Is It Really A Burned County?

You’ve been told a county or other location is a “burned county.” It can be frustrating and sometimes record have been lost forever. However there are some things to consider:

  • the person who told you “the county records were burned” does not know what they are talking about
  • the  county may only have had a partial records loss
  • some records may have been “recreated” after the incident
  • the records were not really destroyed–sometimes it is easier for a clerk or an office to say they were when they actually were not
  • local researchers living in the area may be familiar with “workarounds” or have knowledge of what records were actually destroyed–they may even know of records whose existence is not “common knowledge”
  • historical or genealogical societies may be able to help
  • local or regional libraries may have supplementary information
  • some items may have been published in local newspapers (marriages, land transactions, information on noteworthy court cases, legal notices, etc.)
  • etc.

The FamilySearch wiki has an entire section on “burned counties.”


3 thoughts on “Is It Really A Burned County?

  1. Patty

    Thank u 4 that kind of information. I was on a search in a county in Missouri in a particular town & city . I got no help help from anyone & they did not care to help me. But I was a greenhorn at that time & n ow I know there r more resources in more than one place. Because of your advice I no longer feel defeated.

  2. Kat

    Even when the courthouse didn’t burn, old records have been moved (due to space, other considerations) and are not available. A 1940 survey at the state archives showed my ancestor’s 1870 naturalization record (county, book, page). When I went to the courthouse, I was told we never had anything like that. Later I learned that some of the old records had been moved to a storage facility where many of them were damaged. Thank goodness for that state survey as that is the only source of the naturalization.


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