You may not have thought of checking about your ancestors using county court record, but it could prove to be a good resource. Court records can deal with criminal and civil cases and including probate court. A good deal could be learned on relatives and properties of an ancestor this way.
A good place to start is the online site ‘California Court Record‘ available by the Huntington Digital Library. There are several levels of court cases, including criminal, probate and civil case on the site. County as well as state levels are on the site. The range of dates (but not including all cases during those years, some are missing) would be 1850 to about 1907.
Not all the full transcripts for each case are available, but they do have an index which can get you in the right direction. For example, a criminal case of George Hodges, the defendant, charged with the murder of John M. Grey. The case number (00543) was filed April 21, 1861 in Los Angeles. It will most of the time have what the outcome was in the case. In this case of George Hodges he was found not guilty.
Now if you had a relative in the early 1860s with either of those names, you would a great starting point for further research. Keep in mind you can’t always figure if they lived in California. John Grey could have traveling through California when he was killed and never lived there.
If you want to look about online indexes for other states’ court records, Google court records plus the name of the state. You could also try the county name. Check if the hometown courthouse has any available court records, even if a clerk has to research and get copies to you because they are not online yet.
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