Affidavits for genealogy can be a brick wall busting document. County level affidavit records hold names, ages, relationships and information you can’t find anywhere else. Read on to learn where to find them and why they should be at the top of your research log.
An affidavit is a written oath that verifies something is true. Just think of all the reasons one might need to prove something. There are literally dozens of circumstances when an affidavit might be created. Some include:
- To determine who the descendants are of a deceased person
- Details regarding birth (such as a bastardy case)
- What type of military service
- When a couple married and by whom the marriage was performed
- To correct a document such as a birth or death certificate
- To declare a nationality or ethnicity such as Native American
- Moving enslaved persons to a new state
When you are unable to find those ever-so-important documents like birth records, marriage records, death records, adoptions, divorces, etc, you may find an affidavit was created instead.
Affidavits can be found on a county level. You can visit the courthouse where your ancestor lived or you might have luck finding these types of records online. In fact, FamilySearch.org has quite a few digitized affidavit record collections. Unfortunately, these county affidavit record collections are not always indexed. For that reason, you will likely need to access them using the catalog. [To learn how to access un-indexed records at FamilySearch, see the YouTube video here.]
Let’s look at just a few examples of affidavits and the information they hold.
Affidavits of Heirship
An Affidavit of Heirship, aka Affidavit of Descent, is created to verify named individuals as legal heirs of someone who has died. Generally, the document is created if a person dies without a will and the courts are trying to determine heirs.
Information you might find on an Affidavit of Heirship include:
- Names and ages of heirs
- Relationship to the deceased
- Name of deceased
- Death date of deceased
- Addresses of heirs
In some cases, I have seen these records included in a bound volume. At other times, I have located them as a loose paper within an estate/probate packet.
Affidavits for Births
Affidavits for Births, sometimes needed to create a delayed birth record or correct a record, might contain the following information:
- Name and date of birth for child
- Name of child’s father
- Full maiden name of child’s mother
- Place of birth (sometimes even indicated it was a home birth!)
These types of documents can be in found in bound volumes sometimes titled Delayed Birth Records or Affidavits for Correction of Birth Records. You may need to ask a knowledgeable person about where to locate them in the county you are researching. Because of privacy laws being different from place to place, you may not be able to access an affidavit regarding a birth unless you are the named individual on the record, or their parent.
These records can be valuable for determining an unknown father. Information on a bastardy affidavit may be limited, but should include:
- Name of mother
- Name of father
- Date and place the child was born
Affidavits by owners bringing slaves into the state
Was it required for slave owners to register with the county clerk before moving their enslaved persons into a new state? I am not entirely sure, but I found a most interesting type of affidavit for Camden County, Georgia. In this record set, slave owners named their slaves by first name, indicated the sex, age, and height of each enslaved person, and their complexion. Can you imagine how important this document might be for tracing your African American heritage?
In conclusion, I have only just touched on a few of the many types of affidavits for genealogy. Head on over to FamilySearch.org or visit a county courthouse and look for your ancestors in these amazing records. Let me know what you find in the comments below!