Center for Archival Collections

Learning about Sources: Township Records

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For genealogists seeking information from the 19th century, township records can be an important resource in locating information about ancestors who may not have appeared in county records. They can be found in township halls or in regional archives like the CAC. For specific holdings, see the Guide to Local Government Records, select the county you are interested in and click the link for Township Records.

Indentures or Apprenticeships were a method of providing for the care, education and vocational training of children. Any male child under the age of 12 and any female child under the age of 18 could be indentured by his or her parents or guardians. The person the child was apprenticed to agreed to provide for the child's care and training in a particular trade. In addition, the township trustees were were empowered to bind out any orphan, destitute child, or the child of someone unable to provide for the child. The indenture was recorded with the township clerk within three months of the execution of the document.

Section 16 Records contain information about the sale by any township of Section 16, which was set aside for the support of township schools. Thus, Poll Books often provide the researcher with a very early list of the adult males residing in the township. This list was then recorded by the Auditor, but the originals may be found in the township records.

Cemetery Deed Books may also be found in township halls. Township trustees were empowered by the state to purchase or otherwise obtain land for a township cemetery. They were authorized to sell lots and were required to keep a record of deeds to these lots. Today township trustees are responsible for the maintenance of all abandoned cemeteries.

Poor Relief Records. During the 19th century, township trustees were required to furnish Poor Relief or support to paupers legally residing within the township boundaries. The clerk was required to keep a record of the paupers and of all relief expenses incurred.

Enumerations of School-Aged Youth were taken annually as one of the duties of school directors in the township. Every unmarried youth between the ages of 6 and 21 (later between the ages of 5 and 18) was to be listed, with a notation of each child's race and sex. An abstract of the Enumeration was to be given to County Auditor. Many townships still have the original enumerations in their holdings. Some not only give the children's names and ages, but also the parents' or guardians' names and addresses. These records are good sources for locating the names of children between census years and before 1850.