An informant reported that her grandmother "talked about her father [Lyman Jairus Strong] rode circuit as a judge and his areas of travel were Mississippi, Louisiana, and possibly other states." This would have been in the mid-1800s. Where can I find information about specific judges and their decisions in this time and place?

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    It's not a great answer, but I have some ideas to get you started. I don't envy you, looking for someone with the surname 'Strong', given my experience with doing newspaper searches for other surnames which are also common words.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 17:38

1 Answer 1


In the post Short circuited!, posted on 9 Oct 2015, Judy G. Russell says:

[T]he records of the Circuit Courts from 1789 until 1911 are considered trial court records, and they’re in Record Group 21, Records of the United States District Courts. You’ll find them in the specific National Archives branch that has the records for the District Courts in that state.

Russell refers her readers to the interactive map at the Federal Judicial Center, where you can mouse over the map and see what courts are included in that area.

The graphic in her blog posts shows that Mississippi and Louisiana, along with Texas, are in Circuit 5:

  • Fort Worth, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.

The National Archives at Fort Worth has finding aids for the records in RG21 -- here is the page for Louisiana.

Russell also gives pointers to other resources on the Federal Judicial Center website, including a downloadable PDF, Guide to Research in Federal Judicial History.

To locate information about Lyman Jairus Strong, it might help to find clues that would pinpoint when and where he was riding circuit, since the statutes in effect at the time would give you clues to where the records turned up. The History of the Federal Judiciary shows a timeline for the Fifth Circuit:

The Federal Judicial Circuits Organization of the Fifth Circuit

  • 1801 Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina. (2 Stat. 89)
  • 1802 North Carolina, Virginia. (2 Stat. 156)
  • 1842 Alabama, Louisiana. (5 Stat. 507)
  • 1862 Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina. (12 Stat. 576)
  • 1866 Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas. (14 Stat. 209)
  • 1948 Alabama, Canal Zone, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas. (62 Stat. 870)
  • 1980 Canal Zone, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas. (94 Stat. 1994)
  • 1982 Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas. (93 Stat. 493)

Possible sources of information, in addition to the court records themselves, might be:

  • State and County histories
  • Newspapers
  • Manuscript collections (diaries, etc.) in local, county, and state archives
  • The Congressional Record
  • The U.S. Congressional serial sets -- available through Heritage Quest (at some libraries) and Genealogy Bank (by subscription) -- see NARA's Know Your Records presentation Genealogy Research Using the U.S. Congressional Serial Set (2016 Feb. 25) on YouTube
  • The Official register of the United States has lists of judges for the District and Circuit Courts (check Google Books, the Internet Archive, and other online 'repositories')
  • OHGenweb's Circuit Riders Database (parts are hosted on RootsWeb) -- as of late Feb 2016 RootsWeb was down because of hardware difficulties and is scheduled to be back after 15 March 2016.

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