A Start by thinking about the kind of records a murder might generate: death records, a coroners investigation, newspaper coverage, a criminal trial. Lets take these one at a time:
- New Mexico became a state in 1912 and didnt mandate death certificates until 1920, so one may not exist for your ancestor. Since some counties kept vital records earlier than the state did, contact the Valencia county courthouse at Box 969, Los Lunas, NM 87031, (505) 866-2073.
- Newspapers might have published obituaries, as well as articles about the murder, investigation and trial. New Mexicos state archives and library have large historical newspaper collections. Subscription sites Ancestry.com and GenealogyBank have a few New Mexico newspapers covering 1883 in their searchable databases. Libraries in Valencia County also may have old newspapers.
- Also look for probate records, which are created when a court distributes a deceased persons estate. Valencia county probate court records are microfilmed at the Family History Library (you can tell by running a place search of the online catalog on the county name).
You can rent the film by visiting a Family History Center near you. First rent the index (film #2312158), and if theres a file on your ancestor, note the packet number. Then you can request the roll of film covering that probate packet.
- Mysterious or violent deaths often led to a coroners investigation, usually part of court or police records. A search of the New Mexico state archives online catalog on Valencia court records brings up a listing for collection #1974-031, which has county records from 1847 to 1979. Coroners inquests from 1882 to 1908 are part of the justice of the peace records.
- If someone was arrested for the murder, records from a criminal trial would answer a lot of questions. The state archives collection #1978-003 has records for US territorial and New Mexico district courts covering Valencia County, including criminal cases from 1852 to 1912. In this collection, series V, file 13-24, covers 1852 to 1909.
These early case files arent numbered, and without the accuseds name, youll need to examine the records pretty closely to see which case involves your ancestor.