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 Tracing Immigrant Origins

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One of the fortunate aspects of researching this admittedly difficult era is that many of these civil records are in print. This makes searching easier, and should alert diligent researchers to the value of these records. Conscientious researchers should also pursue unpublished, unindexed, often even unmicrofilmed, colonial and town civil records. Learn as much as possible about the cases being researched. Then contact the state archives or other repositories to learn if there are other early papers preserved from that court. Never assume that because some records have been microfilmed, or printed in a book, that all applicable records are available in the same format.

Of course, not all court actions are of equal value in tracking immigrant origins. While any record will prove the residence and adulthood of an immigrant, some records are typically more likely than others to provide immigration information.

Court Actions

The following are types of court actions:

  • Lists of jurors
  • Lists of taxables
  • Lists of residents
  • Depositions
  • Indentures
  • Criminal court proceedings
  • Civil actions between two individuals, such as slander, property rights, etc.

Records which provide some biographical information are the best sources for immigration information. Hence lists of jurors, taxables, residents, etc. are of lesser interest for this purpose.

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