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Conscientious researchers should also pursue unpublished, unindexed, often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
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.
The following are types of court actions:
- Lists of jurors
- Lists of taxables
- Lists of residents
- 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.