Delaware 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.
Delaware Court Records
The Records of the Court of New Castle on Delaware, 1676- 1681, volume two for the years 1681-99, and the Land and Probate Abstract Only (Lancaster and Meadville, Pa.: Colonial Society of Pennsylvania, 1904, 1935) are a few of the collections of early Delaware court records which have been published. The Inventory of the County Archives of Delaware: No. 1, New Castle County, by the Delaware Historical Records Survey is another collection. The Court Records of Kent County, Delaware, 1680-1705 and Sussex County Court Records 1677-1710 also contain compilations of early court records. Many other early court records for indentures, naturalizations, criminal cases and civil cases can be found at the Delaware Public Archives, but New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania also hold many records for what is now present-day Delaware.
The superior court and court of common please handled criminal and civil court cases. The chancery court handled trust, estate and equity cases. Divorces were handled by the county prothonotary, along with naturalizations, criminal court records and civil court records, until 1975. Many of those records are now held at the Delaware Public Archives. The recorder of deeds holds the land records, while the Orphans’ Court and register of wills handle estate matters. The court of chancery and the Orphans’ Court were merged in 1975 and those records are held with each county’s register of chancery. See Also Research In Court Records.
Delaware Land Records
The Delaware Public Archives holds microfilmed or original mortgage and deed volumes from 1680 onward, as well as indexes for them. The archives holds records up until 1962 for New Castle County, 1968 for Sussex County and 1970 for Kent County. There is also a card index of surveys, warrants and original land patents located at the archives. Some of the grants pertaining to Maryland that involve parts of what is now Delaware can also be found at the Delaware Public Archives. However, it’s a good idea to research the land records at the Archives of Maryland as well.
The Delaware Public Archives also holds surveys and warrants from 1682 to 1776, when the area was under the Penn family’s proprietorship. Warrants and Surveys of the Province of Pennsylvania contains records for 1759 to 1761. The Delaware Public Archives is also home to official land grants from Pennsylvania and New York sources for what is now Delaware.
In colonial times, residents of Delaware were required to pay the proprietor quitrents on an annual basis. They were also required to pay taxes to the county. Some of the quitrent records can be found in the Logan papers collection, which is housed in Philadelphia, at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Others can be found in private records.
Mortgages and deeds are kept separately in each of Delaware’s counties and the recorder of deeds holds all major land records. Any documents pertaining to mortgages, appointments or land are the responsibility of the County Register of Deeds Office. However, the Delaware Public Archives now has control of many of those older records. See Also Guide to U.S. Land Records Research
Delaware Probate Records
The Delaware Public Archives is home to probate records from 1676 into the 1900s. Some of them are on microfilm, while others are in their original forms. Information from the early 1700s through 1850 on orphans and partitions of land from wills are organized in indexes according to county. New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania may hold earlier records for what is now Delaware. The county register of wills holds most later wills and related documents, but many earlier wills never underwent an official recording process. See Also Guide to U.S. Probate Records Research
- Calendar of Kent County, Delaware probate records, 1680-1800 database is a calendar of probate records from Kent County, Delaware between 1680 and 1800.
- Delaware Probate Record Books (amazon.com)
Delaware Tax Records
The Delaware Public Archives holds tax records beginning in 1726, 1738 and 1769 for the counties of Kent, New Castle and Sussex, respectively. Philadelphia’s Historical Society of Pennsylvania also holds records for all three counties beginning in 1693, but the records for New Castle County from 1696 are incomplete. The U.S. direct tax records for Delaware from 1798 have been lost or destroyed. There are some tax records that have been printed as is and others have been printed as “censuses.” The Delaware Public Archives holds the 1861 national tax records for Delaware and the 1901 refund records. The National Archives-Mid-Atlantic Region holds the 1862 to 1866 Internal Revenue assessments for Delaware. County courthouses have more recent tax records on file. See Also Guide to U.S. Tax Records Research
- Delaware Tax Record Books (amazon.com)
Delaware Immigration & Naturalization Records
The National Archives-Mid-Atlantic Region holds 1820 to 1849 ship passenger lists for Wilmington. The National Archives-Mid-Atlantic Region also holds 1845 to 1910 federal court naturalization records. The Del-Gen-Data Bank has a similar index for 1802 to 1929. The Delaware Public Archives holds naturalization records from supreme courts, superior court and the courts of common pleas. There is a card index with brief abstracts of the records from 1788 to 1905 located there as well. Some of the records have also been indexed on the website for the Delaware Public Archives. The Maryland and Delaware Genealogist 18 (1977): 2-4 and 19 (1978): 1 contains published lists of naturalizations for New Castle County from 1826 to 1858. See Also Guide to U.S. Immigration Records Research
- Delaware Immigration Project (usgwarchives.net)
- Naturalization Records Database (archives.delaware.gov)
- Delaware, County Naturalization Records, 1796-1958 (familysearch.org) Naturalization records and digitized indexes from county courthouses in Delaware. The record content and time period vary by county.
- Delaware Naturalization Records, 1796-1959 (search.ancestry.com) This database includes eight volumes. Seven of the volumes cover from 1798 to 1906 and one volume is a list of those who petitioned for naturalization from 1930 to 1959. Certificate of Naturalization stubs and the certificate itself are available for more recent dates. The Federal district Courts took over the naturalization process in 1906, so the naturalization papers and applications from 1906 onward aren’t held in state archives, but at the National Archives. The naturalization records may contain: Name of individual, Native country, Date of naturalization, Residence, Occupation, Birth date, Date and place of arrival, Children’s names.
- Delaware Immigration Record Books (amazon.com)
Delaware County & City Government Links
Delaware is divided into 3 counties. The powers of the counties’ legislative bodies are limited to issues such as zoning and development. Each county is the local level of government within its borders. The links in the table below link to county and city government offices and is limited to government-maintained websites. If you know of a Delaware 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. Delaware State Government is located in Dover.