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Mississippi Court records cover a wide range of genealogy topics that can help you in your research, including land ownership, courts, taxes, and naturalizations. Since Mississippi 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.
Although the chancery court does hold probate records, it also holds records relating to other matters as well. Some of those records include mortgages, land titles, and other courthouse documents.
In 1817 the term "circuit" was used when state judges were forced to move around on a circuit in a given area to preside over civil court issues. Those courts are still much the same today as they were back then. The circuit court maintains records of marriage licenses, criminal court minutes, naturalization declarations, voter registrations, and related documents. The public can access those records at the courthouses themselves, at the FHL, or at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
Land documents have been granted from Spain, France, Britain, and the U.S. state of Georgia at various points in Mississippi's history. Each of those grants were given before 1798, when Mississippi gained its statehood. Grants from former jurisdictions are known as private land claims. After Mississippi became a state, each landowner was required to file such a claim with the government of the United States. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History has those records on file, along with a guide to them.
The General Land Office (GLO), a division of the federal government, was responsible for the first land distributions in Mississippi after 1798, which is why Mississippi is known as a public land state. The GLO is now known as the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and may hold any or all of the following record types: Field Notes, Surveys, Tract Books, Official Monthly Abstracts, Patents, Entry Records.
Local federal land offices recorded transactions where individuals purchased land from the federal government. Mississippi had a total of 8 land offices that operated at various times. They were:
After the closing of all Mississippi land offices, the records were moved to the BLM. However, the secretary of state's office holds original plat books and field notes. Researchers may send inquiries to Public Lands Division, 401 Mississippi St., Jackson, MS 39205. However, the staff charges fees for research.
Several land entry records were filed. There were private land claims, which recorded claims issued by other countries. There were also bounty land grants issued for those who served in the military. There were also both cash entries for lands that were cash only after 1820 and credit entries for those who purchased land prior to that on credit. Donation entries also exist. Those signified land set aside by the government for a certain purpose. Under the Homestead Act of 1862, settlers were also given land, which was recorded. Researchers can find a lot of useful genealogical information in all of those land records.
When land was sold from one individual to another after the original federal sale or land grant, those records were also recorded. The records were created at the county courthouse and then given to the chancery clerk to file. Many of those records are on microfilm and organized by county at both the Salt Lake City Family History Library (FHL) and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
Both original land sale records from the land commissioner's office and the original records of subsequent sales from the chancery clerks' offices have been copied and are on file at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Several congressional records are also available to researchers, including: Land Legislation, Petitions from Individuals, Land Company Records, State and Local Government Land Claim Records from 1795 to 1872.
Copies of Native American treaties involving the sales of land can also be found among those records. The collection also contains other federal, territorial, state, and provincial records. There are also maps and surveys of the lower Mississippi Valley region available.
It can be difficult for researchers to fully track the records of ownership for a given piece of land in Mississippi, but the land files can be full of useful genealogical information.
Mississippi Territory separated circuit courts from chancery courts, according to English law, even though it was also influenced by other European countries throughout the years.
The 1817 state constitution created courts of probate in Mississippi, but they were originally known as "orphans' courts." They handled matters of guardianship and other probate cases. As of 1832 the courts were renamed "probate courts" but their functions remained about the same. Although, they came under the administration of chancery clerks at that time. Chancery courts were abolished in 1857, causing circuit courts to take over probate functions. However, chancery courts were brought back in 1869.
There are many duties that fall under the jurisdiction of Mississippi's chancery court. For example, the chancery court clerk was also a judge in probate matters. They were responsible for recording wills and testaments. They were also responsible for admitting wills to probate, guardianship cases, mediating claims against estates, and assorted other functions. Most of those records can be found in county courthouses, but many are also available at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History on microfilm.
There are also several "loose papers" available for the state of Mississippi. Many of them are on microfilm at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, but some can also be found in individual county courthouses.
Original tax records can be found in county courthouses. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History also has copies of some of the earlier records on microfilm. Although there collection is a large one, there are several missing records. Certain county tax rolls have been published.
New Orleans was a major port of entry in the 1800s. Mobile later became a port of entry as well. Many settlers who came to Mississippi originally entered the region from one of those two ports. However, in the 1900s Gulfport in Harrison County was also a port of entry. Those who had to pass through land held by foreign governments or by Native Americans were given national land passports. Some of those passport records explain the reason for the person's passage and describe the person in question.
Prior to September 28, 1906, state courts handled naturalization proceedings. The WPA created a typescript index to those records in 1942. It is called "Index to Naturalization Records in Mississippi Courts, 1798-1906." Circuit court and chancery court records across the region were scavenged in order to create that list. The index lists the locations of minutes, petitions, and declarations of intention. It also lists information on oaths of allegiance. After 1906, it was the responsibility of the Federal District Courts to handle naturalization proceedings. The National Archives-Southeast Region has those records on file.