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Family History/Genealogy: Local Court Records

Learn how to research your family tree and how to find resources that are available in EKU libraries.

Circuit Court Case Files

Include files for civil, criminal, chancery or equity, ordinary or common law. Can include naturalization and applications for citizenship. Many counties have sent all early files to the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives (KDLA) in Frankfort.

KDLA has catalogued all records and their holdings can be searched online. The records have not been catalogued with consistent author or subject headings, so a keyword search may produce the best results. However, the following search strategies can aso be used. Replace the county name to search for other locations.

Author Search

Kentucky. Circuit Court (Madison County)

Boyd County (Ky.) Circuit Court

Subject Search

Court Records--Kentucky--Casey County

Civil Law--Kentucky--Gallatin County

Criminal Law--Kentucky--Owen County

Tax and Militia Records

Early tax records were a poll tax on any male 16 or over as well as a venue for applying property taxes. Because young men were taxed at age 16, a parent often paid the tax and their names are linked. Taxable property is also listed and could at various times include land, slaves, horses, cattle, carriages and watches. Early militia returns were often tied closely with tax lists and are included here.

  • Tax Assessment Books (lists)
  • Commissioner's Tax Book
  • Militia Book‑May include lists of delinquents (men who were not at muster or men who did not have a gun.

The following subject searches will find catalogued tax and militia records. Substitute state and county to customize the search.

Taxation--Kentucky--Owsley County--Lists.

Soldiers--North Carolina--Currituck County--Registers.

Currituck County (N.C.)--Militia--Registers. 

Search the Library Catalog

Many local records which are used by genealogists have been transcribed and published in book form. Click here to search the EKU catalog to find books in our library. Specific search strategies can be found in the boxes with the various record types. A good general subject search would be: Madison County (Ky.)--Genealogy. Substitute the state and county to find genealogy materials for the entire country.

Any of the searches on this page can also be done in WorldCat to find books in other libraries near you.

Deed Records

Early deed books were used to record the following types of legal documents. Anything that did not have its own separate book was recorded here. Later additional books were created such as Mineral Lease Book, Mortgage Book and Sheriffs Deed Book.

  • Power of Attorney ‑ An instrument that appoints someone else to follow through on a legal situation. This is often used if an individual has moved away and can give information on the location of other heirs.
  • Marriage Contract ‑ These were usually used when a couple had children from a previous marriage to preserve the children's interest in the estate.
  • Commissioner's Deeds ‑ These deeds were almost always used to settle estates and usually will mention all heirs. If an heir has passed away and has children they are often mentioned as well, since they are entitled to their parent's share of the estate. To find them look in the grantor's (seller's) index.
  • Mortgages ‑ Rarely have genealogical information, but do document the life of the person.
  • Apprenticeships ‑ Often when the father died young boys were apprenticed out to learn a trade. These records often name the father.

The following subject search will find catalogued deed records. Substitute state and county to customize the search.

Deeds--Kentucky--Estill County

Estate Records

Estate records are kept in the County Court Clerk's office. Estate Packets which consist of the original documents may not exist or may exist in a different location. Most of the information below was recorded in volumes and is also available on microfilm in locations such as KDLA or the Kentucky Historical Society.

  • Estate Records ‑ Until the late 1800s most estate records were recorded in Will Books, later there were Will Books, Dower Books, Inventory and Sale Bill Books, Guardian Settlement Books, etc. All these records can also be found loose in an estate bundle. They may or may not be easily accessible in the courthouse.
  • Wills ‑ Used very infrequently by early ancestors. Often wills do not give complete lists of children. Other sources must be used to fill in the gaps.
  • Inventories ‑ List of all personal property of the deceased.
  • Estate Settlement ‑ After the estate is settled and all property sold or distributed according to the will (or courts if there was no will) the executor or administrator was required to settle with the heirs.
  • Guardian Settlement ‑ The guardian of minor children was required to make a settlement of money spent on the child. The guardian was not usually the mother. A man was usually appointed by the court. Sometimes you will find more than one settlement if the children were very young.
  • Sale Bills ‑ This will show what was sold at the estate sale, who purchased it and how much was paid for it.
  • Dower ‑ The portion of an estate that a widow is entitled to for her lifetime upon the death of her husband. The portion was traditionally 1/3 of the estate, though this varied by area and time period.
  • Affidavit of Descent ‑ a document that proves that a person was the legal heir of the deceased.

The following subject searches will find catalogued will and estate records. Substitute state and county to customize the search.

Wills--Kentucky--Garrard County

To locate statewide indexes the county name can be deleted.


Marriage Records

Marriage records have been kept in the County Court Clerk's office since the first counties were created. The types of records created has changed over the years and the following record types could be available. Some counties have disposed of everything except the marriage books.

  • Bond ‑ In earlier times, a marriage bond was given to the court by the intended groom prior to his marriage. It affirmed that there was no moral or legal reason why the couple could not be married and it also affirmed that the groom would not change his mind. If he did, and did not marry the intended bride, he would forfeit the bond. The bondsman, or surety, was often a brother or uncle to the bride, not necessarily a parent. The bondsman could also be related to the groom, or even be a neighbor or friend, but those situations occurred less often.
  • License or Certificate ‑ This document replaced the marriage bond and usually gives more information about the couple getting married including age, number of marriages, parents names (very rarely filled out), and place of marriage
  • Minister's Return ‑ When the couple was married the minister was required to return to the court a statement that the marriage took place. Often you can find the marriage bond in one county and the marriage return in another county. Even more often you cannot find a marriage return at all. The bond is the only proof of marriage.
  • Consent ‑ Consent given by a parent or guardian (usually the father) in cases where the bride or groom was under the minimum legal age for marriage.

The following subject searches will find catalogued marriage records. Substitute state and county to customize the search.

Marriage records--Kentucky--Madison County

To locate statewide indexes the county name can be deleted.

Marriage records--Kentucky

Questions? Just ask!

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EKU Special Collections & Archives
Eastern Kentucky University
Special Collections & Archives
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Richmond, KY 40475