Alabama Court Records
Names of many Alabama residents are found in district and county court records. Civil court actions include disputes over property and the settlement of estates. Criminal court actions include confrontations, thefts, and destruction of property. These records may give a person’s age, residence, occupation, and family relationships. Sometimes friends and neighbors may have given depositions as witnesses. Court records include dockets, minutes, case files, and orders. Land, tax, and probate matters may be included.
Major Alabama courts that kept records of genealogical value were established as follows:
1807–1972 Justice of the peace courts: These courts were originally established in 1807 under the Mississippi Territory. They kept records of minor civil and criminal cases.
1809–1818 Superior courts of law and equity: These courts were first established under the Mississippi Territory. They had jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases and divorces from 1809 to 1818, at which time their jurisdiction was given to the circuit courts. The first superior courts were established by Mississippi Territory legislation in 1809.
1818–present County courts: These are county-wide courts, also known as inferior courts, intermediate courts, civil courts, criminal courts, and law and juvenile courts. They keep records of civil and criminal cases.
1819–present Circuit courts: These are county-wide courts that have jurisdiction over felonies, major criminal and civil cases, and appeals from inferior courts.
1900s–present Records courts: These are sometimes referred to as municipal courts, city courts, mayors’ courts, and town courts. They are established in cities with a population of 1,000 or more. These courts keep records of minor civil and criminal cases occurring within the city.
1821–1915 Commissioners’ courts: This court levied the county tax and laid out and discontinued roads, bridges and highways.
1839–1915 Chancery courts: These courts had jurisdiction over divorces. After 1915 the jurisdiction for divorces was given to the circuit courts. The chancery and circuit court records are kept by the same clerk in less populated counties.
The court of criminal appeals, court of civil appeals, and the supreme court serve as statewide appellate courts.
For detailed information about when these courts were created, what types of cases they heard, and the records they kept, see the Historical Records Survey inventories listed in the Family History Library Catalog Place Search. Search by county under the subject "Archives and Libraries."
The Family History Library is microfilming probate court, orphans court, chancery court, and county court records. All supreme court records prior to 1881 were transferred to the Alabama Department of Archives and History. The Administrative Office of Courts (Judicial Building, 300 Dexter Avenue, Montgomery, Alabama 36104) is microfilming Alabama court records.
The Gandrud and Jones Alabama Records Collection (see the "Genealogy" section of this outline) includes some Alabama court records.
Original court records are kept either in the county courthouse or in the State Archives. The Family History Library and the Alabama Department of Archives and History have microfilm copies of court records from many counties. Few of the records are well indexed. Some court records have been transcribed and published in books or periodicals.
See the United States Research Outline for more detailed information on court records. Refer to the "Probate Records," and "Naturalization and Citizenship" sections of this outline for information about those specific court records.
Court records are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
ALABAMA- COURT RECORDS
ALABAMA, [COUNTY]- COURT RECORDS