Vermont Government records cover a broad range of genealogy subject areas that can help you as part of your research, such as land ownership, courts, taxes, and naturalization’s. Given that Vermont court records cover such a wide selection of topics, they could aid you in many different ways. As an example, they could aid you in finding ancestors’ residences, identify occupations, locate financial information, determine citizenship status, or shed light on relationships between individuals. The whole thing relies upon on the type of court records that the ancestors” names show up in. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia.
Vermont 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.
Vermont Court Records
Vermont’s counties were mainly only created for the purpose of putting a county court system into place. The county courts had many roles, including handling divorces, civil and criminal court cases, taxes, deed recording, and naturalizations.
It’s important to consult records for New Hampshire and New York up until 1791. Both of those states had jurisdiction over some Vermont lands until 1777, when Vermont gained its independence. Even from that point until 1791 there were several disputes over land jurisdiction.
When Vermont gained independence in 1777, each county was given one county court. That court handled criminal and civil cases. All appeals went to the state supreme court. District courts came into being in 1967 and covered certain territories within each county. Although district courts handle mainly criminal cases, they can also handle civil disputes. County courts still exist, but they were renamed to superior courts in 1974. They were then given jurisdiction over all county court matters that the district courts were not presiding over. In 1990 the state-wide family court took over all family matters, including child custody and divorce. It’s county divisions handle all family court cases.
Court Records for Chittenden, Windsor and Bennington counties prior to 1825 are now available on microfilm at the Vermont Public Records Division. There is a typed index of those cases organized alphabetically according to plaintiff name. The records for Washington and Addison counties are also available, but have not been indexed. Each county’s court offices has the original records, which include debt-related litigation, on file. See Also Research In Court Records.
New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont all granted land in what is now Vermont, with some of those land grants competing with each other. Vermont gained independence in 1777 and took control of all of its present-day lands. The legislature originally handed out town lands to proprietors. It was up to the proprietors to divide the land into lots and determine the ownership of those lots. The person who took control of that piece of land at that time was called the “original right” proprietor and is listed in all deeds as such. It’s also important to note that, when the legislature granted land to proprietary groups, those group members may not have even been located in the state.
Vermont towns were not always split into lots and sold off all at one time. Therefore, many deeds mention “original right” in multiple places. There are also division rights of proprietors are also listed and sometimes go as high as a fifth division. Each division usually involved splitting lots into equal amounts of acres. For instance, if the deed says “first division” it might mean hundred-acre lots and, relative to that, second divisions might be 50-acre lots. Te ministry, governor and schools were often given lots to use. However, town selectmen later took control of those lots or they were sold as part of tax sales.
Towns started out being divided into lots within certain grids. So, for instance, a lot might be the 6th lot in range number 5. Portions of lots were then sold off according to ranges or divisions. Late on, land divisions were not as neat or easy to keep track of. So, bounds and metes descriptions were added to the lot descriptions. Those could include neighbors names, roads, streams, or other landmarks.
Most Vermont land records are the responsibility of each individual town. So, the town clerk’s office holds most land records. The towns each have individual grantee and grantor indexes on file. Only a very small number of women owned land in Vermont’s earlier days. However, women were sometimes required to sign paperwork relinquishing dower’s rights or to witness the signing of deeds. The county courthouses hold some county land records, but most of those records pertain only to towns that are not formally organized.
There are 251 towns in Vermont, but their land record abstracts have not been indexed state-wide. However, there are centrally located microfilm copies that can be useful for genealogical research. Towns whose original records didn’t exist prior to the 1940s have had their indexes and deed books microfilmed from their beginnings until the end of 1850. The FHL and the Vermont Public Records Division have those records on file. A few towns had fires or floods that destroyed some of their records. However, the records on microfilm at the Vermont Public Records Division are constantly being expanded. In now includes a lot of records from 1850 tot he present day, rather than just records up until 1840. The FHL microfilm collection is not as extensive. See Also Guide to U.S. Land Records Research
Vermont, Land Records, Early to 1900(familysearch.org) Land records give the locations and dates for land transactions with the names of buyers and sellers. Most volumes of land records have indexes of buyers and sellers. Look in the indexes first to find the volumes and page numbers where the actual land records can be found. Then look in the appropriate land records volumes to see the images of the deeds. This index currently has the following years: 1850 to 1900
Vermont probate records were filed according to probate districts. Since the districts don’t follow county lines, they can sometimes be a little difficult to research. However, it helps to know that there have been 21 different probate districts in the state of Vermont. However, the New Haven probate district has not existed since 1962. Sine most Vermont residents handed their land down to children or sold it before they died, there are not many probate records for the state.
Each district’s probate records are indexed. However, there are no district-wide or state-wide abstracts available. There are indexed files listed according to decedent at each of the district offices. The FHL and the Vermont Public Records Division also have microfilmed indexes on file. However, the Vermont Public Records Division hasn’t done as extensive a job microfilming probate records as it has microfilming land records. For the most part, the only probate records that were microfilmed up until 1850 were the official probate proceedings books. The original probate files and records contain a lot more useful genealogical information. Each district holds the original files for that district and the records for 1851 and beyond. See Also Guide to U.S. Probate Records Research
Vermont, Probate Files, 1791-1919(familysearch.org) Index and images of probate estate files. Each estate file consists of multiple images. Currently images are available for Chittenden and Essex Counties. Additional counties will be added later.
Every Vermont town has something called a Grand List for each year. That is a yearly list taken for the purposes of assessing taxes. Those records can be difficult to locate. They can be in separate books or be included as part of town meeting records. Some of them may be found at the FHL or the Vermont Public Records Division. Assessments could have included eligible voters (males 21 or older), cattle, buildings, clapboards milled, acreage, or material produced. Note that people did not need to own land in order to be taxed. See Also Guide to U.S. Tax Records Research
The St. Albans, Vermont Immigration and Naturalization Service maintained the “Saint Albans Passenger Arrival Records” from 1895 to 1954. The district was responsible for documenting all entrances by boat or train via Canada along the entire border between the U.S. and Canada. The Washington D.C. National Archives and Records Administration has soundexes of those original records, along with three supplements. The National Archives-New England Region has a complete set on microfilm.
Either the U.S. district courts or the county courts granted naturalization for people in Vermont. Some of the naturalizations from 1836 to 1972 are on microfilm at the Vermont Public Records Division. The National Archives-New England Region has a WPA naturalization index for all of New England for 1790 to 1906 on file. See Also Guide to U.S. Immigration Records Research
Vermont contains 14 counties. Each county is the local level of government within its borders. These counties together contain 255 political units, or places, including 237 towns, 9 cities, 5 unincorporated areas, and 4 gores. Each county has a county seat, known in Vermont as shire town. See Also Vermont City and Town Incorporation and Settlement Dates
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 Vermont 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. Vermont State Government is located in Montpelier.