard to currency amounts and precise quantities of cargo. Such details were included only when they seemed to be of special interest or significance (such as the number of slaves imported aboard a given vessel). As indicated previously the records of each port are generally arranged in chronological order, even though many of the source documents were not so arranged. An attempt was made to reconcile variant spellings; to identify obscure locations, and to complete the names of persons or places presented only in fragmentary or abbreviated form. It should also be noted that some of the following lists represent conflated or composite versions of similar or overlapping documents, in order to prevent undue repetition. Finally, documentary items with no consistent or discernible relationship to others were grouped together under “miscellaneous.”