Most genealogists know that courthouses are the repositories for vast numbers of documents that are important to our understanding of our ancestors. We expect a courthouse in the U.S. to typically maintain indexed marriage records, divorce case documents, deeds and other property-related papers, tax records, wills and probate files, and many other types of other documentary evidence. Some courthouses may also have naturalization records that they processed, criminal and family court records, adoption records, adoption and guardianship documents, proceedings of insanity or lunacy hearings and judgments, burial permits, voter registrations, firearms permits, dog licenses, and other civil records that document the many aspects of the lives of our ancestors’ and their families. Some of these may be closed to the public, but courthouse staff should be aware of what is and is not available and accessible.
It is important to recognize that some of the records are originals documents, while others are not. Documents recorded in marriage books, deed books, will books, and other ledgers most frequently contain records that were transcribed by a clerk or ordinary from originals, and the transcription process may have introduced errors.
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