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US: Court Records
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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 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
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
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
Pitfalls of Courthouse Research

Module 4
Federal Courts
dt>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
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 National Archives Catalog, Access to Archival Databases (AAD) and the Guide to Federal Records?
• National Archives Facilities
Case Study
• Case Study of Peter Wright
• Case Study Outline
• Case Study Information

Module 7
Court Records Online
• Historical Records Collection
• FamilySearch Catalog
• FamilySearch Digital Library
• FamilySearch Research Wiki
Start, But Don’t End with FamilySearch
• Ancestry
• National Archives
• Digitized Book Websites
• Courthouse Websites
• State Archives, Libraries, and Historical Societies
• It is Not All Online, But Some of It Is!

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