Indiana 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.
Indiana Court Records
Settlers in Indiana wanted their government to be accessible and simple. So, county courthouses became governmental and political hubs. The governmental system included three county commissioners, a sheriff, a coroner, a recorder, and a circuit court clerk. The circuit courts and state supreme court made up the judicial system, along with the justices of the peace in each township. They were responsible for handling civil cases for amounts under $50, as well as petty crimes cases.
The Clerk of the Circuit Court is a ministerial officer who is the custodian of the Clerk’s record and seal, issues process, accepts filings of commencement of actions in litigation, enters judgments and orders of the court, receives money in his official capacity, makes certified copies of record, issues many miscellaneous licenses. See Also Research In Court Records.
- The laws of the Northwest Territory, 1788-1800 (search.ancestry.com)
- Executive journal of Indiana Territory, 1800-1816 (search.ancestry.com)
- Slavery petitions and papers (search.ancestry.com)
- “Courthouse Research in Indiana” in Genealogy (July 1974): 1-13;
- “Using County Records in Writing Your Community’s History” by John Newman, in Local History Today… (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1979)
- “Managing Your Research in Indiana Court Records” by John Newman, in Genealogy 62 (July 1981): 1-9.
- Indiana Court Record Books (amazon.com)
Indiana Land Records
Southeastern Indiana was first surveyed in 1795, after a treaty agreement was reached with the Native Americans. The Cincinnati Land Office opened its doors in 1801 and it served the area that is now Indiana. Another land office, in Vincennes, was founded in 1807. Registers for the Cincinnati office from 1801 to 1840 and Vincennes from 1807 to 1877 can be found in Indiana Land Entries, 2 volumes, by Margaret R. Waters (1948; reprint, Knightstown, Ind.: Bookmark, 1977). Other land offices in the area included: Jeffersonville (1807), Brookville (1819; moved to Indianapolis in 1825), Terre Haute (1820; moved to Crawfordsville before 1828), Fort Wayne (1823), LaPorte (1833; moved to Winamac in 1839).
The FHL, the Allen County Public Library, and the Indiana State Archives have microfilmed registers from those offices on file. However, indexes are not available for all of them, and not all of them have been officially published.
Land offices generally sold land at a rate of $2 per acre. That was generally done using a public auction. Those who purchased the land were then allowed to pay off their purchases in installments. Land offices often recorded various documents and bits of information, including the residence of the person who purchased the land.
The Indiana State Library, Archives Division holds the 1805 to 1876 original land records, as well as copies of them on microfilm.
Indiana was also home to several private land claims that were not involving land given using the federal land distribution system of ranges and townships. The governor assigned lot numbers to those pieces of land, which are typically near roads or rivers and tended to be narrow and long. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Eastern States Office holds tract book copies, township plats, and patents. They also have a searchable patent database available.
The records for the General Land Office for Indiana (1808-76) can be found at the National Archives-Great Lakes Region. Those records include land purchase documents and cash certificate books. They are filed according to land office and date.
George Rogers Clark and the men who served under him were granted land in Indiana after the Revolutionary War ended. That land was located in the present-day counties of Clark, Scott, and Floyd. The first northwest American town was established within that grant area along the Ohio River in 1784. It was called Clarksville. Generally, land owned in the area before 1800 was at Vincennes, or it was part of Clark’s Grant. The court granted land (generally 400 acres) near Vincennes to any immigrants who wanted to be property owners. Those grants were given from 1779 to 1783.
Grantee and grantor indexes can be found in each county’s courthouse recorder’s office. Deeds, mortgages, titles, tract books, and land transfers can also be found there. Many of those documents relate to the original land grants from the federal government. Tract books may include purchase date, name of purchaser, number of acres, and location of land (range, section number, and township).
The county recorder’s function is to maintain permanent public records involving a wide variety of instruments. These documents detail transactions involving real estate, mining, personal property, mortgages, liens, leases, subdivision plats, military discharges, personal bonds, etc. Generally, all of these instruments are recorded either for giving legal public notice of their existence or for safekeeping and future reference. The recorder maintains and preserves all legal documents affecting title to real property. See Also Guide to U.S. Land Records Research
- BLM Land Records (glorecords.blm.gov)
- BLM Land Records (glorecords.blm.gov)
- U.S., Indexed Early Land Ownership and Township Plats, 1785-1898 (search.ancestry.com)
- The Indiana gazetteer, or, Topographical dictionary of the state of Indiana (search.ancestry.com)
- French And British Land Grants In The Post Vincennes (Indiana) District, 1750-1784 (search.ancestry.com)
- Indiana Land Record Books (amazon.com)
Indiana Probate Records
Probate record jurisdiction changed many times in the state of Indiana. The county circuit court eventually took over jurisdiction of such matters. The circuit court clerk holds those records in most cases. Although, the county clerk’s office may hold some of them, instead. Probate records can be valuable to researchers, since they may include: Wills, Probate Records, Administration of Estates, Letters of Administration, Inventories of Decedent’s Personal Property, Final Record Books, Adoption Papers, Guardianship Records, Civil Court Records, Records of Minors, Records of the Insane, Naturalization Records.
The County Clerk of the Circuit Court keeps a record of all wills and matters of trust in probate proceedings. See Also Guide to U.S. Probate Records Research
- Indiana Probate Record Books (amazon.com)
Indiana Tax Records
Tax records in Indiana go back as far as 1842. However, several tax records no longer exist. Those that do can be found in each county’s courthouse. National Archives-Great Lakes Region has records of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) records from 1867 to 1873 for Indiana can be found at the National Archives-Great Lakes Region. They are organized according to district and date. See Also Guide to U.S. Tax Records Research
- Indiana Tax Record Books (amazon.com)
Indiana Immigration & Naturalization Records
The National Archives-Great Lakes Region holds federal district court records for Indiana, except for records relating to cases of bankruptcy. Included in the National Archives-Great Lakes Region collection is Northern District (1879-1959), which encompasses Ft. Wayne, South Bend, and Hammond. Also present is Southern District (1819-1959), which includes New Albany, Terre Haute, Evansville, and Indianapolis.
An Index to Indiana Naturalization Records Found in Various Order Books of the Ninety-Two Local Courts Prior to 1907 was published in 1981 by the Indiana Historical Society. It can be a valuable tool for genealogical researchers. See Also Guide to U.S. Immigration Records Research
- Indiana Immigration Record Books (amazon.com)
Indiana County & City Government Links
Indiana contains 92 counties. Each county serves as the local level of government within its borders. County government in Indiana consists of two bodies, the county council and the commissioners. 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 Indiana 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. Indiana State Government is located in Indianapolis.