Sir Godfrey Gregg 

The Courthouse

One of the best places to search for family records is the Courthouse. You should gather all the information you will need to conduct a proper search. You must also know the; location of where you are going.

Having collected the basics about your ancestors, you are now ready to visit or contact the courthouse in the locality where your ancestor(s) lived. Wills, probate, and land records are useful for adding information about an ancestor’s life and family relationships, especially pre-1850 when other records may not exist. Call ahead to find where the documents are housed as many older records are moved to other repositories if a courthouse runs out of room. At the courthouse itself, in the town or county archives, or in a local library, you may discover:

  • wills
  • probate
  • land records and deeds
  • surveys and
  • other records

You must be prepared to conduct a digital search since a lot of the information may be uploaded to a digital platform. In this case, you will pay for the search but may have to pay for copies of documents.

In America, I will provide a few links that can assist you in your search. The Handybook for Genealogists and Red Book: American State, County & Town Sources can help provide addresses.

Search the internet if you cannot go to a courthouse in person. Many town or county offices have digitized some of their records and made them available online. Check the local historical societies and the state archives to see if older records have been transferred there. Another option is to consult digitized microfilm of courthouse records on or see if a local FamilySearch Center still has microfilm for the needed county court records. You may also consider a visit to the FamilySearch Library in Salt Lake City.

Another great place that you can search is the old established churches like the Roman Catholic, Anglican (Episcopal), and Methodist Manse. Be prepared to spend some time searching and depending on what you are looking for can run into weeks.

That’s all for now and will be back shortly.

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