This article is designed to provide an overview to the records in the Jefferson County courthouse, and what can be lost if they cannot be salvaged following this month's fire.
After 40 years of studying them, I believe I know more about their contents than anyone as there are many types of records that I have not seen anyone else use, although I do not profess to be an expert on every record.
Nevertheless, wills, probate records, warranty deeds and marriage returns for the 1800s have been microfilmed and copies are available for viewing at several places, including the Madison-Jefferson County library. Modern deeds are being filmed, instead of being placed into books, as a matter of day-to-day operation by the recorder's office. I cannot testify as to whether all wills, probate records and marriages have been filmed from 1900 on.
There are many records that I do not believe have been microfilmed, including the following.
Auditor's Office: County Commissioners Records from 1817 on. The first book has been partly transcribed by Ruth Hoggatt and is available on www.myindianahome.net and there were two books, typed transcriptions of the first two books. These are indexed, but in a way that does not make them easy for family historians to use.
Auditor's Office: Tax Title Sales. These are the deeds that transfer land when an owner loses the property because of failure to pay taxes. If you lost track of your ancestor's land, it's possible it was for nonpayment of taxes and these are not included in the warranty deed books in the recorder's office.
Auditor's Office: Tax assessment records. There were few existing, 1827, 1828 1831 and 1833 for the whole county and 1829 for Madison Township alone. These have been placed on CD and are available through the Jefferson County Historical Society.
Auditor's Office: Land transfer records. Useful, but not critical. Organized by year and township.
Recorder's Office: Warranty deeds, as mentioned these have been microfilmed as have the deed indexes. They exist to the beginning of Jefferson County.
Recorder's Office: Sheriff's Deed Books. There are perhaps five of these and they cover loss of property via sheriff's sale. They are sometimes indexed in the warranty deed index books, but the deeds themselves are not in the regular books. Not microfilmed to my knowledge.
Recorder's Office: Entry books. These show original owners of tracts. The first set was abstracted by W.G. Ruesink and published by the Jefferson County Historical Society.
Recorder's Office: Mortgage records. Before about 1873, these include a lot of deed descriptions that simply reiterate what's in the deed book, but tie the sale to the loan. However, during this period mortgage books also record election of church and fraternal organization officers. They also include some freedom papers for blacks and some incorporation papers. They are hardly used and I don't they are microfilmed.
Recorder's Office: Miscellaneous Record Books. From about 1873 on, these include the church and fraternal organization elections, powers of attorney (often involve sale of a decedent's property and so valuable for family history research), lease and incorporations. Not microfilmed to my knowledge.
Recorder's Office: Apprenticeship book. There is only one of these to my knowledge. These can be very valuable for genealogist. I started transcribing it but didn't get far. It covers about the 1840s and 1850s--I only have referenced one of these in my family. These are not include in the Apprenticeship records abstracted in the 1900s by the John Paul Chapter DAR and have not been filmed
Recorder's Office: Articles of Incorporation. Record of incorporated companies from the second half of the 1800s. One book, not filmed.
Recorder's Office: Soldier's Discharge Record-Civil War soldiers. Ruth Hoggatt abstracted some of these, but not filmed to my knowledge.
Recorder's Office: Will Books. For whatever reason, perhaps four or five of these exist and are duplicates of what's in the circuit court clerk's office.
Recorder's Office:Gas and Oil leases. Not filmed
Circuit Court Clerk's office. Will, marriage return and marriage application books were in the office on the second floor. Other records were placed in the basement
Naomi Sexton published Book A of the wills in the Hoosier Journal of Ancestry. The DAR abstracted wills and two books were placed in the Madison library. I merged these two together and added probate records and estate settlements from deeds and suits. This is available at www.myindianahome.net.
Circuit Court Clerk's office. Guardianship Book. There was only one of these and I have not seen it in a long time. There was a report, I can't remember from who, that it was taken to Indianapolis, either the state library or archives. I know from records I used it included guardianships in the 1860s and 1870s.
Basement: Probate Order Books. Many of these were filmed. Wills from the 1830s and 1840s were filed in these not in books marked Will Books. This led many to believe wills from this period had not survived.
Basement: Complete Probate Order Books. A wealth of material if your ancestor's estate was recorded in these. Both these and the order books can include names of heirs. Not sure if the complete records were microfilmed.
Basement: Civil Order Books. The first Book, Volume A, is critical because at that time, the court not only handled probate and criminal and civil suits, but administered the county business. I am not sure it has been filmed. I believe Naomi Sexton transcribed at least part of this book and published it in the Hoosier Journal of Ancestry.
Basement: Complete Record Civil Order Book. Not filmed to my knowledge
Basement: Criminal Order Books. I forget how the spines are marked, but the criminal cases from the 1800s were in the basement and I don't think they were filmed.
Basement: Indexes to civil and probate books, after 1860. Early books each contained indexes, although since these were not bound to the main volume, some have disappeared.
Other abstracted records
Apprencticeship records. Abstracted by the John Paul DAR in the 1900s, they were transcribed by me and are available www.myindianahome.net. These appear to come from court books and do not include the volume in the recorder's office.
Naturalization records. Abstracted by the John Paul DAR in the 1900s, they were transcribed by me and are available www.myindianahome.net. These appear to come from court books