Have you used county commissioners’ records in your genealogy research?
County commissioners handled county business. They still do today. Minutes of the county commissioners have many details about life with a county and activities of many individuals living in the county. Some of their duties included:
- Creating townships and altering township boundaries
- Auditing treasurer and auditor’s reports
- Defending the county in the courts
- Appointing constables
- Appointing overseers of the poor
- Appointing trustees to the county seminary
- Appointing school trustees
- Granting licenses for liquor, taverns, retailing foreign merchandise, ferries, etc.
- Opening and maintaining public roads and bridges
- Building and maintaining county buildings, including the courthouse, jail, and county asylum
- Purchasing materials and supplies for the county
- Levying county taxes
- Appointing assessors
- Selecting juries
- Poor relief, including boarding, food, clothing, medicine, and burials
- Overseeing the county asylum or farm for the poor
- Offering rewards
- Military bounties
Records produced before 1850 are rich in details about people who were only enumerated as tally marks on the census. Women are recorded boarding the poor or receiving poor relief themselves. Poor men, women, and children are recorded when someone else was paid to provide their coffin or dig their grave.
You may find details about the criminals within your family. The Sheriff and his constables were paid for fire wood, food, clothing, and ironing (not their clothes) the county’s prisoners.
You may be able to recreate a neighborhood by reading petitions for roads or changes in township boundaries.
Liquor, tavern, store, and ferry licenses may tell you more about your ancestors’ professions. Or your ancestor may have been reimbursed for flour or shoes he provided the poor.
County commissioners records contain a wealth of information about our ancestors. Abstracts for the Dearborn County, Indiana County Commissioners’ Records are online from 1826 to 1852.