Thursday, September 26, 2013

Courthouse Visits -- the Good, the Bad and the Amazing

Having had a couple of bad courthouse experiences over the years, I've been pondering about what can make a courthouse visit good or bad. So here's what's running around in my head.


  • Lack of a website
  • Poorly communicated rules
  • Poorly communicated list of off-site records
  • Only one person can access certain records
  • Rude employees
  • Poor copying capability
  • Tight workspace
  • Jumbled records
Good courthouse in Pickaway County, Ohio


  • Friendly employees
  • Informative website
  • Organized records
  • Knowledgeable employees
  • Adequate space to stand and open a ledger
  • Good copier and employees being available to make copies


  • Open access to vault(s)
  • A work table and chair
  • Helpful employees
  • Making your own copies on an easy to use copier

Rarely does any courthouse meet every point on the good or amazing list. Working in tight quarters with employees and other researchers is probably the most common issue. As long as everyone is friendly, that challenge can be tolerated.

I've differentiated the employee traits for a reason. Friendliness is a must. Knowledgeable employees would be those who know where things are and how to interpret abbreviations. Helpful employees are those who suggest record sets about which I may not know.

One of the most helpful employees that I've encountered even went out of her way to assist me last year in the amazing courthouse in Surry County, North Carolina. I'd found a deed that referenced a water course and I wanted to find that creek on a map. I went from the spacious (amazing) table where I was working to the front counter to ask the question. The person with whom I talked didn't know the answer and I wasn't really surprised. They can't know every creek. I went back to the deed books to continue researching.

About 30 minutes later one of the clerks walked over to me with a small map in her hand. She'd been unable to break away from her work earlier, but she knew exactly where the creek was and showed me on the map. I was able to copy that little map on the (amazing) copier where I was running a tab (amazing). It was definitely an amazing visit.

Don't let bad courthouse experiences discourage you. The amazing courthouse may be the next one you visit.

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