County level research is essential in the pursuit of family and local history. The list below highlights the most common county courthouse records used by genealogists, but there are many more record sets available. Use the guides below and explore the specific resources for the counties of interest to assure that you locate all pertinent documents.
When requesting courthouse records, inquire about both docket books and paper files. Often both types of material exist for each record. While the two formats may merely repeat the data, one may be easier to read than the other. And, in many cases, there are further details, unique notations, over-sized pages such as maps, and so on, that are filed in only the docket book or in only the paper file. Seeing both will provide a more complete review of the record.
Note: Birth records become public after 125 years. All other birth records are closed and certified copies may only be obtained if you are legally entitled and present the required personal documentation and fees.
Certified copies of open and closed records are available at the DC Vital Records Division (DCVRD). Archived copies of public (open) records are available at the DC Office of Public Records and Archives.
Note: If the cause of death is suspicious or unknown, the Coroner's office is responsible for conducting an inquest.
Note: For US District Court, 1801-present: Washington National Records Center, Record Group 21
Note: No death records were filed during the Civil War, 1861 to 1865.
Also Note: Death records become public after 75 years. All other death records are closed, and certified copies may only be obtained if you are legally entitled and present the required personal documentation and fees.
|Will and Probate||
The subscription resources marked with a padlock are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.
Using Ancestry Library Edition for District of Columbia
Begin your search through Ancestry's vast collections, by viewing the list designated as District of Columbia records External.
Using FamilySearch for District of Columbia
FamilySearch provides useful state and county wikis that make excellent starting points for research. The District of Columbia Wiki External.
FamilySearch has digitized many of its microfilms containing county courthouse records. Not all records have been indexed yet, so search engine results may NOT show you the full range of FamilySearch data. You must browse the FamilySearch catalog External listings for each county to view the full set of records available. The vast amount of accessible original records is well worth your time to explore.
There is no fee to use FamilySearch, but you must create a free, personal account to access the databases and digital records.
Below are selected print publications for statewide courthouse records. The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.
To locate additional published materials, go to the Print Resources section of this guide for search tips on locating published county courthouse records, abstracts, and indexes that may aid you in locating original records at the county level.