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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 ($).
U.S. Territorial Courts and Records (RG 21)
As our country grew, territories were established (from 1787 to 1912 twenty-eight different territories became states). These territories need a government and the need for keeping territorial court records. The data provided in the table “Territorial Records” gives a glimpse of the wealth of court records available for those territories; however, not all of the records have been microfilmed. The National Archives online Guide to Federal Records indicates that there are many textural records available in the Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-1993 (Record Group 21). Remember, all archived textural materials are not necessarily located in the National Archives in Washington, DC. Many records, especially textural records which have not been microfilmed, are located in other repositories.
The First Division of the U.S. Territorial Court. These records are located in Anchorage and include (but are not limited to) records of the Juneau term, including dockets (1900-1955); records of the clerk of court (1900-1960). Records of the Skagway term, including dockets (1900-1918); criminal case files (1901-1909); and records concerning naturalization (1901-1917). Criminal case files and other records of U.S. Commissioners, First Division, Juneau Precinct (1913-1985), etc.
Records of the U.S. Territorial Court. These records are located in Denver and include (but are not limited to) records of the First District (Denver), the Second District (Central City) and the Third District (Pueblo). You will find case files (1861-1876); records of the clerk of the court (1862-1876); docket books (1874-1876), etc.
Records of the U.S. Territorial Court. These records are located in Seattle and include (but are not limited to) records of the First (Bozeman), Second (Deer Lodge), Third (Helena), and Fourth (Miles City) Districts (1868-1889).
Records of the U.S. Territorial Court. These records are located in Kansas City and include (but are not limited to). Records of the First District (Vermillion), the Second District (Yankton) and the Journal of the Fifth District (Huron) (1889). You will find appellate case files of the Supreme Court (1867-1886), bankruptcy minutes (1868-1871), records of the clerk of court (1879-1886), etc.
Records of the U.S. Territorial Court. These textual records are located in Denver and contain case files (1870-1896).
Although some of the items listed of Territorial Records indicate coverage for only one territory, remember that your ancestors may have migrated through a number of territories and that territory boundaries changed. As can be discovered in the Territorial Papers of Indiana, Vol. 7, on February 3, 1809, the Tenth Congress passed an act to divide the Indiana Territory into two governments.
Indiana Territory Act
Information in Territorial Records
Within these records are many fascinating pieces of information. You may find records for the Postmaster General’s mail contracts and letters concerning their services, information on surveyors and land claims, citizen petitions with names, appointments of Indian Agents and their letters, Militia/Military movements, letters and rosters, appointments of Judges, acts (laws) passed, courts held with a summary of actions taken, and much more.
The power of attorney, noted below, provides information on two people from Tennessee and their involvement in the Indiana territory. The letter of Secretary Pope to Judge Thomas gives you a feel for the times and provides insight on why you may not find court information when you think you should.
Power of Attorney, Indiana
General Court, Indiana
You will find additional useful information in Meyerink’s Printed Sources.
- ↑ Meyerink, Kory L., editor. Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, Inc., 1998), 548.
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 email@example.com
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