Some of these old records are slowly being made accessible on the internet, but that varies a lot from county to county. Search for these files primarily in genealogical websites like THESE.

However, if you choose to visit the actual county recorder's office - here's a few tips... It is always best to call the County ahead and track down the records' location first. It could save you a lot of running around and frustration by calling first. When you do that, be sure to have roughly in mind what kind of books you are looking for and rough dates. Ask for the different docket names I have listed below to find out the physical location. Are they in the recorder's office, in a library, a museum, or a special county archive? And do you have to get prior written permission to get access?

Occasionally, when counties run out of storage space, they make temporary loans of their old recordbooks to local libraries or museums. "Old" to some counties could be 1840s through 1890s and to others it could be through the 1940s. Thus, some could be in a local library while younger ones could be in the Recorder's Office.  


Before you head for the Recorder's Office, buy some binder paper or a stenographer's notepad and pencils. Paper smaller than that may be too small and frustrating. You may find you have a lot of writing to do. Also, use pencils, not ink pens. If you drop a pencil on a recordbook, you can erase any marks, but not so with an ink pen.

Remember, especially if you handle original recordbooks - many of them have NOT been microfilmed, especially in the smaller counties. Thus you are handling PRICELESS, ONE-OF-A-KIND records for which there is NO REPLACEMENT. Be kind to recordbooks, they are old, frail and fading.  


I will speak here about recordbooks, but these guidelines apply to microfilmed records as well. First thing to remember upon entering a County Recorder's Office - public servants come in all sizes and attitudes. Some are as helpful as can be and some are as mean as junkyard dogs. Stay calm, be cordial and be prepared to do all of the research yourself. Most county clerks do not have the time to help others look through records. (Believe me, I know about this. I used to be a kind, helpful clerk who worked with a junkyard-dog-of-a-clerk...) But they should be able to get you started in the right area and explain where the indexes are and where the locations and deeds books are. Not all recordbooks are arranged logically. In other words, not all mining recordbooks are kept together. So - BROWSE, if you can. And study the definitions below so you will have an idea what each recordbook means.  


Frequently indexes can be found in the front of recordbooks and sometimes you have to look around for a separate index book. When you locate an index, look it over carefully. Some are indexed by miners' names only, others by claim name only, and others with both - miners' names on the left side and claim names on the right side.In those old days, every county had its own system and were anything but consistent from one county to the next. To make this even more complicated, some counties began with one system and then shifted to another system later.

I won't go into all the different ways counties categorize mining filings. I will just tell you some of the recordbook names to look for: MINING CLAIMS, MINING DEEDS, DEEDS, OFFICIAL RECORDS, QUARTZ CLAIMS, PLACER CLAIMS, MINING LOCATIONS, RELOCATIONS, and PRE-EMPTION CLAIMS.  


1) LOCATIONS - new claims. They can also be found in QUARTZ CLAIMS recordbooks (hardrock) or PLACER CLAIMS recordbooks (gravel claims worked with pan, sluice or hydraulic).

2) RELOCATIONS and PRE-EMPTIONS occur when someone finds an abandoned claim, keeps the same boundary markers, but registers it with a new name. For example, say someone made a brand new claim (he "located a claim"), marked it and registered it with the Mining District Recorder. Then he went off and did not work this new claim within the period of time prescribed by the District rules. Someone else could come along at the end of that period of time and legally claim that 'abandoned' claim for himself. That was referred to as a Pre-Emption or Relocation.

Some people call 'Relocations' 'jumped' claims, but they are not the same thing. A 'jumped' claim was just that - someone came along, saw a claim he wanted, "jumped" on it and illegally claimed it for himself. Then when the legal owner came back, he found some big snarling oaf sitting on the claim with a shotgun pointing in his direction. Some of the original claimants fought it out in court and others battled it out with guns - and died - or triumphed - or just quietly left.  


Start with indexes of MINING LOCATIONS (or QUARTZ CLAIMS and PLACER CLAIMS). When you finish with that, move on to MINING CLAIMS or MINING DEEDS. Then - RELOCATIONS or PRE-EMPTION CLAIMS. As a last resort, check indexes for DEEDS or OFFICIAL RECORDS. When you find something you want to check, write down the book number or letter and the page number. When you have enough of those stacked up, go to the actual recordbooks and look up the record.

At this point you can either write down each and every word or a summary of the action. Photocopies are the easiest, but some recordbooks are too frail to photocopy and, even if they can be photocopied - check the price first. Some counties charge $1.50 per copy.

From this point you are on your own. Good luck!

Animation of Gold in Mining Cart


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