Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What Do You Do When The Courthouse Has Burned Down?

 Courthouse fires, natural disasters or just neglect can be causes for lost records. In genealogy research, what can be done when documentation of events has been destroyed? Don't hit the panic button. First take an inventory of the information that was housed in the courthouse. Documents or copies may have been stored in a different location.   I have some suggestions that might with the exploration.

  • Are all the records destroyed? The new courthouse may have some of the old records.
  • Boundaries of counties have changed over the years. The  dated information being sought could be housed in a different county .  Pike County, Mississippi was derived from Marion County in 1815.  Marion County was derived from Amite, Wayne and Franklin Counties in 1811. Amite, Wayne and Franklin Counties were formed in 1809. Walthall County was derived from Pike and Marion Counties in 1912. I might have to investigate all these counties.
  •  Many times a small portion of the information is  available in another location.   According to the United States Census Bureau, there is portion of the 1890 Federal Census that was not destroyed in the 1921 fire.  Cincinnati, Hamilton County 1890 census is available.  I plan on looking at this census record in the future.
  • Some states have a state census.  Louisiana has a state census for 1853 and 1858.  Georgia has a state census for these years 1798, 1800, 1810, 1827, 1834, 1838, 1845, 1852, 1853, 1859, 1865, 1879.
  • Family history genealogical information is  available at local libraries. The McComb, Mississippi Public library at 1022 Virginia Avenue  has a genealogy collection with books and family genealogy information from the area. Located there is information that you probably won't find anywhere else.
  • Land records can establish that an ancestor lived in an geographic area.  In the case of the homestead records the Bureau of Land Management has homestead information including land title.
  • Family members may have attended the same church and were buried in the same cemetery. Baptismal, marriage,  cemetery and funeral records maybe available.  
  • Newspapers from the area may have information that preceded  the fire.
  • Military records of ancestors. There is a 1890 Veterans Census which enumerated many Union veterans.
  • Native Americans were enumerated in the general census as well as on reservations in 1900. There are separate  census of different tribes such as Pueblo Indians 1850 to 1879 and the 1857 Shawnee census. 
  • Look in all the places your ancestor lived. An ancestors maybe an expatriate or was born in another country.  
  • Make sure the information you are looking for was  stored at the courthouse.

If anyone has other ideas please make a comment.

------The  Tree Gardener

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