Courthouse Stories

Official records from the mid-1800's can be unreliable, error-prone, or missing altogether. That's what we found during our visit to the Marion County Courthouse on Thursday. According to the County Register, records of births, deaths, and marriages weren't mandatory until 1940, and prior to that, depended on the whim and diligence of those responsible at the time. And there was no system in place to capture the information so it was a haphazard process to say the least.

Land transactions were another story however. It was more important, apparently, that things dealing with ownership and wealth were accurately detailed and recorded than things like births or deaths -- an understandable if not somewhat inconvenient fact for genealogists. We found detailed records of the original land transactions by my ancestors way back to 1870. And we found a number of historical plat maps that showed ownership as early as 1875. Here, through the magic of digital photography, is an example.

Instead of paper photocopies, we documented much of our findings by simply snapping digital photos of the documents. As long as the light is right the detail that can be captured is far better than a traditional photocopy.And it's much more convenient to store these images electronically and, if necessary, print copies on demand.

The Marion County Courthouse itself is an impressive structure, one of the nicest we've seen during our travels. Originally built in 1896, it went through an extensive refurbishing during the 1970's. Inside there's a central rotunda that extends through the four main floors -- a feature not common in often utilitarian county courthouses.

I'm also happy, if not somewhat relieved, to report that I found no records of my ancestors doing time in the county pokey. One can only assume they were hard-working, law-abiding, God-fearing, citizens -- right?

After all that time in the bowels of the courthouse archives it was time for an early dinner, and a nearby Applebees served the purpose perfectly. Besides tasty entrees, a sparky waitress made the stop fun too. Then it was back to camp and an evening bike ride through the park which produced sightings of deer, geese, and large fish (carp?) jumping and splashing in the river. Finally, we watched the sun set behind the dam as we toasted the end of another day of exploration.

This morning we woke to rain. And it's supposed to be wet all day. So I think we'll spend the day at the bus-house and get caught up on a few things.



Slightly Better than Most