Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Researching in Nebraska Courts

The court system in Nebraska consists of a supreme court, district courts and limited jurisdiction courts.  Under the limited jurisdiction courts are found the county, juvenile, municipal and workers' compensation courts.  The court where many records will be found that interest the genealogist is the County Court.  Also of interest to the genealogist is the District Court which is a trial court of general jurisdiction.  

The District Court hears all felony and civil cases involving more than $10,000.  It acts as the appellate court for county courts.  The County Court has limited jurisdiction and handles most misdemeanor cases, ordinance violations and civil cases involving less than $10,000.  There are 93 counties in the state of Nebraska, 21 judicial districts and 48 district court judges.  There is an elected clerk of the district court to handle administrative duties.  There are 57 court judges in the County Court jurisdiction with an appointed clerk to handle the administration.  

Actual county government in Nebraska began when it was a territory in November of 1854.  At that time the boundaries of the first counties were established as Burt, Cass, Pierce (later was named Otoe), Douglas, Dodge, Washington, Richardson and Forney (later was named Nemaha). The last county created in Nebraska was Arthur County in 1913. 

During the territorial period of 1855-1867 there were justice courts (justices of peace), probate courts and district courts.  The actual county justice courts continued to exist until 1970 when they were abolished.  There were also police magistrate courts in the territorial time period. They also continued until about 1972.  

Marriages will usually be found in the County Clerk's office.  Some smaller courthouses maintain land records in the County Clerk's office, but normally they are found in the Register of Deed's office.  Look for naturalization papers in the County Clerk of County Judge's office. Records of divorce, civil and criminal records are found in the Clerk of the District Court offices.  Probate records and guardianships are usually in the office of the County Judge.  

While some courthouses have records from the formation of the county, some may be stored offsite and some may be at the Nebraska State Historical Society in Lincoln, Nebraska. You may discover that some courthouses have computerized indexes of their records, such as probate and marriages.  

A listing of election officials, which is also the county clerk, can be found at the Nebraska Secretary of State web page.  This also includes addresses, both postal and e-mail, plus telephone numbers.  A good web page to check for what is available in public records online is the Nebraska Free Public Records Directory.  Read more about Nebraska's judicial system at Nebraska Judicial Branch

When doing your Nebraska research also investigate city or municipal level records.  Some of these include burial permits, cemetery records, council or committee records and police records. 

Be prepared for your Nebraska courthouse research by knowing in what jurisdiction you'll find the records! 

1 comment:

  1. Nice post, maybe it will eventually sink in. Your guidance is great.