Finding Your Ancestors When Early Court House Records Burned by Jeannette Holland Austin
I was disappointed upon visiting the Gwinnett County, Georgia Court House and discovered that the first will books were missing, dating from 1819. I was searching for someone who died about 1823. The oldest will book is Book D (1852-1886). Therefore, I turned to the old standby, Minute Books. The first minute book did survive (1819-1861). This is where the clerk records the business of the day, logging wills, administrations and estates into thebook. At least I would get a possible death date here, I thought, as I thumbed through 800 pages of unindexed entries. This is the thing...you are not going to get a finite index. I followed the dates before and after 1823. When finally, I found it, discovered that he had died intestate (without a will), but I had the names of the administrator (his wife and relatives) and subsequent entries where guardians were appointed for the minor children. What more did I want! Because of difficulties in finding names and the lack of a proper index, I filmed the entire book. It took about a month to separate the entries, unseam each name and create my own index. All of the images had to be clarified with a photo program. Adding this tedious project to www.georgiapioneers.com was a pleasure, knowing that lots of folks ended up in Gwinnett County soon after it was ceded by the Indians. The examination of minute books is frequently the only true means of discovering a county's first settlers. Everyone did not leave a testament, but their widow had to apply for an administration, and that fact creates some sort of record at the court house. This is what to look for. Besides that, some clerks copied the entire will into the minute book.
Jeannette Holland Austin
, Georgia Author of Genealogy Books
Georgia County Records (digital images) wills, estates, marriages
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