Court, Governmental & Criminal Records

Collection Information

When citizens petition their government for aid, compensation, or recognition, the records that are created often not only include genealogically significant details, they also put our ancestors in the context of history. The affidavits and proof submitted can be rich in details and contain mentions of other family members.

If your ancestor ran afoul of the law, criminal records will records his transgressions, along with some personal details that may help you fill in your family tree. Even if you aren’t aware of any criminal behavior in your family, be sure to check these records. Details can include birth date and place, immigration information, sentence, date and place of trial, and more.

While bureaucracy may not be popular with the people who have to navigate their way through it, the paper trails left behind can be incredible resources for family historians.

This category includes records created by government agencies and commissions, as well as records created in response to criminal offenses—large and small.

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Search Tips

  • In addition to searching for your ancestors in these collections, seek out their friends, neighbors, extended family, and other associates. You may find your ancestor mentioned as a witness or filing an affidavit.
  • Because of the diverse nature of the records in this category, it is helpful to search collections of interest individually. The search forms for individual collections may have searchable fields specific to the records within.