Tips For Sucessful Courthouse Research


"Genealogists are more likely to give than to give in."

  • Dress appropriately. You want to blend in with other professionals around you.
  • Be organized. A briefcase works nicely. It is very distracting and consuming to be shuffling through papers.
  • If you will want copies, take some cash along. Not all courthouses except checks. I recommend $1 bills. By using $1 bills, you will not have to wait for change and the clerks will not have to find it.
  • Always document the location of each copy or information you find. You may need to locate it again later.
  • Attempt to ask as few questions as possible. Be polite and patient. At times, you will need to find it yourself.
  • Always keep in mind the court minutes. This will not provide you with all the information in the actual document, but it will help when the records are not available.
  • Do not overlook information that is not an exact match, you may find where it belongs later.
  • Remember that relationship terms can vary.
  • In advance, learn the history of the courthouse. If it was burned, when and to what extent.
  • Maintain a record of resources that have been checked.
  • Be persistent or at times, come back later.
  • Pens and pencils. Take extras.
  • Plenty of notebook paper.
  • Change for a snack machine or plan for taking a lunch.
  • Any forms you would like to use to assist with transcriptions.
  • Family group sheets on the family or families you are researching.
  • A list of the areas of the courthouse you wish to visit and specifically what you are seeking.
  • A magnifying glass.
  • Paper clips and small stapler.
  • A clip board.
  • Comfortable shoes.
  • Remember the three Ps-patients, persistence and plenty of time!

Written by Jeannette Piecznski, 1997.



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