By Linda Stewart, 13 July 2018
Researching your family history today is not like the research of 30 years ago. Back in the pre-Internet days, you spent your Saturdays going to the library, or walking your local cemeteries looking for ancestors. All of your vacation time was spend looking at the records in a courthouse. Then a table was setup at the family reunion so everyone could fill out the family sheets. Today with the creation of the Internet, we have access to a myriad of records. The marriage, birth, death, census, voter’s registration, probate, etc. records on the Internet can only give you a partial picture of your ancestor’s life. You still need to research the courthouse records.
The county records that do not appear online are the County Tax Assessor-Collector records, deed records, divorce records, and civil court records. Our ancestors paid property and poll taxes, bought and sold land, got divorced, and even got into disputes with their neighbors. The Tax Assessor records will tell you when your ancestor was living in a county. It will list if he had land, how many acres he owned, a brief description, and the year the taxes were due. With that information you can go to the County Clerk’s Office and look at the deed records. There will be two indexes. The Grantee Index lists when the land was purchased. The Grantor Index lists when the land was sold.
With the County Tax Assessor-Collector records, I have actually tracked an ancestor every year of his life from the time he was old enough to pay the poll tax to vote until he died. In many cases, you can even find out the year he died. It will list the ancestor’s name with deceased written beside it, and who the administrator of his estate was. With this information you know what year to research the probate records at the County Clerk’s Office.
With our busy schedules, sometimes it is simply not feasible to go to the courthouses for research. If you live in Texas, The Texas State Library and Archives Commission has microfilmed all of the county records in each County Clerk’s office. Check with your local library. If they have a microfilm reader, then they can inter-library loan five reels of microfilm at a time. The reels may also be loaned out of state. Be patient. There is only one reel so you will have to wait your turn … it is usually a short wait. Here is the link to the Texas State Library microfilm page. https://www.tsl.texas.gov/arc/local/index.html Click on the name of the county and see what is available.
I know that the county microfilm program is available in Tennessee, as well as Oklahoma. Tennessee will loan their film within their state as well as out, but Oklahoma will not. You have to go to their state library to view it. Check with your state library to see what they offer.