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Order In The Court!

Angry judge in a wig with raised gavel

Here's a Genealogy Brick Wall buster tip you may not have thought of before - using the Hammer of Justice*! If you are unlucky enough to be researching in a closed records state you can't find a lot of birth, marriage, and death info online. However, you may find a court record that gives you that nudge in the right direction for FREE!

The types of records available from state to state vary. I found a great website that has links to all of the states' judicial systems, National Center for State Courts (or copy and paste this)

This is a non-profit organization whose mission is "...promoting the rule of law and improving the administration of justice in state courts and courts around the world—springs logically from its original purpose to gather information and produce innovations to benefit all courts."

Clicking on that link will take you to their page with a breakdown by state of what is available and links to the court websites.

colorful unlabeled map of U.S.

I have often used the Texas court websites to find what might have happened to that missing spouse - was there a divorce and a name change? Was there a crime and a resulting jail or prison sentence? You might also find other friends, family, and associates with any civil lawsuits that may have been filed. These usually include street addresses of the parties or their attorneys which might give you a clue as to which city someone moved to. Some states have probate records online as well.

While researching a complicated paternity/adoption for a family, I chanced upon a name change document for the child, changing the surname from the mother's maiden name, to that of one of her marriage partners. This happened before the subsequent divorce and remarriage, and ultimate removal of the children involved and then the sealing of all records in all the databases when they were adopted by another family (who changed their first and last names). While this did not solve the ultimate puzzle, it was another layer of information from the opposite side of the country, and cost us nothing to get.

I should warn you that you may find some very unpleasant things about your family or a family you are researching, like arrest records, prior marriages and divorces, etc. Be prepared with how you will deal with sharing or NOT sharing this new information!

Do you have any other sites you like to use that may be outside the usual family research channels to hammer through brick walls? I'd love to hear about them!

shaggy wet dog in kiddie pool

Hope you are having a glorious summer! If I can help make it better, drop me a line - always a free initial consultation and quote.

Thank you,

Leslie Ryan

*Belated US Independence Day greetings! "The hammer of justice" is a phrase from the folk song by the great Pete Seeger "If I Had a Hammer." Here is a link to a version by Trini Lopez from the early 60's that you may not have heard (in a very long time!) to get your toes tapping before the weekend.

No compensation is received for any links or referrals herein. No copyright infringement is intended.


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