GenToday-L Archive

When the Court House Burns Down

by Lois M. Cople
From a program for the Oklahoma Genealogical Society, February 4, 1985

PUBLISHED WITH PERMISSION in the May 1999 edition of GenToday-L


1. The courthouse may not have burned totally. Some records may have been saved because they were in an annex or wing that didn't burn. Don't always rely on what the 'Handy Book for Genealogist' or the court clerk says.
2. There may be/have been 2 courthouses in the same county.
3. The records may have been reconstructed or re-recorded, and remember that deeds sometimes are not recorded for years after the transfer. (Also check with county abstract offices).
4. Check neighboring counties for deeds, probate records and marriages. It may be necessary to go out a second or third county away for a marriage record. People who elope do not go to their own town courthouse for the license.
5. Check everything in the courthouse where the family went to and the county where they came from if the county is known. Many sold land to relatives before moving on.
6. Check the parent county/counties Land records and the State Land Records for those counties. In the case of territory claimed by two states, check both state records. If your problem is in the Fire Lands or a Military District, check the parent States records.
7. Check the progeny (those that were formed from your county) county/counties for Land records that may have been recorded at a much later date.
1. Census Records
2. Mortality schedules.
3. Military records and Pensions.
4. Federal Land Grants, Homestead States.
5. Immigration and Naturalization.
6. DECENNIAL Digest. This index covers the years 1658 to 1906 and is found in most law libraries. It indexes cases that went to appellate or higher courts.
7. Federal court records. (Remember that Federal records are records of the Revolution and records created since that time.)

STATE RECORDS: 1. Census - State and Territorial.
2. Militia and Pension.
3. Birth and Death records.
4. Tax Records: Real, Personal and Poll.
5. Land Lotteries, Land Grants, Homesteads.

Items vary according to the state. In Ohio I saw a list of men available and of the right age for Military duty from the late 1800's. Other states may have townships that function like a county or a city and have the equivalent records.

1. Birth and Death records.
2. Marriage records.
3. Cemetery records.
4. Tax records.
5. City directories (more currently, phone books).

1. State Archives and Libraries.
2. County Historical Societies.
3. College Libraries.
4. Local Libraries.
5. Private Libraries (D.A.R., S.A.R., Railroad, etc.) In all of these libraries, be sure to check the versicle files.)

1. County Histories.
2. Town and City Histories.
3. Genealogies.
4. Genealogical and Historical Society Quarterlies.
5. Newspapers.

1. Church records, Church Historical Libraries.
2. Funeral home records.
3. Cemetery records, Sextons Records, and transcripts of cemeteries made years ago.
4. School records, College or Grade.
5. Title and Abstract companies.
6. Private Land Co. such as the Holland Land Purchase in NY.

1. Bible records.
2. Photo albums.
3. Baby books.
4. Insurance policies.
5. Family letters, diaries, ledgers.

1. Lineage Societies.
2. Masonic Records.
3. Fraternal Records.

BOTTOM LINE: Analyze your problem and decide:
1. What information you really NEED!
2. What types of documents may provide that information!
3. Then analyze the locality or localities where that proof may be found.


Researchers will find the 1820 and 1830 Wisconsin Territorial Census is included in the Michigan Census. The 1860 Oklahoma census is with Arkansas. The 1860 Missoula County, Montana census is with Spokane, Washington. The 1860 Wyoming and the rest of Montana census records are with Nebraska. The 1860 Nevada census is with Utah and the 1860 Colorado is with Kansas.


Seeking info Isaac Moss bn abt. 1848 & wife Isabell Waters Moss abt. 1855. Both bn somewhere in Ill. Md Aug 25, 1870,Macoupin Cty, Ill. Known to have several kids, one named Horace W Moss. Help appreciated. E-mail Lynne Jones:

Andrew Wheeler Westmeath Ireland..born ABT 1819..married Ann O'Connor same area...settled in IL. and Mn.

Gurney-looking for the information and ancestors of Chester Gurney b. abt 1792 in NY, living in St. Joseph Co MI 1850. prob. m. Clarissa Bronson b. abt 1809 CT. dau. Elizabeth b. 1840 St. Jos.Co MI m. Barton Stout Taylor 1866 Saginaw Co MI

Need information about parents and siblings of Frederick DRESSLER b. in Union Co., PA. 18 May 1832. He m. Lucinda HATFIELD in Berrien Co., MI. in 1856. 10 children. He d. in 1917 in Hutchinson, Reno Co., KS. Please send to


Seeking parentage PA folks, MThompson (Mary) Cath STEINER Batdorf (c1768-aft1830 Berks>Daup), Wm FRANTZ (c1750-1805 Daup), Saml PETERS (c1821-c1870 Daup), Jacob RUDY (c1760-? Lanc>Daup), MaryAnn SWARTZ Peters (b1820-1897)

Searching for the ancestors of JOHN RUSSELL bn in SC abt 1789. He md Elizabeth Ann ? (probably a second marriage. The three older children bn in Ga. then a big split then several more children born in Autauga Co. Al. The older children were Nancy, William and John Jeweline

Seeking any information on, Frederick & Riney (PICKETT) MINGO & children: Cary, Isham, Shedrick, Lazuraus, Earnest, Martha, Mary, and Savinia MINGO. All of Patterson St. Mary Parish, La., between 1880 & 1900.

Researching Abraham GRIMES b. abt 1823 & Mary JOHNSON b. abt. 1830 Patterson, La., m. Nov. 22, 1869. Children: Sarah, Frank, Martha, Washington, Elizabeth, Easter, Isabella, Marshall & Hannah all born in Patterson, La

Seeking information on James & Lucy Lincoln who had children born in New York State. Son Simeon Lincoln lived, was married, and died near Coloma, WI. A family story says that Simeon was a first or second cousin of President Abe Lincoln. Any info appreciated.

Seeking anyone with knowledge of the surname Falstreaux maybe from the Michigan or Ohio area-Please Help!

Looking for desc's. of Frank O. MARTIN and Lillie Bell FRENCH, living in St. Joseph,Buchanan,MO. Son, William Henry MARTIN b: 1883 m: Lillie SHUCK, desc.Katherine & William Henry,JR. Jesse and Lena French

Seeking info on GILLIGAN, James W., circa 1830 Utica NY area or 1870-90 Luzerne Cty PA area. Parents probably John and Mary. Have info 1870 forward to share.

Additional Articles:

  • Effective Correspondence
  • Castle Gardens and Ellis Island
  • Tax Lists and What To Do with Them

    The Genealogy Lady established the "Genealogy Today" newsletter in April 1997. She answers questions online at, and sells books at her Genealogy Book Store.

  • What's New in Genealogy ... Today!
    click to view original photo