Clerk Creek County Records
In the fall of 1861, an act of Congress created the Territory of Colorado, and with it 11 original counties. Clear Creek County was one of the original counties and has retained the same boundaries. The county retains an extensive collection of original and microfilmed records largely due to the fact that the courthouse never suffered any major loss due to fire or flood. In 1976 the Board of County Commissioners, in conjunction with professors Jim Hansen and Liston Leyendecker at Colorado State University, decided to review the county's historic materials and archival needs. Starting with an intern, the county then decided to continue the program with a full-time archivist in 1977, thereby becoming the first county in the state to have a formal "county archives." The archives contain information from the offices of many county departments and elected officials: county clerk and recorder, treasurer, assessor, sheriff, coroner, planning, and others.
The recording of marriages with the Clear Creek County Clerk started in May of 1864, with a few earlier marriages (one as early as 1862) being recorded over the next few years. The marriage books are indexed by the groom's last name only. The earliest marriage certificates are mere scraps of paper, some as small as 3 by 3 inches, the few which remain are in a small box labeled "Marriage Certificates, Book One." The more formal application and license process for Clear Creek starts with application and license number one, May 7, 1881.
Clear Creek County participated in two county census efforts: 1880 (in conjunction with the federal census) and 1885 (in conjunction with the first and only state census). Both county census records contain much less information than a complete federal census; however, they do contain information on age, race, marital status, and place of birth.
While election records are not generally used for genealogical purposes, the transitory nature of early miners and their families may make it difficult to find any mention of someone who moved to the area but later left between census years without owning property. The early "poll books" (those who voted in a local election), as well as the list of eligible voters, may prove helpful. DPL, Western History, has a manuscript collection entitled "Clear Creek County Records," which contains several boxes of early voter information (1860s through 1870s) for county precincts, call number: C MSS WH71 M34-566; you will need to fill out a special application form to use these manuscript documents, You will need to call 24 hours ahead in order to have access.
Property records will include information on what a person bought or sold, possibly where they lived (Mr. Jones of New York, New York), or what there general financial condition might be; however, they generally do not include information on age, spouse, or children. The towns, however, to retain a large number of old houses so if you can locate the property they owned, the building may still be intact. Locating mines on hillsides, however, is a difficult and sometimes dangerous task which should only be undertaken with a good map, hiking boots, and a lot of common sense.
Grantee / Grantor Records
Grantee/Grantor records are indexes to all documents recorded with the County Clerk and Recorder's office, including deeds, mortgages (deeds of trust), wills (not always recorded), chattel mortgages (record of a loan secured with "chattels" such as horses, the family jewelry, shop stock, etc.), agreements, mine leases, etc. These books are indexed chronologically by the first letter of the last name. For example, grantee book one covers the period between January 1862 and October 1865. If you were researching a Mr. Allen, you would look under the subheading "A" and look from the start (1862) through the end (1865) of the book. In general terms, the "grantee" is the buyer and the "grantor" is the seller. When looking for deeds of trust or chattel mortgages, the grantor is the one borrowing the money, and the grantee is the one loaning the money. The indexes reference the buyer, seller, type of transaction, date of recording, general description, and a specific book and page at which the document is located. Copies of recorded documents are available at a cost of $1.25 per page (rate established by the state legislature).
As a mineral county, Clear Creek has many volumes of mining records. You should be aware of the fact that there are two types of mining claims: patented and unpatented. An unpatented claim does not involve a vested property right; a patented claim involves a formal transfer of title to surface and mineral rights from the federal government to an individual. The ownership of patented claims transfers from person to person just like a house, business, or another property right; unpatented claims can be bought and sold but may also expire if the miner does not follow all of the prescribed rules and regulations required to keep a claim current. The county's mining records include the following: pre-exemption books--an index to unpatented mining claims filed by the name of the claimant, by date (just like the grantee/grantor); Lode books--an index to unpatented mining claims filed by the name of the lode or mining claim, by date. Affidavits of labor: annual statement of work done on individual unpatented claims, indexed by name of the claim (not used often for genealogy, but for those of you who wish to leave no stone unturned... it would indicate whether or not your relative had a continuing interest in a mining property). The county does not have annual production figures for mining properties, maps of underground workings, or payroll ledgers from mining companies.
The county does have eight boxes of early mining district records (1859 to early 1860s) which generally predate the existence of the county. These materials are quite fragile and may only be used with permission and supervision. Information is limited to by-laws of miners meetings and property claims.
The county has tax records dating back to 1862. The early years include "poll tax" listings, which means that even those who did not own property may show up on the tax records. By the 1870s, however, the poll tax disappears and tax records are only helpful if your relative happened to own property.
If you know when your relatives were in the area, you might start by pulling out one year's tax record which may include the legal description of the property owned by your family. From here, it may be possible to check the assessor's block books to see approximately how long they owned the property. Block books are the assessor's way of keeping track of who owns the property, and are arranged by town, by block. For example, you can check Georgetown block book number one and find who owned Lot Five, Block Ten between 1877 and 1899. Georgetown was the largest town in the county through the 1870s and 1880s and has the largest collection of records, indexed materials, etc. The Georgetown block books start in 1877 while other towns don't start until the 1890s or later.
Clear Creek County's earliest school district records can be found at the Colorado State Archives in Denver; however, the county does have school census records from 1890 to 1959 for the 16 districts and well as records from 1960 to 1962 for the consolidated districts. Access to these materials may take advance notice or be limited to staff research requests due to limitations on staff time.
The cemeteries in Clear Creek County include:
- Idaho Springs: Owned and managed by the City of Idaho Springs; indexes available through the city.
- Dumont: Owned by Clear Creek County and managed by the Mill Valley Historical Society; index reprinted in FGS quarterly newspapers.
- Empire: Owned and managed by the Town of Empire; indexes available through the town.
- Georgetown: Alvarado Cemetery (circa 1875) Owned and managed by the Georgetown Masonic Lodge AF and AM; limited indexes available (the cemetery was originally split into 6 areas managed by fraternal organizations and churches, not all original records transferred to Masons); the county archives has copies of the index information which is available. Old Town Cemetery (previously located in an area of today's Silver Queen Condominiums)--few records exist; all bodies were exhumed in 1974 and moved to one grave site in a fenced area located across the road from Alvarado Cemetery.
- Silver Plume: Two sections are owned and managed by the Town of Silver Plume; other sections are still owned by fraternal organizations and churches; index developed from existing markers and published in FGS quarterly newspapers.
- Silver Dale: No markers or indexes remain.
- Vance Cemetery: (Evan's Ranch) private cemetery, no public access.
Birth & Death Records
*Please note: Clear Creek County birth and death certificates can be obtained through Jefferson County's Vital Records office (303-271-6450). Clear Creek County archives have indexes of both records.
Registration of births and deaths is actually a state function, with a local registrar and deputies appointed for each county. Birth and death registers are "closed" records, however, and may only be accessed by spouse, parents, siblings, children, stepchildren, grandchildren, or legal representatives. Remember that birth and death certificates are issued in the county where the person is born or dies; not where they were living at the time--so if someone lived in Idaho Springs, but died in the hospital in Denver, the death certificate would be issued in Denver. Birth and death registration in Clear Creek County started after the turn of the century and did not become commonplace until almost 1910. Nevertheless, almost 1/2 of the county's birth certificates predate the turn of the 20th century due to a process known as "delayed birth registration." During the 1930s and 1940s, many individuals returned to the county of their birth and asked the courts to issue a birth certificate.
There are two additional records available at the county archives: a box of death notices from Silver Plume (on loan from the George Rowe Museum, Silver Plume) from the 1890s to the 1910s, and an account book for local mortician Henry Boyer (1885 to 1913, indexed from 1885 to 1899). There are actually two Boyer burial books, the earlier book can be found at Denver Public Library Western History (720-865-1821).