And I mean, literally, how to go there and research the Forsyth County, Georgia Probate and Land Records.
I’ve been to each office one time so I’m by no means an expert on these records but I thought I would try and help any researcher who comes behind me. So here’s my little, not guaranteed to be absolutely correct, guide to researching at the Forsyth County courts.
First off, parking. I’ve been lucky enough both times to find parking in the 2 hour park spots directly behind the courthouse at 100 Courthouse Square, Cumming, GA 30040. Warning: Don’t try to go in the back entrance. That’s employee’s only. Oops!
Forsyth County Probate Court
112 E Maple St
Cumming, GA 30040
What I was looking for: Wills, Estate Cases, Guardianship Bonds, Marriage Books
The first thing you need to know about Forsyth County is that not everything is in the courthouse. From what I can tell, they’re in the process of building a bigger courthouse and moving all of the court offices in together, but right now that’s just not the case.
So Probate Court is actually in a row of buildings and offices at 112 E Maple St, Cumming, GA 30040. If you were facing the courthouse main entrance, it would be on your left. From where I like to park, it would be on your right.
From there just ask to see the oldest records and they’ll take you downstairs to a somewhat small vault and leave you to your devices.
What you’ll find:
I was immediately attracted to an index in a 3 ring binder on the reading table. It turned out to be an index of estate cases (and George W. West’s estate case was in there. Hooray!) It seems like this index leads you to estate and guardianship cases. All of the actual files are in legal sized boxes kind of up high and to the right of the room’s door.
Being perpetually strapped for time with my “real job,” I didn’t get a chance to look at marriage records, but the marriage books are right inside the door.
The rest of the room, if I recall, was taken up by will books. I need to go back and peek at the marriage books so I’ll report further when I have.
Copies here are $1.00/page on the honor system.
Forsyth County Clerk of Superior Court’s Office
100 Courthouse Sq.
Cumming, GA 30040
What I was looking for: Any land records pertaining to my ancestors
This office is on the ground floor of the courthouse, but you have to go in through the front of the courthouse (the only building in Cumming’s square) on the 1st floor and pass through the metal detectors. From there they’ll send you down one floor and to your right. You’ll see the sign that says “Land Records.”
There are actually two land records rooms but it’s pretty easy to tell which one you want. One is a lookup room and just has a few computers. The other one is a ginormous room that smells like old paper and is a veritable smorgasbord of valuable records.
The genealogist in a room full of land records
What You’ll Find:
There is a LOT of information in this room. The main room is full of deed books. Ask someone to show you where the deed book indexes are.
I was looking for records from the 1890’s first, so they led me to the giant deed indexes A, B, and C. Like a lot of land records, these are listed by “Grantor” (usually the seller) on one page and the “Grantee” (buyer) on the opposite page. This worked great for records from about 1880 on.
It’s a little harder to find older records. Forsyth County was cut out of the huge Cherokee County in 1832, but if you’re looking for land grant info you’ll have to go to Cherokee County. Land records here do still seem to go back to the 1830’s but, according to one employee, the oldest indexes were falling apart. So if you’re looking back to the 1830’s and 40’s you’re going to have to just have a look in the actual old Deed Books because they do have indexes. But the index is only by “Grantor.” So if your ancestor bought something, then have fun slogging through the ENTIRE index in the front of those old books. Fortunately, there’s usually a little post-it in the front of each deed book letting you know what years it covers.
The deed book indexes also feature mortgages. The Mortgage Books are in the locked vault in the back and you have to be let in. They had to bring out and older employee when I asked about these books because, they said, nobody EVER asked about them.
I encourage you to look at the mortgage books! They tell you a little about your ancestor’s assets and sometimes more than one ancestor takes out the mortgage. Also, from what I found at least, these weren’t mortgages on houses like we think of today. Most of the time my ancestors were using things like 4-year-old dun colored cows and 12 year old black mare mules as collateral to borrow sums of money less than $100.
Of course I didn’t limit myself to looking at Mortgage Books while I was in the vault. There were lots of interesting books in there, like Criminal Cases from the 1800’s. Of course these weren’t indexed and I was already really short on time so I didn’t get to examine them closely (yet.)One more pro tip: Before you leave, read over any Deed records you’ve found and see which county District, Section and Land Lots are mentioned. Back in the land records research room with the computers you’ll find a large map on the wall showing where exactly these sections, districts and lots are. This is great info – especially if you’re looking for graves in the woods like I am!
I hope this helps anyone who may be confused about courthouse records. I know I’m still confused, but will feel a bit more confident now that I’ve taken the plunge a few times. For more on what I found there, see Some Forsyth County, Georgia Land Records Transcribed.