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Many Indiana residents’ names are listed in civil court records, where there is information about disputes over property, divorce, partitions, settlement of estates, and other matters. These courts also handled criminal matters. Court Order Books and case files may contain a person’s age, residence and occupation, and may state family relationships (sometimes relatives or neighbors gave depositions).
Indiana courts having records of genealogical value were established as follows:
1790–1805: General Quarter Session of the Peace had jurisdiction over criminal and county administrative matters. [Knox (1790–), Clark (1801–), and Dearborn (1803–)].
1790–1813:Circuit Court of the General Court had criminal jurisdiction.
1790– 1805: Court of Common Pleas had civil jurisdiction.[Knox, 1790–; Clark,1801–; Dearborn, 1803–].
1805–1813: Court of Common Pleas heard civil, criminal, and probate cases, and administrative matters.
1814–present: Circuit Court was and still is the basic county level court of general jurisdiction, with jurisdiction over civil, divorce, naturalization, criminal, estates, guardianship, mental health, and, after 1903, juvenile matters. The basic records of court proceedings, the Civil Order Books, are being microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, along with the Complete Order Books, through 1920.
1853–1873: Court of Common Pleas, primarily a probate court, but handled naturalization, divorces, and limited civil and criminal matters. Similar Order Books have been microfilmed for some counties.
1871: Superior Courts had concurrent civil jurisdiction with the Circuit Court in the county until after World War II. Some Superior Courts were established in cities away from the county seat and, beginning in 1899, also had probate jurisdiction. These courts were established as Circuit Courts’ case loads became too heavy for one judge. (Marion County, 1871; Tippecanoe, 1875; Allen and Vanderburg, 1877; Vigo, 1881; Madison, Laporte, Lake and Porter, 1895; Grant and Howard, 1897). Several other counties had Superior Courts prior to 1920, and Lake and Marion had several such courts. Superior Court Order Books and Complete Order Books through 1920 have been microfilmed for many counties. If a county has had both a Circuit and Superior Court, consult Order Books, case files, and related records for both courts.
For a discussion of Indiana court records, see:
Newman, John J. Research in Indiana Courthouses: Judicial and Other Records. Indianapolis, Indiana: Indiana Historical Society, 1981. (Family History Library book 977.2 P2n .) This book gives a brief history of the court system and lists the dates each court began.
Federal court records are described in:
Griffin, Warren B. Preliminary Inventory: Records of the U.S. Courts for the District of Indiana. Chicago, Illinois: Federal Record Center, 1967. (Family History Library book 977.2 A1 no.83; film 982239 item 10.) The boundaries of each District Court are defined and the types of court records are listed, along with the dates these court records cover.
For U.S. Circuit and District Court naturalization records, see Indiana Naturalization and Citizenship.
Court records can be found in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
INDIANA- COURT RECORDS
INDIANA, [COUNTY]- COURT RECORDS
Supreme Court database The cases begin with the first session in 1817 with Indiana’s entrance into the Union. This is a growing collectionTerritorial Cases will soon be added.