Court, land, wills, and financial records can be incredibly rich in detail due to the fact that family details and witnesses were often used to identify people. In this category, you’ll find indexes as well as some collections of actual records.
Court records can include wills, which include the names and addresses of family members, and details about your ancestor’s estate. Tax records will typically include information on taxable items your ancestor owned, as well as his or her income and address.
The right to own land was a great incentive for many of our ancestors to immigrate to the United States. In the days before civil registration, the record of their acquisition of property in some cases can help link generations, as that property passed from one generation to the next.
Financial and insurance records can be particularly helpful because they frequently contain personal details used to identify the person in question—details that presumably only that person or family members would know.
And if your ancestor ran afoul of the law, criminal records will records his transgressions, along with some personal details that may help you fill in your family tree.
While bureaucracy may not be popular with the people who have to navigate their way through it to buy land, probate an estate, pay taxes, manage finances, serve a sentence, or otherwise deal with red tape, the paper trails left behind can be incredible resources for family historians.