JOPLIN, Mo. —
Some of the best sources of information for family history are courthouse records. Although the records are usually found at the courthouse in the county where a person lived, they are sometimes found in record centers that have been set up by counties to handle old records and make them available to researchers.
Fortunately, some courthouse records have been digitized and can be found online or in books that can be obtained at a local library through interlibrary loan. Copies of courthouse records can also be ordered at family history centers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
When looking through court records, a researcher often comes across unusual legal terms. Two examples are "grantee" and "grantor."
The grantor was the person who sold or gave property to another. The grantee was the person who received the property through a gift or purchase. The land records of the grantees are kept in different books than the grantors. Both are recorded alphabetically.
Most of the colonial land records used the metes and bounds type of survey that described physical and topographical features to denote the location of property. Other land records describe the location of land using the letters S, T and R, which stand for Section, Township and Range. Using those numbers, one can look at a county map and find where a piece of property was located.
Probate records often include the term "intestate," which means a person died without a will or a will could not be found. A nuncupative will is an oral will that was given before witnesses during a person's last illness. An olographic will is handwritten and signed by the person making the will.
If questions arose about an estate, affidavits were often required. Those written or oral statements were made under oath, usually to a notary public.
The widow of a deceased is sometimes called a "relict." If the deceased person had no spouse but did have children who were underage, the children were assigned a guardian or "curator" by the court. The guardian was expected to take care of their interests.
If a person had moved to another region, he or she may have assigned power of attorney to a trusted relative or friend who lived in the old area. That trusted person was given permission to act as an agent to perform certain legal transactions such as selling, buying or leasing property.
When doing research on ancestors who lived in the Virginia Colony, researchers will discover that the area was divided into parishes. Those records often mention cases going before the "vestry," which was an administrative group led by church members who heard local cases and made decisions as to their outcome.
Suggestions or queries? Contact Frankie Meyer, 509 N. Center St., Plainfield, IN 46168 or email frankiemeyer@ yahoo.com.