Building a Locality Guide: More on Records, Land

We started the process of building the section on Records in my locality guide system. Let’s look at that in more detail. My main record sections include:

  • Land and Property
  • Newspapers
  • Vital Records
  • Probate and Court
  • Published Sources
  • and Miscellaneous (anything unique to the area that doesn’t fit in the previous categories)

You may decide you prefer other categories. That’s ok. This is just how I typically think about a new (to me) area that I’m researching.

For the land and property section, I typically do a few things before I get started. First, is this a state land state or a federal land state? (If you don’t know what those are, state lands were first owned by the state, mostly the original colonies, whereas federal land or public land were first owned by the federal government. See this map.)

Second, I determine what government office holds the deeds. Usually they are at the local county courthouse. I’ll note that entity’s address, hours, phone number, and website. I’ll also note if they are located offsite or at another facility. Some courthouses have moved some of their older records to research rooms or storage rooms and you may have to make an appointment to see them. Those details are noted in my locality guide in this section.

Third, I scan through the Family History Library Catalog for the particular county I’m working in, and noting all of the films they have. I note the title, the dates covered, and the film number. If the film has been digitized, I will give a link directly to the collection. I’ll also note if the digitized collections are open or locked (meaning you have to view it at a Family History Center or library.)

Example from my Wood County, Ohio locality guide.

I have not updated this guide since April 2019, and so you may find that some of the collections that say “not digitized” might now be.

We will look at the newspapers section next time.

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