U.S. Courthouse Records: How To Find and Use Them Successfully - May 2023

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U.S. Courthouse Records: How To Find and Use Them Successfully

Courthouses are guardians of the most important (and sometimes the only) records of your ancestors’ lives. Chances are that your ancestors moved between counties, which means you'll need to examine the holdings of multiple courthouses before closing the door on researching them. Some find courthouses intimidating because of encountering legal language, busy clerks, and inconsistent records. Fear not! In this course, you'll gain the tools and confidence to overcome these obstacles.

In this 4-week workshop you'll learn:

  • Different kinds of county governments and how to find the right historical county for your ancestors
  • What vital records you will 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

DATE: May 30, 2023 - June 26, 2023

Course Outline

Lesson 1: Counties, Courthouses and Changing Boundaries
  1. Confessions of a Courthouse Newbie
  2. What is a County? The Obvious and the Not-So-Obvious
  3. Which County? Are You Sure?: A Puzzler
  4. Finding Your Ancestors’ County—or Counties
  5. Keys to Success
  6. Exercise
Lesson 2: The Most Vital Records at a Courthouse
  1. Marriage Records
  2. Births and Deaths
  3. Keys to Success
  4. Exercise
Lesson 3: Property, Estates and More
  1. Land and Other Property Records
  2. Taxes: Not as Boring as They Sound
  3. Estate Records
  4. County Courts: An Introduction
  5. Other County Records
  6. Keys to Success
  7. Exercise
Lesson 4: Find and Get the Records You Want
  1. Finding the Records You Need: Part 1
  2. Finding the Records You Need: Part 2
  3. Virtual Visiting: Ordering Records from the Courthouse
  4. Going to the Courthouse
  5. Researching in a Burned County
  6. Keys to Success
  7. Exercises
Lesson 5: What to Do with the Records You Find
  1. Video: Review! Formulate Your Courthouse Research Strategy
  2. Consider the Source
  3. Fully Document Your Source
  4. Extract and Organize the Data
  5. Evaluate Your Findings
  6. Keys to Success
  7. Exercise


Meet the Instructor

Sunny Jane Morton
Sunny Jane Morton is a Contributing Editor at Family Tree Magazine; Contributing Editor at YourDNAGuide.com, Editor of Ohio Genealogy News and a blogger for FamilySearch.org. She is author of How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records and Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy.


How do Family Tree University workshops work?

Take the course at your own pace! 

From the course start date, you’ll be able to log in to view and access your lessons and start interacting on the discussion boards. Your instructor will check in regularly to answer all of the questions and provide feedback. You will have access to your courses anytime, anywhere, with a computer, tablet or smartphone, and can study when it's most convenient for you.

After the course end date, the course will become read-only for one year. You will continue to have access through your dashboard to the materials, but the discussion boards will be closed. The materials are yours to keep. You can download them onto your desktop to access online or offline.

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