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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in November 2013. It is an excerpt from their course US Court Records  by C. Ann Staley, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Additional Online Resources - Courthouse Research Provides various document samples and finding aids

Cornell University Law School - Legal Information Institute Resources include U.S. Code, Federal Rules, State law resources, State statutes by topic, Wex legal encyclopedia, and much more.

Federal Judicial Center - “Creating the Federal Justice System” and; Russell R. Wheeler and Cynthia Harrison, 2nd edition (Federal Judicial Center, 2005).

FindLaw Learn about the Law, Find law answers, Find state laws, online links to official State Codes, and more.

Selected Resources

Abraham, H.J. Courts and Judges: An Introduction to the Judicial Process. New York: Oxford University Press, 1959.

Ball, Walter V. “Family Records from County Court Order Books.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 58 (March 1970).

Bentley, Elizabeth Petty. County Courthouse Book. 2nd edition. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1995.

Black, Henry Campbell. Black’s Law Dictionary. 6th edition. St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Co., 1990.

Bunch, Jack A. Roster of the Courts-Martial in the Confederate States Armies. Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: White Mane Books, 2001.

Cantor, Norman F. Imagining the Law: Common Law and the Foundation of the American Legal System. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1997.

Child, Sargent B. and Dorothy P. Holmes. Check List of Historical Records Survey Publications. 1943; reprint, Baltimore: Clearfield Publishing Company, 1969.

Corbin, John. Find the Law in the Library: A Guide to Legal Research. Chicago: American Library Association, 1989. Ditz, Toby L. Property and Kinship: Inheritance in Early Connecticut, 1750-1820. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986.

Eakle, Arlene H. “Research in Court Records.” The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Revised edition edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, Inc., 1997.

Eichholz, Alice, editor. Ancestry’s Redbook: American State, County and Town Sources. Revised edition. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, Inc., 1992.

Everton Publishers. The Handybook for Genealogists: United State of America. 11th edition. Draper, Utah: The Everton Publishers, 2002.

Friedman, Lawrence M. A History of American Law. 2nd edition. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985.

Geiger, Linda Woodward. “Courts-Martial of Soldiers of the Georgia State Troops and Georgia State Line.” Georgia Genealogical Society Quarterly 40 (Spring 2004).

Greenwood, Val D. “Court Records in the United States.” Genealogical Journal 6 (1977).

Greenwood, Val D. The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy. 3rd edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1999.

Hamrick, Lillian A., editor. Guide to the Microfilm Collection of Early State Records. Washington: Library of Congress, 1950.

Hatcher, Patricia Law. Locating Your Roots: Discover Your Ancestors Using Land Records. Cincinnati, Ohio: Betterway Books, 2003.

Hefner, Loretta L. The WPA Historical Records Survey: A Guide to the Unpublished Inventories, Indexes and Transcripts. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 1980.

Hicks, Frederick C. Material and Methods of Legal Research. Revised edition. Rochester, New Hampshire: Layer’s Co-Operative Publishing Co., 1942.

Hoffer, Peter Charles. Law and People in Colonial America. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.

Horwitz, Morton. The Transformation of American Law, 1780-1860. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Jacobstein, J. Myron. Fundamentals of Legal Research. 5th edition. Westbury, New York: Foundation Press, 1990.

Jacobus, D.L. “Probate Law and Custom.” The American Genealogist 9 (July 1932): 4-9.

Lainhart, Ann Smith. Digging for Genealogical Treasure in New England Town Records. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1996.

Leary, Helen F.M., editor. North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History. 2nd edition. Raleigh, North Carolina: North Carolina Genealogical Society, 1996.

Lloyd, David. Finding the Law: A Guide to Legal Research. Dobbs Ferry, New York: Oceana Publications, 1974.

Melnyk, Marcia D. Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research. Fourth edition. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1999.

Menard, Catherine S. A Research Guide to the Massachusetts Courts and Their Records. Boston: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Archives and Records Preservation, 1987.

Mills, Gary. Southern Loyalists in the Civil War: The Southern Claims Commission (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1994).

Monkkonen, Eric. Crime and Justice in American History: The Colonies and Early Republic. 2 vols. Los Angeles: Meckler, 1991.

Moody, Sharon Tate. “Georgia Supreme Court Records: Getting Around Brick Walls and Rebuilding Burned Courthouses.” Georgia Genealogical Society Quarterly 38 (Winter 2002) and 29 (Spring 2003).

National Archives and Records Administration. Guide to Federal Recordsin the National Archives of the United States. 2nd edition. 3 volumes. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1998.

Nelson, William E. The Americanization of the Common Law During the Revolutionary Era: A Study of Legal Change in Massachusetts, 1760-1830. Harvard University thesis, 1971.

Newman, John J. American Naturalization Record, 1790-1990: What They Are and How to Use Them. 2nd edition. Bountiful, Utah: Heritage Quest, 1998.

Pencak, William and Wythe W. Holt Jr., editors. The Law in America, 1607-1861. New York: New York Historical Society, 1989.

Pfeiffer, Laura Szucs. Hidden Sources: Family History in Unlikely Places. Salt Lake City. Ancestry, 2000.

Pound, Roscoe. Organization of Courts. Boston: Little, Brown, 1940.

Reinsch, Paul Samuel. English Common Law in the Early American Colonies. New York: Da Capo Press, 1970.

Rembar, Charles. The Law of the Land. New York: Simon and Schuster 1980.

Rose, Christine and Kay Germain Ingalls. “A Little Traveling Music, Please.” The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Genealogy. New York: Alpha Books, 1997.

Rose, Christine. Courthouse Indexes Illustrated. San Jose, California: CR Publications, 2006.

Rose, Christine. Courthouse Research for Family Historians: Your Guide to Genealogical Treasures. San Jose, Calif.: CR Publications, 2004.

Ryskamp, George R. “Common-Law Concepts for the Genealogist: Real-Property Transactions.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 84 (September 1996).

Ryskamp, George R. “Fundamental Common-Law Concepts for the Genealogist: Marriage Divorce and Coverture.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 83 (September 1995).

Salmon, Marylynn. Women and the Law of Property in Early America. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1986.

Scribner, Charles H. A Treatise on the Law of Dower, 2nd edition. Philadelphia: T. and J.W. Johnson, 1883.

Shammas, Carole, Marylynn Salmon, and Michel Dahlin.Inheritance in America from Colonial Times to the Present. 1987; reprint. Galveston, Texas: Frontier Press, 1997.

Sperry, Kip. Reading Early American Handwriting. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1998.

Spratling, Benjamin Barnett, III. “Court and Legal Records,” Printed Sources. Cory L. Meyerink, editor. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, Inc., 1998.

Szucs, Loretto Dennis and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, editors. The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy. Third edition. Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2006.

Thompson, Neil D. “Colonial Legal Records and the Genealogist.” Genealogical Journal 13 (Fall 1984).

Walker, David M. The Oxford Companion to Law. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980.

Wheeler, Russell R. and Cynthia Harrison. Creating the Federal Judicial System. 2nd edition. Washington, D.C.: Federal Judicial Center, 1994. This publication is available in PDF format:

Lectures on Audio

Repeat Performance 2911 Crabapple Lane, Hobart, IN 46342

Benedict, Sheila. A Case for Courthouse Research Everywhere recorded at the 2002 NGS Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. [NGS02-W33]

Leary, Helen F.M. English Common Law: An American Genealogical Source recorded at the 1993 NGS Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. [BM-48]

Leary, Helen F.M. Researching in the Law Library recorded at the 1992 FGS Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. [AZ-104] Leary, Helen F.M. SSSHH! Genealogical Research in the Law Library recorded at the 1994 NGS Conference in Houston, Texas. [HT-27]

Leary, Helen F.M. The Law: Its Uses Illustrated recorded at the 1997 FGS Conference in Dallas, Texas. [FGD-F-72]

Leary, Helen F.M. The Southern States: “The Law” as an Alternative Source for Genealogists recorded at the 1991 NGS conference in Portland, Oregon.

Moody, Sharon Tate. No Ring? No License? Are They Married? Applying the Common Law to Marriage recorded at the 2004 NGS Conference in Sacramento, California. [NGS04F317]

Schoeffler, William H. Ancestors-At-Law: How to Find Your Forebears in Law Libraries recorded at the 1992 NGS Conference in Jacksonville, Florida. [JF-133]

Schoeffler, William H. And the Widow Gets Her Thirds: Dower Rights and Other Clues to Women in Property Records recorded at the 1993 NGS Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. [BM-151A]

Sherrill, Charles A. Analysis of a Court Case File recorded at the 1999 FGS Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. [FGSSLT60]

Sherrill, Charles A. Locked Up! Ancestors in Jails and Asylums recorded at the 2001 NGS Conference in Portland, Oregon. [NGS01-S192]

Sherrill, Charles A. The Yankees Took All We Had: The Southern Claims Commission Records recorded at the 1998 NGS Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. [FOHS177]


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course US Court Records

offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at 

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.

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