A Perfect Courthouse

I had a dream about the perfect courthouse for genealogical research. My perfect courthouse was not in a basement smelling of mold and mildew. It was not a room furnished with old wooden benches with splinters that dug into my legs and one old scarred wooden table that I couldn’t write on without piling up notebooks to give myself an even level on which to write. It was not hot in winter and cold in the summer.

My perfect courthouse was a new, sparkling glass, climate controlled building with tables big enough to spread my working materials out and comfy, pillowy chairs on which to sit for hours and the records room was on the first floor in an easily accessible, brightly lit room. In my perfect courthouse all the records I want are filed correctly and never missing and filed at eye level so short people like me (in my family we call ourselves normal and everyone else is a giant) can read and reach. My perfect courthouse has workers who are as much enthralled with genealogy and history as I am and they enjoy conversations about interesting topics like cemeteries and county histories and when the first marriage was recorded. And my perfect courthouse is filled with researchers having fun.

In my perfect courthouse, there has never been a fire or a flood. The records are not dry and brittle and the ink is not fading. In my perfect courthouse, they recorded every marriage and actually kept the records and I finally learned the name of my 4th great-grandmother. Ah, my perfect courthouse was a wonder to behold, but alas, I awoke to find my perfect courthouse fading away in a wisp of smoke.

So I am faced once more with the difficulty of deciphering 19th century script written with faded ink on brittle paper. I search for names like Sisley that are spelled in a hundred different ways with the S interchangeable with C and the other letters used however the writer felt at the moment, sometimes Sisley, sometimes Ceslee, or maybe it is filed under Z. So many choices.

There are some wonderful and remarkable courthouses throughout the United States that house interesting collections. If you get a chance, drive by the Decatur County Courthouse in Greensburg, Indiana, they have a tree growing through the roof! My New Year’s wish is that you get to do research in your perfect courthouse and this year find that one record which will break through your brick wall. Happy New Year.

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