A Genealogist Needs to Know: Paperless Courthouses Are Coming

When the genealogist goes to court now, there may not be the same amount of records to thumb through. Nowadays, lots of files and books and ledgers are digitized and for use on the computer, instead.

This RecordClick genealogist used to love walking into a courthouse, pulling an old leather-bound book off a shelf, carefully going through indexes to search for long deceased family members and then paging through other old books hoping to find additional documentation.

The task wasn’t always neat.  More than once I wound up with old leather dust on my clothes.

Those days are fading.

Courthouses are not archives. They shouldn’t be. A courthouse is a place to do the business of government. The records, kept for future reference, are a bonus for the genealogist and the family history researcher.  Because many courthouses have started to run out of shelf space, digitization, in this computer age, makes sense.

My husband and I accomplished something last year that many people only dream of.  We paid off our mortgage. The only notification we got was a letter from the lender saying the business agreement was complete. It also noted that if we wanted a deed we should check in at the courthouse. The family history side of me was a little sad because there is something tangible in a sheet of paper. On the other hand, it’s one less sheet of paper in a file in my house.

This genealogist won’t find the deed in a book at my courthouse, either. If I want a copy of a deed–old or new–the clerk points out a computer and says that most anything I might want is–there. Yes, it is. One side of me says this makes the research of a genealogist a lot simpler than trying to put an old book on a copy machine. The nostalgic side of me appears for a few seconds and notes that computers are easier, neater, and often,  faster.

Most of the digitized records that this genealogy researcher has found at courthouses in Nebraska, Kansas and South Dakota are the deeds and court records. I’m sure what is digitized varies from state to state and, possibly, from locale to locale. They also may not be online and may have access only available at the local courthouse.

And, from one genealogist to another, please don’t forget to bring a flash drive. I know that the “Cloud” is out there, wherever “there” may be, and used by many people with smart phones and notepads, but sometimes flash drives are just easier for a genealogy researcher. I can remember the first flash drive this genealogist got was 1G for about $30 and that was probably about ten years ago. I thought it was a bargain. How times have changed. The last flash drive I got was 16G and cost approximately $5. Most of the courthouse computers have USB ports, so downloading a document to a flash drive is easy. And, of course, it uses less paper.

I’m a big fan of flash drives. They hold so much information. When I first used them, I was worried that my 1G and 2G flash drives might run out of room. Now, if there are three or four files where I would like to put a picture or document, I am able to do so with plenty of room to spare. I may download an item onto my computer, transfer it to a flash drive and then I’m good to go.

When you hire a genealogist from our professionals at RecordClick, you will work with someone who knows latest changes in accessing information and how/where your family history is available.