Monday, November 9, 2009

Researching at State Archives & County Courthouses

Each state archives contains copies or original records from local courthouses and other government agencies, but the years vary with each state. Be sure to check probate inventories (left) and other records...

Although some of the archive buildings are still next to their state capitol - Pennsylvania is just down the hill, the Maryland Archives is a healthy walk to the oldest continually used State House; others are miles away - Mass. is located across the parking lot from the JFK Museum & Library. The National Archives is now in two locations, DC and College Park, MD, but there are branches throughout the country, including Philadelphia.

Probate inventories. When a person died a record listing every item was made and filed in the courthouse, but like today, this was not done for every estate. It is a terrific resource for food historians. The inventory shows not only what items they owned for cooking and dining, but where it was kept. Often the list goes from room to room, although the rooms may or may not be labeled. Even if the person or museum house you are searching does not have one, you can search for other local comparable probate estates. Gunston Hall did such a search in the VA/MD area.
Inventories online.
Pictured is a page from Margaret Carroll's (1742-1817) probate inventory, Maryland Archives [not online].

Genealogical research is helpful in learning more about the person (birth, death records, census) and thus useful in finding other sources of information. Knowing the relatives can help find more letters related to the person/home you are researching. Wills give details on the family, ofcourse, and may mention other things, such as outbuildings.

Recipes can be found in letters or written manuscripts which have been donated to the archives.

Other items found in the Archives may include property sales (which may list outbuildings, orchards, etc), Tax Lists, colonial newspapers, church records, manumission papers, colonial and state/county records, maps, plats, and much more.

©2009 Patricia Bixler Reber

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