Arizona Courthouse records change extensively from county to county in both level of quality and volume. You will find different kinds of court records that are most likely to possess information related for your genealogical research below.
Arizona Court Records
Many of the surrounding states have similar judicial systems to the system used in Arizona. Smaller courts handle smaller, more local disputes, while larger courts handle more involved cases. For example, small claims are heard by a justice of the peace. Meanwhile, city and town violations are heard in the municipal court system. The court records and calendars are maintained by each county clerk. Appeals from lower courts, criminal and civil cases, and some divorce cases are heard in the superior court system. The court of appeals is located in both Tucson and Phoenix. Cases from there in which appeals are filed are later heard by the supreme court. The supreme court also hears writs from the court of appeals, as well as writs and appeals from the superior courts in each county. Many county court records can be found on microfilm at the FHL. See Also Research In Court Records.
- U.S. Circuit Court Criminal Case Files, 1790-1871 (search.ancestry.com)
- Arizona Court Record Books (amazon.com)
Arizona Land Records
The area of present-day Arizona began as a Spanish territory, reverting to Mexico on its independence from Spain. Much of the land was purchased by the United States after the Mexican War, making it part of the New Mexico Territory in 1850. Arizona separated became its own official territory on February 24, 1863. The region of Pah-Ute County was ceded to Nevada in 1866. However, the population and settlement of Arizona was still relatively slow, primarily developing in the Tucson area. Several Native American peoples occupied the area, causing continuous wars that did not end until 1886. This heavy conflict was one of the deterrents to the expansion of Arizona’s frontier.
To research lands that were granted to the United States in 1848 and for private land claims, you can write to the National Archives—Southwest Region. Unfortunately fraudulent land claims were relatively abundant until the late 1800s, when U.S. authorities authenticated private land claims. These private land registers were transferred to the National Archives—Southwest Region, in 1960. Lands from the Gadsden Purchase can be researched at the Pima County Recorder’s Office at Tucson.
The year of Arizona’s admittance as a territory in 1863 was the same year that the U.S. Federal District Land Office opened. Land could be acquired directly from the federal government, making Arizona a public-domain state. Land offices that opened in Prescott in 1863 and Florence and Gila in 1873 moved to Tucson in 1881 and Phoenix in 1905. All offices were eventually replaced by the land office in Phoenix.
Early land claims consist mainly of mining enterprises. Consult the BLM Arizona State Office for patents, copies of tract books, and plat maps. The National Archives—Southwest Region should be included in any research on early land records in Arizona. You will find abundant resources there, including mining and homestead surveys, land claims, grazing service records, and rights-of-way claims and settlements for Gila, Salt River, and Navajo Meridians. There are also land entry case files at the National Archives—Rocky Mountain Region. Include the person’s name and state of Arizona in any correspondence. Arizona records before to 1908 have been indexed alphabetically, so you should also include whether or not your inquiry is for a date prior to 1908.
You can request land records from the county recorder, as this is where jurisdiction for county land transactions was held. It will help to understand what to expect as a result of how ownership was acquired in the state. Because Arizona was previously part of the New Mexico Territory, where pueblos had already been established, the federal government recognized the majority of prior claims. Therefore, it is common to read units of measurement represented by Spanish phrases such as “leagues” and “varas.” Most county land records in Arizona are on microfilm at the FHL. See Also Guide to U.S. Land Records Research
Arizona Probate Records
Starting in 1850, Arizona was considered to be part of New Mexico Territory, which continued until it became Arizona Territory on February 24, 1863. Arizona’s Pah-Ute County became a part of Nevada in 1866. Although the area around Tucson, Arizona was settled fairly early on its history, most other portions of the state were not settled for a long time after the original Spanish explorers came to the area.
Frontier expansion was constantly slowed down by wars and conflicts between settlers and Native Americans until 1886. Land claims were a bit suspect in the late 1800s because fraudulent claims were often placed along with legitimate claims and it took the government a long time to verify each claim. The National Archives-Southwest Region acquired those privately-owned land registers in 1960. They also have files pertaining to 1848 U.S. land grants and claims to private land. Mission claims and other land records related to the Gadsden Purchase can be found in Tucson at the Pima County Recorder’s Office.
In 1863, two significant things happened for Arizona. The first is that it became an official territory. The second is that the U.S Federal District Land Office was opened. The federal government had the authority to distribute Arizona lands because it was what was known as a public-domain state. A land office was opened in Prescott in 1863. Two were opened in 1873, in Gila and Florence. In 1881, the land offices were moved to Tucson and then, in 1905, one was established in Phoenix, replacing all land offices that had come before it.
Mining created the need for many of the earlier land claims in Arizona. Tract books, plat maps, and copies of patents can all be found at the Arizona Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offices. The National Archives-Southwest Region’s U.S. Land Office records can also be a great resource for early Arizona land records. Those records include rights-of-way claims and settlements for Navajo, Salt River, and Gila Meridians, as well as grazing service records, homestead surveys, and land claims. The case files and land entries at the National Archives-Rocky Mountain Region should also be consulted. Records from years earlier than 1908 have been indexed. So, it’s important to mention the year and person of interest, when making an inquiry.
Land records in each county are under the jurisdiction of that county’s recorder. The way in which land in Arizona was acquired has a direct impact on the way in which that piece of land’s records should be researched. Arizona was originally considered to be in new Mexico Territory when it was acquired by the United States. At that time, pueblos already existed in the area and Spanish forms of measurement, such as varas and leagues, were already being used on survey maps. Most original land claims were officially recognized. Therefore, many of the land records, which are on microfilm at the FHL, continued to utilize Spanish measurement systems. See Also Guide to U.S. Probate Records Research
Arizona Tax Records
Several county assessment rolls, licenses, and tax documents are on file at the Arizona State Archives. Many of them can be found in consecutive years, which can be very helpful to researchers. However, several of them are only available for single years. Archives, Libraries, and Societies has a printed Guide to those holdings from the Arizona State Archives. See Also Guide to U.S. Tax Records Research
- Arizona Tax Record Books (amazon.com)
Arizona County & City Government Links
Arizona contains 15 counties. Each county is the local level of government within its borders.
Genealogist frequently fail to notice the benefits of County court, probate, and land records as a useful resource of family history and genealogy details. Hidden away in Arizona courthouses and archives just about everywhere tend to be the aspirations and frustrations of the many Arizona people. The possibilities are excellent that your potential ancestors have left a in-depth record of at least some factors of their lives in the court records. Even if your forebears is not brought up in a Court case, contemplate all of the other methods which often can have lead to her or him appearing in court records. There are three mainoffices to find most records of Genealogy importance, they are:
- The County Clerk of Superior Court issues marriage licenses, maintain marriage and divorce records, civil, domestic, criminal, juvenile and probate records, Notary Public Bonds and Commissions, and any other duties that the presiding judge may prescribe.
- The County Recorder has two principle duties. The first duty of the County Recorder is to record documents, as required by law, to be public record. Instruments recorded include real estate transactions, mortgages, deed of trust, family trusts, personal property, tax liens, mining locations, subdivision plats, records of survey, military discharges, official appointments of office, and other documents required to be made of public record. The second major duty concerns elections since the County Recorder is also the registrar of voters for the county. This involves maintaining the county register, conducting early voting, verifying petition signatures, lists for political parties and candidates, and jury lists.
- The County Tax Assessor has the statutory duty to locate, identify and value all taxable property in the county’s jurisdiction. The Assessor’s office maintains ownership of certain files, provides public services, value all land, improvements, and personal property annually, maps all parcels and maintains all tax authorities (area and boundaries). The utilization of recorded documents, deeds, plat maps and sub-divisions are among the tools used by the Assessor’s Office to accomplish several of these tasks.
The links in the table below link to county and city government offices and is limited to government-maintained websites. This list of county and city government links is limited to government-maintained websites. If you know of a Arizona county that has an official government web site but is not linked, or if the link is in error, please contact us so we may edit our database. Arizona State Government is located in Phoenix.