Genealogy at a Glance: Court Records

“Court records, including those for the territorial or colonial periods, provide vivid details of our ancestors’ action and those of their relatives and neighbors. Whether a plaintiffs, defendants, witnesses, jurors, local justices, signatories, or appointed officials, most Americans were named in court records at some point in their lives.”

gpc1626This quote comes from the “Overview” out of the latest laminated guide to hit the shelves, Genealogy at a Glance: Court Records by Wendy Bebout Elliott. Wendy’s new guide reviews the complicated American court system and helps genealogists understand just what

The one thing I always enjoy about these laminated guides is how straight forward the topics are covered. At four pages, the simple reality there is no room for fluff. Like all the Genealogy At A Glance sheets, this guide is a four-page, full-color limited brochure meant to be easily stored and sized to take with you when conducting related research. This means the authors have to get straight to the point, compressing years of knowledge into concise statements and short sections.

While this approach may not give the researcher “all” the knowledge they may seek on a given topic, it does allow them to carry a very useful tool with them anywhere they go to conduct research. In this guide, Wendy does a fabulous job of covering all levels of court systems, local, state, and federal in the space provided. She start with a simple list of quick facts (a common, and useful, feature of the Genealogy at a Glance series). Here is a sample of those quick facts:

  • Various count courts heard most cases and generated judicial orders and decisions for its citizens; this, the registers of these courts can provide explanations for people’s actions and details about who was involved, when, and where
  • Though county courts generally contain the records of most interest to genealogists, some older records may have been transferred to state, regional, or federal archives
  • Court documents usually identify individuals and relationships

Sometime with these guides, the best way to get review the contents is to simply list them. From the list below, you will see just how much Wendy was able to squeeze into just four pages:



Quick Facts


Getting Started

  • Search Strategies

Major Types of Court Records

  • Probate Records
  • Non-probate Court Records
    • Adoption
    • County Activities
    • Land
    • Naturalization

Building a Knowledgeable Base

  • Understanding Laws, Courts, and Records
  • Vocabulary


  • Intact County Court Registers
  • Published versus Original Digitized or Microfilm
  • Lost, Destroyed, or Misplaced Court Records
  • Online Records
  • Indexes

Major Repositories


Find the help you need, and carry it with you, with your own copy of Genealogy at a Glance: Court Records available at Family Roots Publishing.

Click here to see a full listing of  laminated guides available from Family Roots Publishing.

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