I broke the code required to search for early, colonial era North Carolina Granville and State Land Grants. Most of the grants were described by the streams, rivers and creeks they were near prior to 1800. In the area that I am searching in Iredell County, North Carolina the towns didn't exist, for the most part, before 1788 and were not used to identify the land. Statesville and other Iredell towns were not created until after 1788. Salisbury was about the only town that existed in the area prior to 1788. The land in what became Iredell County was identified by the water it was near. I started building a table of early land grants in Iredell County with links to the Wikitree Profiles. This has been a great help in finding families and children. Some land grants spell out that the person is a son of someone.
I am using the NC Land Grants search at http://www.nclandgrants.com/query
to do the searches. It is free and links to the data in the state archives, so you can see the original documents in the Manuscript and Archives Reference System of the state archives. You can search on a name or location and the county that you are researching.
Other North Carolina researchers may find this of interest if they hadn't already figured it out.