Utah Government records cover a broad range of genealogy subject areas that can help you as part of your research, such as land ownership, courts, taxes, and naturalization’s. Given that Utah court records cover such a wide selection of topics, they could aid you in many different ways. As an example, they could aid you in finding ancestors’ residences, identify occupations, locate financial information, determine citizenship status, or shed light on relationships between individuals. The whole thing relies upon on the type of court records that the ancestors” names show up in. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia.
Utah Courthouse records change extensively from county to county in both level of quality and volume. You will find different kinds of court records that are most likely to possess information related for your genealogical research below.
Utah Court Records
During the early history of Utah, the LDS bishops court system presided over civil and criminal cases in various church wards. Civil courts and church courts did overlap for a certain period of time.
In 1849, the county court system was put into place. The county courts presided over both criminal and civil cases that involved amounts over $100. In 1851, Utah Territory was formed and county probate courts replaced county courts. In 1849, Justice of the Peace courts were also established. They presided over cases under $100 until 1874 and then began presiding over all cases under $300. They are still in existence in modern-day Utah.
The territorial district court took over all probate, criminal and civil matters in 1874, when county probate courts were eliminated. The territorial district court and the county probate court had concurrent jurisdiction from 1852 until 1874. That concurrent jurisdiction came about because the local citizens and the federal government had gotten into disputes over where the legal jurisdiction should lie. A compressed court record history can also be found on the website for the Utah State Archives.
Utah became a state in 1896. That’s when a statewide system of district courts was created. That court system took over probate cases, as well as criminal and civil matters. The Utah State Archives has volumes of those court records on microfilm, but they have not been indexed. Those records include transfers and registers of mining claims from miners’ courts, which functioned similarly to county clerks. The Utah Historical Society also contains documentation about Utah mining camps and related historical material.
The Utah State Archives has a guide to researching adoption records on their website. In 1999, a law was put into place allowing researchers to look at adoption records that were created more than 100 years prior. See Also Research In Court Records.
- U.S. Circuit Court Criminal Case Files, 1790-1871
- Utah, Territorial Case Files of the U.S. District Courts, 1870-1896 (familysearch.org) 2,593 territorial case files of the U.S. district courts of Utah, 1870-1896. The district courts were located in Salt Lake City, Ogden, Provo, and Beaver. Most of the cases involve polygamy, but other issues were dealt with as well, including robbing of the mails, illegal voting, violations of liquor and tobacco tariff laws, possession of counterfeit coins, and embezzlement. Records were arranged by the surname of the defendant and numbered.
- Utah Third District Court, Territorial Criminal Case Files Index, 1882-96 (search.ancestry.com) This database is an index to the criminal case files of the Third District Court in Utah that are on microfilm at the Utah State Archives. The cases may be from any of the counties in Utah but most are from Salt Lake, Tooele, Summit, and Davis Counties. Information provided in the index includes the name of the defendant, case number, charge, year, and number of the microfilm reel the file is located on.
- LDS Redress Petition Listing, 1843 The Judiciary Committee of the Twenty-eighth Congress of the United States received a petition in 1843 to redress the “injuries to persons and properties” of Mormons expelled from Missouri in the 1830s. This database is a listing of residents of Hancock County, Illinois who signed that petition.
- Utah Court Record Books (amazon.com)
Utah Land Records
The Mormons first emigrated to Utah in 1847. They were the first non-natives to settle in the area. After the Mexican War, the United states gained possession of Utah. That was in 1848. However, it was known as a “provisional state” and called “Deseret” until it was declared a territory in 1850. In 1869, the first federal district land office in the state was established in Salt Lake City. At that time, the Homestead Act officially took effect in Utah.
Federal land distribution played a big role in how land changed hands in Utah, but so did Mormon land holdings and practices. Other land records and resources can be found on the website for the Utah State Archives.
Family-sized lots of land were distributed by the LDS Church prior to Utah Territory being subjected to the Homestead Act. Any land previously held before 1869 was granted legal titles by the Salt Lake City Federal Land Office at that time. Two meridians, the Uintah Basin Meridian and the Salt Lake Meridian, determined how land was distributed in Utah. It was divided according to rectangular surveys that were based from one of those meridians. The Washington D.C. Bureau of Land Management Office (BLM) and the National Archives-Rocky Mountain Region each have master card indexes of Salt Lake Land Office cash entry files.
After 1874, deed books were consistently kept by the county recorder’s office. However, county recorders’ offices existed prior to that time. The county seat holds most land transaction records from years before 1874. However, those records may be found along with a variety of other documents, including probate and county court proceeding records. All land transactions have been kept in deed books since that year. Land holding indexes are kept by each county and are usually called grantor or grantee indexes. See Also Guide to U.S. Land Records Research
Utah Probate Records
From 1852 to 1896 the territorial district courts and the county probate courts shared responsibility for probate functions. Those included intestate and testate proceedings, guardianship cases for females under the age of 18, and guardianship cases for makes under the age of 21. The county seat holds most of those records. However, some of them are available at the Utah State Archives or through the FHL on microfilm. Some counties have more extensive microfilmed records than others.
The District Court in each county was given sole responsibility for all probate matters from 1896 onward. Currently, there are 29 counties in the state of Utah and 8 judicial districts. One guide that can be helpful for determining which district a certain county was in at a given point in time can be found at Utah Judicial Council. Another is provided by the Utah State Archives.
The Utah Judicial Council, Administrative Office has been in charge of Utah courts since January 1, 1989. Therefore, that office can provide excellent resources to help researchers determine which county seat had probate court functions at a given time in Utah’s history.
The current Utah districts are: District 1: Box Elder, Cache, and Rich counties, District 2: Davis, Morgan, and Weber counties, District 3: Salt Lake, Summit, and Tooele counties, District 4: Juab, Millard, Utah, and Wasatch counties, District 5: Beaver, Iron, and Washington counties, District 6: Garfield, Kane, Piute, Sanpete, Sevier, and Wayne counties, District 7: Carbon, Emery, Grand, and San Juan counties, District 8: Daggett, Duchesne, and Uintah counties. See Also Guide to U.S. Probate Records Research
- Probate Records, 1851-1961 (familysearch.org) Collection of probate records, including case files and other documents created by the Probate Courts of various Utah counties. Probates were generally recorded in the county of residence. This collection covers probate records created 1851-1961, but the content and time period of the records will vary by county.
- Utah Probate Record Books (amazon.com)
Utah Tax Records
Some published state census records also include early tax records. The FHL and the Utah State Archives each offer microfilm copies of records that include information on property assessments, school assessments, and crops. See Also Guide to U.S. Tax Records Research
- Utah Immigration Project (usgwarchives.net)
- Utah, Naturalization and Citizenship Records, 1858-1959 This database contains naturalization and citizenship records submitted to, or created by, Utah courts for the years 1850 through 1960.
- Utah Pioneers, 1847-50 This database is a transcription of a card index that takes up three drawers at the Sons of Utah Pioneers headquarters in Salt Lake City. It contains information on the pioneers who entered the Salt Lake Valley between 1847 and 1850. Each pioneer’s name is given, along with his or her age, birth date, birthplace, death place, and pioneer company. Some cards also have additional information. In total, the database contains more than 3,000 names of Utah pioneers.
- Pioneer Immigrants to Utah Territory An excellent collection of more than 1,700 migration records for Utah, Pioneer Immigrants to Utah Territory is an index of six maroon binders that contain questionnaires completed by members of the National Society of the Sons of the Utah Pioneers (SUP). Forms contain 32 questions that provide vital information and other data of interest about specific Utah pioneers.
- Sons of Utah Pioneers – Card Index, 1847-50 This database is an index of people who came to Utah between 1847 and 1850. Information found within this database includes the pioneer’s name, birth date, birthplace, death date, death place, and name of the company he or she traveled with.
- Utah Naturalization Declarations of Intention, 1878-1895 This database is an index to declarations of intention to become U.S. citizens created between 1878 and 1895 at the Fourth District Court in Utah. Declarations of intention are also known as First Papers. The completion of this set of papers is usually the first step taken to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. In general, the amount of information found on these forms varies from place and place and year to year. Nevertheless, these records are a good source of genealogical data. Information contained on these particular forms for Utah’s Fourth District Court includes the individual’s name, former sovereign, date, and witnesses. The index, which this database contains, provides the individual’s name, date, and volume number in which the original record can be found.
- Utah Tax Record Books (amazon.com)
Utah Immigration & Naturalization Records
Most counties began recording naturalizations from the time that they were first organized. However, the exact locations of those records may vary, since many different courts held concurrent jurisdiction at different times. From the time that Utah gained statehood in 1896 onwards, naturalizations were recorded. However, from 1906 onward the records were more organized and are, therefore, easier to find. The district court office in each county kept those records. However, these days many of those records can be found on microfilm at the FHL, or at the Utah State Archives. The records at the FHL must be researched according to county and then either immigration or emigration.
The “Utah Naturalization and Citizenship Records” guide on the Utah State Archives website is a great guide to help researchers find naturalization records in the state. The state supreme court and the state district court could also grant naturalizations after 1906.
Most landlocked states in the United States didn’t experience as great a number of naturalizations as Utah. The Utah naturalization numbers are so high because of the number of Mormons who settled in the state from Europe. The FHL has microfilmed records of Mormon passenger lists for 1840 to 1925 from Europe, as well as 1872 to 1894 from Scandinavia. A description of emigration records can be found in Jaussi and Chaston (1974). See Also Guide to U.S. Immigration Records Research
Utah County & City Government Links
Utah contains 29 counties. Each county is the local level of government within its borders. The links in the table below link to county and city government offices and is limited to government-maintained websites. If you know of a Utah county that has an official government web site but is not linked, or if the link is in error, please contact us so we may edit our database. Utah State Government is located in Salt Lake City.