Monday, August 17, 2015

Pam Sayre's Advice on Under-Utilized Records

What record set to you believe is the most under-utilized? What advice would you give students in using this record set?

Most definitely court records, whether civil suits among family members or criminal case proceedings or federal actions. Court records are not among the easy records to be "cherry-picked" by new or inexperienced researchers, but they do yield some of the richest and most exciting details about ancestors who appear very few other places.

Start at the county level and look for indexes for divorce, civil proceedings, or criminal court cases. Bear in mind that not every person involved in a case will appear in an index, so you'll have to pay particular attention to collaterals and neighbors to find your ancestors. Search automated tools such as Lexis/Nexis for references to state supreme court cases that mention an ancestor. And at the federal level, visit the National Archives regional facility that holds the federal court records for the area where your ancestor.

Request and peruse docket books or any minutes of court records that exist for evidence of your ancestors' presence or dealings with the law. Even illiterate farmers knew how to use the legal system to sue siblings or other kin over a tiny piece of land or personal property!

Pam and Rick's Land Record course is filling up, so register now! With only eight courses left with seats remaining, now is the time to register. For more information, see

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