Researching A Courthouse

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Researching a Courthouse
by Karen L. Salisbury

Research Strategies
Steps for systematic searching

1.  Circuit Court Records.

Marriage Bonds – Lists Bride & Groom, permission my guardian/parent if minor, Surety, often a brother, parent, friend, in-law, date.  Before 1848 Banns by the church were a legal substitute to the bond by announcing three successive Sundays prior to marriage.  Marriages by Banns were recorded only in the church or parish registers.

Marriage Certificate.  Usually in Circuit Court Records submitted by person who performed the marriage.

Wills.  Will Books – Wills, appraisals, contests, dispersions, devisee indexes.  The devisee index will often help you find married daughters and grandchildren with different surnames from the deceased.

Bond/Commissions/Oaths.  Apprenticeships, Indentures, bail bonds, guardian bonds, officials’ bonds, ordinary license bonds.

Fiduciary Records.  Administrator’s bonds, estate papers, executor’s bonds, guardian bonds (also titles orphan’s bonds), orphan’s accounts (yearly by guardian.

Land Records – Grantors/Grantees – lists sales and indentures by each method.

Tax and Fiscal Records.  Land and Personal Property Tax (PPT), Tithables.

Miscellaneous Records.  May or may not exist.  Inquisitions, Inventories belonging to the Poor House, Overseer of the Poor records, military enlistments.

2.  Title Searches – to find where your ancestor lived.

Land Records, look for the earliest entry showing the name in the Grantee Index.  This will show when they bought the property.  Then go to the grantor indexes and follow when sold to whom.  If you reach a wall, can’t find the name, go to the will book index, find who inherited the land and follow from there.    I put the metes and bounds into a mapping program to visualize the property.  I can sometimes then locate the location on a modern map.  Sometimes I must also do the neighbors properties until it attaches to a landmark existent today.

3.  Tricks.

Don’t waste time reading and recording info.  Go to the indexes and make a list of all the surnames you are looking, book and page number.  Just copy them all.  You can take your time when you get home to organize it all.  The way I organize when I return home is to take a blank family group sheet and to record all the players on that document.  Then I go to MS Word and transcribe the document.  I attach all three together.  I then enter the people into Family Tree Maker.  If I do not have that exact person yet I don’t worry, I just add them as an unrelated person.  Then I copy/paste the transcribed document into notes.  I then post under facts that a deed or whatever exists for date, place, party.  This give me a good outline, without having to reread whole documents and show chronology of events which may become important later.

4.  Hit a Wall?

A real good place to start is in the Will book index for devisee’s.  This is an index for whom inherited from whom.  An excellent place for finding a maiden name of a wife, a married name of a daughter.  It can also tell you who got the guardianship of orphans, not necessarily parentless but fatherless.  Sometimes it is just as important to prove what isn’t as what is.  Exclusion is just as valid.  Forget about the primary lines. 

Do the peripheral lines and see what develops.

There are a few other things you can do.  Check the census’s fro the neighboring counties and see if they are with in-laws.  This is especially helpful after 1850 when all in the household are itemized.  A word of caution on census’s before 1850.  Do not assume all minors listed are children.  They may be servants, orphans of relative and neighbors taken in, bonded servants or apprentices. 

Use the LDS site.

Use FTM internet search.

Use your search engines.

Go to USGENEB for the county and post your needs. Also use their archive search by state or all states by surname or narrow to full name.

Go to Genforum and post there by surname group. 

Find the surname group/mail list on Rootsweb and join it and start posting what you need.

5.  More Tricks

Whenever I go to the courthouse, I always bring with me a printed list of what I think I am looking for.  Using my Family Tree Program I print out a Genealogy Report, Outline Genealogy Report and Tree for all the lines I am looking for in that county.  I can’t keep it all in my head.  By bringing all three, I have a better picture of where I am at and what I am missing.

Gen. Report give me the complete file including sources, notes and facts.

Outline Report give me a quick visual without flipping pages and lots of text to wade through.

Tree is a good picture of the players.

When I return home I put all the marriages into a table listing all information.  This way I can see not only the bride and groom, but sureties and possible parent/guardian for all with that surname in the county.  (It can also show me the ministers who married them.  If I keep seeing the same minister, I can find his church and find the baptisms, marriages and funerals.)  These can be arranges either chronologically or alphabetically.  If I keep seeing a surety name that keeps popping up for a different bride or groom, I will then take a look at that line.  There is a strong connection there somewhere and I just might find my missing link in their records.

Think of yourself as a detective and go for it.  Good luck in your search.

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Last Updated  Friday, 30 January 2004 06:20 PM