Court Records 101: Find Ancestors in the Courthouse (7/21/2014 - 8/15/2014)

Course Id: 2175-11
Course Start Date: 07-21-2014- Course End Date: 08-15-2014
Instructor: Lisa Alzo
Available Seats: 25      
Tuition: $99.99


  • You know little of courthouse research and want a crash course in all they have to offer
  • You’ve been planning a trip to the courthouse and don’t know what to look for
  • You have specific questions about courthouse records
  • You’ve hit a brick wall in your research and are looking for less common record sets to find information on your roots

Courthouses around the United States are the guardians of many of the most important (and sometimes the only) existing records of our ancestors’ lives. We can’t really say we’ve learned all we can about an ancestor without examining courthouse holdings for every county that person lived in. But between legal terminology, busy clerks and inconsistence records from county to county, a courthouse can be an intimidating place to research. Gain the tools and confidence to overcome these obstacles in this 4-week course.


  • Different kinds of county governments and how to find the right historical county for your ancestors
  • What vital records you may find at the courthouse
  • What to look for in property and estate records, as well as an introduction to court records
  • How to find the records you want and what to do with them once you find them 

Course Outline

Lesson 1: Counties and Vital Records 

A. What’s a County? The Obvious and the Not-So-Obvious 

B. Which County? Are You Sure? 

C. Carrot on a Stick: Vital Records 

  I. Marriage 

  i. Consent to marry affidavits 

  ii. A marriage bond 

  iii. Intentions 

  iv. License applications, licenses and returns 

  v. Registers 

  vi. Banns 

  vii. African-American marriages 

  II. Birth and Death 

D. Do It Yourself Exercise 

E. Keys to Success 

F. Lesson 1 Quiz 


Lesson 2: Property, Estates and More 

A. More Carrots on Sticks 

B. Land and Other Property Records 

I. Deeds 

 i. Warranty deeds 

 ii. Deeds of gift 

 iii. Quitclaim deeds 

 iv. Personal property deeds 

II. Other Documents Among Deeds 

 i. Dower 

 ii. Mortgages 

 iii. Petition for sale of real estate 

III. Tax Records 

C. Estate Records 

I. Wills 

II. Inventories and appraisals 

III. Sale bills, accounts, bonds, petitions, widow’s support, real estate sales 

IV. Relinquishments 

V. Petitions and bonds 

VI. Final settlements or distributions 

VII. Guardianships 

D. County Courts 

E. Other County Records 

F. Do It Yourself Exercise 

G. Keys to Success  

H. Lesson 2 Quiz 


Lesson 3:  How to Find the Records You Want 

A. Get Ready 

a. Know What You’re Looking For 

 i. Auditors Office 

 ii. Recorder’s Office/Deeds Office/Land Records 

 iii. Probate Office/Office of Wills/Estates 

 iv. Board of Health/Vital Records Office 

 v. Clerk of Courts 

 vi. Archives 

b. Versions of Records 

 i. Image copy (digital, microfilm or photocopy) 

 ii. Typescript 

 iii. Abstract 

 iv. Index (in online or offline databases or in print) 

B. Get Organized 

a. Research Repository Checklist 

b. County Resources Worksheet 

c. Deed Indexes 

C. Get Set: Learn What Exists and Where 

a. Published guides 

b. Online Strategies for Finding County Records 

c. On-Site Research 

D. Do It Yourself Exercise 

E. Keys to Success 

F. Lesson 3 Quiz 


Lesson 4: What to Do With Records You Find 

A. Consider the source 

a. Evalute it 

b. Document it 

B. Extract and Organize Data 

a. Abstracts 

b. Transcripts 

C. Evaluate Your Findings 

D. Final Exercise 

E. Keys to Success