Tracing Immigrants Arrival Court Records
Court records may name family members and may mention property descriptions from the country of origin. They are more helpful for colonial times than later periods because colonial court record transcripts are usually published with comprehensive indexes. Examples of sources taken from court records are—
True, Ransom B. Biographical Dictionary of Early Virginia 1607-1660. Richmond: Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, 1982. (FHL fiche 6331352.) This work lists every name in pre-1660 Virginia court records.
Tardif, Phillip. Notorious Strumpets and Dangerous Girls: Convict Women in Van Diemen's Land, 1803-1829 (Tasmania). North Ryde, Australia: Angus & Robertson, 1990. (FHL book 994.6 D3t.)
Court records are valuable in establishing origins—especially when the emigrant ancestor was involved as a plaintiff, defendant, or witness. More than 50,000 English immigrants to colonial America and 150,000 to Australia were exiled convicts. Courts watched such immigrants closely.
Immigrants who had business or professional employment are more commonly listed in court records than are laborers and farmers. Once you know an immigrant ancestor was involved in a court case, review all documents related to the court action. The case file, or packet, is particularly vital because it contains the testimony transcripts, depositions, affidavits, and other documentary evidence. Depositions and affidavits are the documents most likely to cite places of origin.