Searching through the court order books in a county in which your ancestor lived can be very rewarding. There is a range of information in these books that can enable you to learn more about your ancestor. At the very least, a mention of your ancestor in a court record confirms that he/she was living in that county on the date of the court appearance. This can help you to establish your time line for that person between censuses. But you can also learn some very interesting facts and even shocking scandals about an ancestor. Our ancestors often took more of an active part in their local government than we do today, and the courts provided the way in which this was done. Because there were fewer people, each could be called upon by the courts to perform any number of civic tasks.

The courts appointed people for jury duty, ordered appraisals of estates of the deceased, appointed administrators for an estate, appointed a group to view the best route for a new road, issued pay to people doing tasks for the county, granted licenses to taverns, appointed guardians, bound apprentices, settled property disputes, heard paternity cases, granted money for the care of disabled persons, issued summonses, heard civil suits, and tried felons.

There may be more than one set of court order books in your county of interest. Some names to look for are County Court, Circuit Court, Chancery Court, and Court of Common Pleas. Check them all out. There is no excuse not to because they are very likely to be found online in the FamilySearch Catalog, complete with indexes in each book.


The Indiana State Library will host its second summer monthly program on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. in the library. This program will be all about the importance of land records for genealogists. Professional genealogists John Barr and Amber Oldenburg will each give a presentation on the use and usefulness of these records.

Mr. Barr will speak on Map reading for Genealogists – When North isn’t North: “Locating a piece of property using the legal descriptions from deeds and patents does not have to be intimidating. Understanding the terminology and methods used by surveyors from days gone past will make locating your ancestor’s real property a lot easier. Knowing that north may not be north as we think of it will help put that 1850 property on a current map.”

Oldenberg will discuss Land Records – A Family Historian’s Bread and Butter: “In the United States, a large portion of the population outside of cities owned land. This means that your ancestors most likely owned. In this session, you will learn what land records are, why they are so valuable, and how to use these records to further your genealogical research. The more you know about land records, the more you will know about your ancestors.”

The program is free, but please register online. The deadline to register is Wednesday. The class will last approximately one hour. There will be free validated parking available in the garage across the street. Light snacks will be provided. (Also, maybe free gifts. At the presentation I attended last month, everyone was given a choice of a free hardback book on Indiana history or Native American tribes.) Go to to register.


The Wabash Valley Genealogy Society will hold its monthly meeting and program on Monday at the Vigo County Public Library, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The topic will be “Understanding Censuses,” presented by Loran Braught. “Participants will learn how and why we have a census, how the census can used as a resource for tracing family history research, and . . . a few strategies on how to use the data.”