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State of Kentucky
Court Records Research

Ohio Court records cover a wide range of genealogy topics that can help you in your research, including land ownership, courts, taxes, and naturalizations. Since Ohio court records cover such a wide variety of subjects, they can help you in many different ways. For example, they may help you locate ancestors' residences, determine occupations, find financial information, establish citizenship status, or clarify relationships between people. It all depends on the type of court records that your ancestors" names appear in. For Definitions of all court trems see the Genealogy Encyclopedia.

Kentucky Court Records

The Kentucky Court of Appeals was given its judicial powers by the first constitution of Kentucky. Other courts in Kentucky were the following: Superior, County, Chancery, Quarterly, Circuit, Justice of Peace, Police, District, Quarter Sessions, Oyer and Terminer, General.

Records from those courts may include minutes, orders, dockets, and case files. Kentucky court records may also include records relating to taxes, land, and probate issues. Original court records may be found in boxes, cabinets, drawers, folders, and books in the various court offices and repositories. Some of the books of court records have been placed on microfilm. Some have also been published. However, most of the original records have not been copied and only exist in the various files, folders and boxes kept by the court clerks and offices.

Kentucky court jurisdictions have changed several times over the years. In fact, some types of early Kentucky courts no longer exist. Some have also had their names changed. Since records may not be titled or filed in an organized manner, it can be difficult to locate the records of interest. So, all county court records must be examined. Up until 1852 county courts presided over criminal and civil matters. Then circuit courts (or quarterly quarts) were put in charge of some criminal matters. Some criminal and civil matters were handled by circuit courts as well, along with divorce cases. The circuit courts also acted as courts of appeals. Up until about 10 years after Kentucky gained its statehood the quarts of quarter sessions usually handled cases that involved large amounts of money.

The Department for Libraries and Archives holds copies of a lot of county court records on microfilm. The FHL, University of Kentucky Library, Filson Library, and Kentucky Historical Society all have transcribed county court records on file as well. Other regional and local libraries have collections of transcribed and published records as well.

Courts and their jurisdiction have altered over time in Kentucky. Some early courts are no longer extant. Some have undergone name or jurisdictional changes.

Kentucky Land Records

Virginia controlled Kentucky property in its early days. The western lands, which included Kentucky County, were divided by a Virginia act passed in May of 1779. Kentucky County included all of what is now the state of Kentucky. However, 18 months after the act was passed Kentucky county was dissolved. It became the counties of Jefferson, Fayette, and Lincoln. The Lincoln and Jefferson County land entry books are still extant. All other records from that time have been lost. Some records from Kentucky County are included in the land entry books. The Jefferson County clerk holds those original Jefferson County records. They are collected in "Land Entry Book No. A." The Kentucky Land Office, which is located in Frankfort, holds the records for Lincoln County.

Leading up to the Revolutionary War Virginia was a colony with very little money, but a lot of land. That's why the French and Indian War troops were paid in bounty-land warrants in 1763, after the war ended. Those who served in the military were given military warrants. However, other settlers could buy treasury warrants. Property surveys were done according to authorized warrants. However, since land did not need to be surveyed before a warrant was issues, the process was not efficient or effective. By Virginia law residents had to find land that they wanted and then pay for a survey to be done. However, that meant that many surveys were not done professionally and could be full of errors. In some cases, that led to land being lost and titles being contested.

The Secretary of State's Land Office holds grants, patents, surveys, and warrants, along with indexes to many of those documents. The complete land grant records for Kentucky are located there. They include wills and caveats. Those records have also been photo copied and microfilmed at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, as well as the Kentucky Historical Society. Since the Walker Line had to be resurveyed in 1859, some of the records for Tennessee counties may actually be found in the offices of the adjacent counties in Tennessee.

There are several Kentucky property and land records available, including surveys, indexes, mortgages, entries, deeds, and warrants. In 1796 deed books began being maintained by the Kentucky Court of Appeals. The original 26 books have A through Z designations and are listed as covering 1796 to 1835. However, there are also some 1775 records included in those records.

Those 26 volumes don't just include information on Kentucky residents, but also information on some foreign country residents, as well as residents of the following states: Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Louisiana.

The first 3 books, which are known as books A, B, and C, include documents from 1775 to 1796. Later books often include earlier records.

The opening of Green River county led to a 1795 law that gave heads of household as much as 200 acres of land, but they had to pay $30 for each 100 acre allotment. The property title, known as the "In Fee Simple" title, was only obtained by the landowner when he paid the entire fee for the land.

After counties were established, each county clerk's office was put in charge of surveying and recording information about land in their county. Generally, each of those offices holds the property and land records still. However, many of the records have been copied on microfilm and can be found in various repositories, such as the FHL, the Kentucky Historical Society, the University of Kentucky Library, the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, and the Filson Library. Several collections, genealogical societies, and libraries also have published historical, regional, and local land records on file.

Kentucky Land Record Links

  • Land Records Research Guide (raogk.org)
  • BLM Land Records (glorecords.blm.gov)
  • Kentucky Land Office (sos.ky.gov) The Secretary of State's Office is the place to start when researching Kentucky land acquisitions. All chain of title in the Commonwealth traces back to Virginia land patents and Kentucky land patents. In fact, all Kentucky deeds eventually trace back to an original patent recorded in the Kentucky Land Office
  • Kentucky Land Grants  (search.ancestry.com) This database contains the records of the Kentucky Land Office from 1782 to 1924. The work is intended as a source book for historical workers, genealogists, and others who need a complete and chronological index to the early documentary land records and history of Kentucky. Due to the large number of early records contained in these two volumes, The Kentucky Land Grants has been termed "the rarest book of its size, covering early Kentucky history and genealogy, to be found anywhere."
  • Brookes-Smith, Joan E. Index for Old Kentucky Surveys and Grants. Frankfort, Ky.: Kentucky Historical Society, 1975. Alphabetically arranged from the microfilm collection at the Kentucky Historical Society, the book includes volume number, original survey number, name, acreage, county, watercourse, survey date, original book and page, grantee, grant, and original book and page.
  • ——. Master Index: Grants Which Were in What Is Now Kentucky. Frankfort, Ky.: Kentucky Historical Society, 1975. Compiled from thousands of original documents, includes original survey number, individual’s name, acreage, county where filed, location on watercourse, survey, grantee to whom land was later transferred, date, book, and page.
  • Master Index: Virginia Surveys and Grants, 1774–1791 (amazon.com) Contains data pertaining to bounty-land grants for service against the French and Indians. Includes Acts of the General Assembly of Kentucky pertaining to original land titles. Alphabetically arranged, includes Kentucky Historical Society volume number, original survey number, name, acreage, county, watercourse, survey date, original book and page, grantee, grant date, and original book and page.
  • Kentucky Court of Appeals Deed Books(amazon.com) 4 vols. A series of nine volumes of Kentucky Records Series, the Deed Books cover a nearly forty-year span (from 1796–1803, 1803–11, 1811–21, and 1821–35). Volume 4 also includes state supreme court records for the district of Kentucky (1783–89).
  • The Kentucky Land Grants: A Systematic Index to All of the Land Grants Recorded in the State Land Office at Frankfort, Kentucky, 1782–1924 (amazon.com) Vol. 1 lists Kentucky land grants; Virginia grants (1782–92); Old Kentucky grants (1793–1856); Grants south of Green River (1797–1866); Tellico Grants (1803– 53); Kentucky land warrants (1816–73); Grants West of Tennessee River (1822–58); and Grants south of Walker’s line (1825–1923). Vol. 2 contains warrants for headrights (1827–49; one page) and grants in county court records (1836–1924).
  • Old Kentucky Entries and Deeds: A Complete Index to All of the Earliest Land Entries, Military Warrants, Deeds and Wills of the Commonwealth of Kentucky (amazon.com) This work is a companion volume to Kentucky Land Grants and indexes land records for the commonwealth of Kentucky. Records abstracted include manuscript documents of early civil land entries, military warrants, and state land office entries as well as first deeds, wills, and powers of attorney (relative to land) that were filed with the clerk of the court of appeals at Frankfort. Each section is arranged alphabetically and must be searched separately.
  • Early Kentucky Landholders, 1787– 1811 (amazon.com) A valuable tool for tracking elusive Kentucky land records. Contains data on over 17,000 landholders, representing forty-six of the fifty-four Kentucky counties extant in 1811.
  • Kentucky Land Record Books (amazon.com)

Kentucky Probate Records

Typically the county clerk has jurisdiction over county probate records, which are stored in each county courthouse. Probate records may include records of: wills, estates, administrators, executors, inventories, settlements, sales, accounts, guardianship, orphans, insolvent estates, bastardy, apprentices, insanity.

There are also probate record volumes that may include records of: Administrations, Court Proceedings, Court Minutes, Estates, Executors, Guardians, Inventories, Probates, Sales, Settlements, Wills.

Those records may be organized under a variety of titles and in a variety of ways. For example, some loose papers may be tied together, or organized in folders. Also, some estate records may be mixed in with other county court records. Disputes over inherited estates may be included in the records from circuit courts. Some early wills have also been transcribed and stored among county records, as well as in certain repositories, including Filson Library and the Kentucky Historical Society.

The FHL, Kentucky Historical Society, University of Kentucky Library, Filson Library, and Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives each have microfilmed copies of probate records on file. The Kentucky Court of Appeals book J (1780 to 1788) contains some inventories and will records as well.

There are 120 county courthouses in the state of Kentucky. Each of them keep their own records. However, some records have been destroyed in accidents or fires throughout the years. Some of those records have been replaced, and blanks can also be filled in using other sources, such as church records and newspapers. However, researchers must go back several years before the dates of the lost records in order to get as much information as possible from those other sources.,

County probate records are filed at the respective county courthouse usually under the county clerk’s jurisdiction.

Kentucky Tax Records

Early tax records from Kentucky can be extremely helpful for researchers who are interested in family history. From the time of each county being founded, most of them have kept annual records for tax purposes. Some of the earlier tax records may list some or all of the following information: Men Aged 16 to 21, Men over 21, Real Estate Acreage, Real Estate Value, Watercourses, Horses, Slaves.

The FHL and the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives each have microfilmed copies of most tax records for each Kentucky county through 1892. There are also several 1892 original tax records on file at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. Tax records from 1875 can be found at the Kentucky Historical Society.

Each tax list for Kentucky is organized by county and then sorted in chronological order. Records are organized according to district, and many records are then arranged by last name of the resident. Although, some records are not perfectly alphabetized. Some research libraries also have published tax records on file.

Most counties have yearly tax records from the date of organization.

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