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New Haven County Court Records: Blog

New Haven County Court Records Available Online

by Sarah Morin on 2021-06-29T08:39:00-04:00 in Archives, Connecticut, Courts: Connecticut Courts, History | 0 Comments

We are excited to announce that the first batch of New Haven County Court records has been digitized and is now available for public viewing online! You can access these materials for free without subscription at the Connecticut Digital Archive (CTDA).

To date, the digitized records include all cases discovered in the New Haven County, County Court Files from 1700-1739 involving African-descended and Indigenous individuals. The 1855 divorce petition of William Webb, an African American Civil War soldier from Connecticut (New Haven County, Superior Court Papers by Subject) is also available for viewing.

webpage with heading, top and side navigation bars, document thumbnails

Connecticut Digital Archive (CTDA) user interface, New Haven County Court Minorities Collection Box 1, Folder 1.

What will (and will not) be digitized

Over the next two years, we plan to add many more New Haven County, County and Superior Court records to the CTDA. The primary focus of the Uncovering New Haven project is to digitize all cases from 1700-1855 involving African-descended, African American, Black, and Indigenous/Native American peoples. (Regarding materials prior to 1700, only the court record books survive, and we are not able to digitize these oversize volumes at this time.) The cases previously profiled in this blog—Devenshare Nero, Cubitt Freeman, and Nelle—are among the records that will be scanned for inclusion in the CTDA.

In addition to cases involving minorities, we will also digitize selected cases in the following categories:

  • Famous cases (e.g., the Amistad Affair)
  • Prominent people (e.g., Benedict Arnold, Roger Sherman)
  • Other underrepresented groups (e.g., Latino/a/x, Asian and Pacific Islanders, Jewish, Irish)
  • Women (e.g., acting as attorney, divorce, domestic violence, prostitution)
  • Diseases (e.g., spreading infection, enforced quarantines)
  • Ecclesiastical affairs and religious issues
  • Indentured servitude
  • Maritime disputes
  • Minors and education
  • Physically and mentally disabled
  • Sexual crimes
  • Transients
  • Transportation revolution
  • Wars and espionage (e.g., French Indian War, Revolutionary War, War of 1812)
  • Witchcraft slander

Unfortunately, we are not able to digitize every single case in the New Haven County Court records. The materials currently measure 222 cubic feet in length (444 legal-size document boxes), and the size of this collection is estimated to increase to 350 cubic feet once all documents are unfolded, flattened, and placed into acid-free folders and boxes.

The digitization process

open scanner with document inside

The court proceedings from John Johnson vs. John Welton, ready to be scanned. In 1721, Johnson sued his servant Welton for “Stubborn and Rebellious Carriage against his said Master.”

Digitizing records is a long, in-depth, and time-intensive process. These particular materials, many of which have become brittle or damaged due to their age and poor storage, need to be handled with extreme care. After documents have been flattened under weights for 1-2 days—or as long as needed—all pages are scanned, both the front and back sides. Pre-programmed specifications limit the amount of image correction that needs to be done, but the borders have to be checked to ensure there is enough black space surrounding the document and no information has been cut off. Each case ranges from 1-24+ pages, and it takes an average of 5 minutes to scan all the documents from a single case.

We estimate that we will digitize 1,500-2,000 cases involving minorities. We are also in the process of scanning 71 additional cases that fall under the categories listed above. While it is impossible at this point in the project to estimate how many pages the subsequent materials will ultimately add to the total, we anticipate the figure of 71 will double, triple—or possibly even quadruple.

No transcriptions of these materials currently exist, but we are considering such projects in the future in order to make the New Haven County Court records even more accessible to students, the visually impaired, and all those who wish to learn about these invaluable historic treasures.

The Connecticut State Library would like to thank the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for their generous support of this project.

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