William T. Slater, my maternal great great great grandfather, is believed to have applied for citizenship in 1818 in Jefferson County, Indiana, and someone with this name appears in An Index to Indiana Naturalization Records. But when I decided to take a closer look at the repository of the original records in the Madison courthouse a few years ago, this is what I found:
[Madison, Indiana courthouse fire from south side. Spire collapse. 20 May 2009]
Although the fire was confined to the dome and cupola of the brick building, there was major water damage to the records stored on the first floor and in the basement. I haven't been able to find out the extent of that damage.
FamilySearch has a great web page listing research strategies for alternate sources of information in place of lost records.
The phrase "burned counties" was first used for research in Virginia where many county records were destroyed in courthouse fires, or during the Civil War. The strategies for researching places where a local courthouse or repository was wiped out by fire, tornado, war, flood, hurricane, earthquake, insects, rodents, mold, neglect, foxing, theft, tsunami, or cleaning-streak clerks are useful in similar situations all around the United States, Canada, and throughout the world.
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