Couthouse at Gulfport, Mississippi. Mississippi Dept of Archives and History. Flickr the Commons.https://flic.kr/p/iM9mQF
by Shannon Combs Bennett, Student
Who doesn’t love a good court record? If you haven’t researched this type of record set, by the end of this blog post I hope you will investigate it more. While the amount of genealogical information can be overwhelming, the rewards are numerous. Due to the amount of information I have found over the years in court records I was very excited to take the course, U.S. Court Records authored by Ann Staley, CG. I am always on the lookout for new information that I may have overlooked in the past, or something I simply didn’t know about.
Some of my favorite records to search are Chancery records, a type of court record relevant in states with a colonial past. These are the courts where you would go to have something divided, such as in the case of a divorce, business dissolvent, or arguments over an estate. Let’s face it, when our ancestors argued they left great records! While these types of records were covered briefly I did learn a lot more about the types of records available across multiple jurisdictions.
By the end of the course I realized you could easily spend years studying court records looking for all aspects of your ancestor’s life! Remember, they didn’t have to be a criminal to be mentioned in these records. Naturalizations were done on the local level for many years before becoming a federal process as were vital record registrations in many places. Thinking you will only find the bad deeds of your ancestors will only limit the research you do for your ancestry.
The further I was in the course the more I realized there is a lot to remember and take in when you research court records. Not only is there the history of the laws, but there are jurisdictions, and types of courts. I am not sure how people can remember it all! Which means I was counting on this course to be a reference guide for me in the future. The instructor for this course, Ann Staley, did an excellent job laying it all out, keeping it organized, and giving the student the resources they needed to understand the material.
If you look over the syllabus for the course you will notice it is quite extensive. The course has 6 modules and includes a couple of case studies with an appendix which includes supplemental information for use in and out of the course. I was particularly interested in learning more about territorial records and courts which was not what pops into my mind as a place to research for court records.
I am sure you will find this a useful and informative course for researching your ancestors in US court records. It is really one of those that can take your studies to that next level!
See you online!