Going beyond the obvious courthouse records

Contact Kenneth H. Thomas Jr. at P.O. Box 901, Decatur, GA 30031 or www.gagensociety.org.

Courthouse research is a staple for genealogists but we often only scratch the surface, checking the most readily available or best known records: deeds, wills, marriages or guardianships.

We often fail to realize that in each state there are many courthouse records that have odd titles that might not jump out at you, but could provide valuable clues. In Georgia, we have the homestead records, post-Civil War records where a man puts aside land for his wife and children. What is now the Probate Court was once the Inferior Court for Ordinary Purposes, later the Court of Ordinary. There also was the Inferior Court for County Purposes, which included road repairs, schools, the indigent and coroner’s reports.

Dawn Watson recently published “Rabun County, Georgia, Writs, 1836-1859,” giving us a great glimpse into what is found under the vague title of “writs.” While this county might not be of interest to you, check this book to see what a writ covers, and then look for them in your county.

Watson points out that none of the books abstracted here has been microfilmed, so they are not at the Georgia Archives. The records include affidavits, writs or subpoenas, confessions of judgments, pleas, answers and verdicts, and bonds. These records give you a well-rounded view of what was going on in court. You would certainly learn a lot about what an ancestor was doing in those times.

The book has an appendix of legal terms and a full-name index. Published with a grant from the R.J. Taylor Jr. Foundation, it is available for $30 plus $3 shipping from Dawn Watson, P.O. Box 292, Rabun Gap, GA 30568. See also www.dncresearchgroup.com.

Sitting Up With the Dead

On Sept. 13 the Hall County Library System will host Sitting Up With the Dead at the central library in Gainesville, where you can use the genealogy room from normal closing until midnight. Cost is $12 for supper and snacks. Check www.hallcountylibrary.org for the registration form. Mail to Genealogy Department, Hall County Library, 127 Main St. N.W., Gainesville, GA 30501. Deadline is Sept. 9. Call 770-532-3311, Ext. 116, for further information.

Civil War at a glance

“Civil War Genealogy Research” by Nancy Hendrickson, part of the “Genealogy at a Glance” series, is a four-page, laminated work synthesizing some of the basics for Civil War research. It includes a short bit on many topics and a dozen websites. It would make a good gift to get someone started. The cost is $8.95 plus $4.50 postage from the Genealogical Publishing Co., 3600 Clipper Mill Road, Suite 260, Baltimore, MD 21211 or call 1-800-296-6687. The website is www.genealogical.com.