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Genealogy Methodology: Researching County Court Records

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Franklin county Courthouse

Image Courtesy of nccourts.org

Over the past few years, I’ve talked a lot about different research methods and different types of records, but I never really talked about court records and how they can be especially useful in genealogy. Quite a few people overlook the wealth of information in court records because they may associate court records with crime, but many court records deal with day to day issues, such as land and property conveyance, wills and estates, orphans and guardians, bastardy bonds and apprentice bonds as well as other common topics in genealogical research.

Many counties have a County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions as well as a county Superior Court and in some cases and Inferior Court. I spent some time in the Archives last week researching this topic in Franklin County Court of Pleas and Quarterly Sessions, which are often simply referred to as the County Court records. I looked at the records of March 1798 session to highlight a specific case that appeared in the county court minutes, the appearance docket, and the execution docket.

Many genealogy researchers are familiar with the court minutes from the County Court records. Genealogical Services has published books that abstract, transcribe, and index those records for some NC counties. Minutes are not the only type of record in the County Court Records. There are also Trial and Appearance Dockets, and Execution Dockets among others, depending on the records available in each county.

While doing some research on this topic in Franklin County records, I came across a case in the Minutes for Archibald Gracie and Thomas Brickell (below)

Franklin County Court Minutes, March 1798 Text: [names of jury] who find the deft. did assume within three years & that there is no set of and Assess Plaintiff Damage to £35..3..4 & costs

Franklin County Court Minutes, March 1798 Text: [names of jury] who find the deft. did assume within three years & that there is no set of and Assess Plaintiff Damage to £35..3..4 & costs

My next step was to see if there was a record in the Trial and Appearance Docket book, which I found (bellow)

Franklin County Trial and Appearance Docket, March 1798. Transcript of text in 4th box: Genl issues set off and notice set off & the statt. of limt. [Statute of Limitations]

Franklin County Trial and Appearance Docket, March 1798. Transcript of text in 4th box: Genl issues set off and notice set off & the statt. of limt. [Statute of Limitations]

Finally I was curious to see if I could find them in the Execution Docket. No, this is not referring to executions of prisoners, this is referring to the monies owed to the court for fees, etc. I did find them, but it should be noted they were found in June 1798 instead of March. Others I found in March minutes were not in the June execution docket and were probably later. It should also be noted this record was very faded and hard to read.

Franklin County Execution Docket, June 1798. Very difficult to read

Franklin County Execution Docket, June 1798. Very difficult to read

This case of Archibald Gracie vs. Thomas Brickell is just one example. There are many other things that can be found in the County Court records and be sure not to limit to just the minutes. There may be other information about the case in other county court files. In some cases, you can learn more about the case at hand. Minutes can tell you a summarized version of why they were in court, but may not tell more information than that.

Need help with understanding court records more? Reference staff at GHL would be happy to assist you!

2 Comments

  1. Jackie Taylor says:

    Looking for information on James King,some say he was Mushulatubbe,and that he married Penny Jackson in your state,I have found a record of this dating1843 in Wake county North Carolina.I am searing for anything you may have on him or both to add to this,can you help?

    1. Genealogical Services says:

      Hi Jackie, You emailed us before about Penny, feel free to send us another email.

      Thanks!
      Erin

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