The first permanent European settlers of North Carolina after the Spanish in the 16th century were English colonists who migrated south from Virginia, following a rapid growth of the colony and the subsequent shortage of available farmland. Nathaniel Batts was documented as one of the first of these Virginian migrants. He settled south of the Chowan River and east of the Great Dismal Swamp in 1655. By 1663, this northeastern area of the Province of Carolina, known as the Albemarle Settlements, was undergoing full-scale British settlement. During the same period, the English monarch Charles II gave the province to the Lords Proprietors, a group of noblemen who had helped restore Charles to the throne in 1660. The new province of "Carolina" was named in honor and memory of King Charles I (Latin: Carolus). In 1712, North Carolina became a separate colony. Except for the Earl Granville holdings, it became a royal colony seventeen years later.
Source: North Carolina at Wikipedia
The Virginia - North Carolina border was in dispute for a number of years, and was not resolved until the survey of William Byrd II in 1728. The effect of the disputed border was that both the Virginia colony and the Carolina colony claimed jurisdiction, and both issued grants in the same areas, leading to confusion then and today. For details and maps see: Border Dispute
County Selection Map
The University of North Carolina also has an extensive collection of North Carolina maps available on their website: North Carolina Maps
South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north.
Listing of North Carolina Counties
Availability of wills and probate documents listed by county at the North Carolina GENWEB Archives - NC Statewide Will Status
North Carolina Probate Records