AncestorNews: Going to the Courthouse

By Nancy Hendrickson Premium

During one of my travels east, I explored the Putnam County and Sullivan County, Mo., courthouses, looking for information on my Knox ancestors. At the time, I wrote in this column about how surprised I was to discover that my great-grandfather James Knox owned land in southwestern Kansas. I still haven’t figured out what he was doing there, but hopefully I’ll get a chance to go to the Seward County, Kan., courthouse and discover more.

Although I love Internet genealogy, it doesn’t compare to on-site research, particularly in old courthouses. The amount of genealogical information sitting in county courthouses is staggering. Depending on the individual county, you can find birth, marriage, death and land records; probate files (gems!); and wills. The probate files, in particular, can contain a will, an inventory of the estate, a list of beneficiaries, records of an auction, a final accounting of the estate, and bills or receipts.

If you get a chance to visit a courthouse this summer, don’t hesitate. Even if it’s your first genealogy trip and you feel a little uncertain about what to do, go on in and ask a clerk for help.

To prepare for your trip, consult these five Web sites:

Courthouse Research (Don’t miss the tip on using the Handybook for Genealogists.)

Getting More of Your Genealogy Road Trip

National Association of Counties (addresses of courthouses, plus lots more info)

Probate Packets (an excellent two-part article)

Roadblocks to the Courthouse