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US: Court Records
Description
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This course provides an overview of United States court records, selected finding aids to United States court records and strategies for gleaning the records of the courts. It introduce additional resources and strategies for documenting the interaction of your ancestors and the United States courts; and provides a brief historical background as is relevant to various court records.

Students will be encouraged to share their findings (including additional sources and strategies) while studying the interaction of their families and the courthouse.

Students enrolling in this course will have successfully completed the National Institute for Genealogical Studies’ courses United States: Land Records, United States: Probate Records, and United States: Immigration & Naturalization Records, or have a great deal of experience researching land, probate, and immigration & naturalization records.

At the end of this course, an exam will be provided to evaluate your understanding of the course materials.


Course Content

Module 1
Introduction
Note about Web Addresses
Websites
Symbols
Caveats
 
Introduction to Court Records
• Brief Overview of the United States Judicial System
• Types of Law
• Levels of Courts
• Trial Court
• Appellate Court - Intermediate and Last Resort (Supreme Court)
• Types of Courts
• Criminal Courts
• Civil Courts
• Recording Actions
 
Selected Terminology
 

Module 2
State Legislature and the Courts
Websites
 
State Statutes & Legislative Acts
• Private Laws
• Session Laws
• Substantive Laws
• Procedural Laws
• Criminal Laws
• Civil Laws
• Municipal Ordinances/Laws
 
Collections of Official State Code
 
Local and Statewide Courts
• The Courts
• Trial Courts
• General Jurisdiction
• Limited Jurisdiction
• Criminal Case
• Civil Case
• Intermediate Appellate Court
 
Supreme Court
 

Module 3
Court Records
Websites
 
Local and Statewide Courts - Record Keeping
• Local Court Officials
• Records of the Courts
• Published Records
• Case Reporters
• Digests - Summaries of Cases
 
Additional Court Records
• Records and Registrations
• Vital Records
• Registers of Vital Records
• Military Discharge Records
• Voters Registration
• Tax Records
• Coroner's Records
• Divorce Records
• Relief for the Poor and Infirmed
• Bastardy Records
• Naturalizations
• Bonds
 
New England Record Keeping
• Fence Viewers, Surveyor’s, Jurors...: Town Records
• Finding Aids to New England Town Records
 
Resources
Pitfalls of Courthouse Research
 

Module 4
Federal Courts
Websites
Required Reading
U.S. Constitution
 
Trial Courts
• U.S. District Courts (RG 21)
• Records of District Courts of the United States
• Records Related to Federal District Courts
• U.S. Bankruptcy Courts
• U.S. Court of International Trade
• Records of the U.S. Court of International Trade (RG 321)
• U.S. Court of Federal Claims
• U.S. Courts of Appeals - Intermediate Courts of Appeals
• U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals
• U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
 
Supreme Court (RG 267)
 
Published Records
• House and Senate Journals
 

Module 5
Additional Federal Judicial Jurisdictions
Websites
 
U.S. Court of Claims (RG 123)
• Claims: Pre-1855
• Claims: 1855-1982
• American State Papers
• U.S. Serial Set
• U.S. Territorial Courts and Records (RG 21)
• Eastern Cherokee Applications to the U.S. Court of Claims, 1906-1909
 
Records of the Department of Treasury (RG 56) relating to Claims
• Southern Claims Commission
• Division of Captured Property, Claims, and Lands, 1855-1900
 
U.S. House of Representatives Private Claims
U.S. Courts in Indian Territory
Records of the Adjutant General's Office (RG 94), 1780s-1917
Federal Courts-Martial (RG 153)
Confederate Courts
U.S. Admiralty Courts
 

Module 6
Strategies & Finding Aids for Successful Use of Courthouse Records
Required Reading
Strategies for Success
Interpreting the Records
 
Finding Aids
• State Judicial Systems - Online Resources
• Additional Online Resources
• Selected Resources
• Lectures on Audio
• National Archives Resources
• What is ARC, AAD, OPA and the Guide to Federal Records?
• NARA Finding Aids
• National Archives Facilities
 
Case Study
• Case Study of Peter Wright
• Case Study Outline
• Case Study Information
 
Appendix
 
 

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