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# Wednesday, 03 June 2009
Researching an Ancestor's Murder
Posted by Diane

Q I found out my great-great-grandfather Juan Chavez was murdered in Valencia County, NM, in 1883, but that’s all I know. How can I find out more about this story?

A Start by thinking about the kind of records a murder might generate: death records, a coroner’s investigation, newspaper coverage, a criminal trial. Let’s take these one at a time:
  • New Mexico became a state in 1912 and didn’t mandate death certificates until 1920, so one may not exist for your ancestor. Since some counties kept vital records earlier than the state did, contact the Valencia county courthouse at Box 969, Los Lunas, NM 87031, (505) 866-2073.
  • Newspapers might have published obituaries, as well as articles about the murder, investigation and trial. New Mexico’s state archives and library have large historical newspaper collections. Subscription sites and GenealogyBank  have a few New Mexico newspapers covering 1883 in their searchable databases. Libraries in Valencia County also may have old newspapers.
  • Also look for probate records, which are created when a court distributes a deceased person’s estate. Valencia county probate court records are microfilmed at the Family History Library (you can tell by running a place search of the online catalog on the county name).
You can rent the film by visiting a Family History Center near you. First rent the index (film #2312158), and if there’s a file on your ancestor, note the packet number. Then you can request the roll of film covering that probate packet.  
  • Mysterious or violent deaths often led to a coroner’s investigation, usually part of court or police records. A search of the New Mexico state archives’ online catalog on Valencia court records brings up a listing for collection #1974-031, which has county records from 1847 to 1979. Coroners’ inquests from 1882 to 1908 are part of the justice of the peace records.
You could visit the archives in Santa Fe to search, or e-mail a research request. There may be fees associated with research requests.
  • If someone was arrested for the murder, records from a criminal trial would answer a lot of questions. The state archives’ collection #1978-003 has records for US territorial and New Mexico district courts covering Valencia County, including criminal cases from 1852 to 1912. In this collection, series V, file 13-24, covers 1852 to 1909.
These early case files aren’t numbered, and without the accused’s name, you’ll need to examine the records pretty closely to see which case involves your ancestor.

black sheep ancestors | court records | US roots
Wednesday, 03 June 2009 17:18:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
Thursday, 04 June 2009 07:12:47 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Hello All:
My name is Robert O. Blea.I am from Albuquerque,New Mexico.
A while back I learned of a genealogy site called
It is a British genealogy site.
Being that my research takes me to Mexico,Spain,France,Portugal,I have not checked out this site.So I don't know how good it is.
Thank you for the opportunity to add my comments.
Robert O. Blea
Robert O. Blea
Saturday, 06 June 2009 17:37:25 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I have a link in the New Mexico section of my online death indexes directory for a Valencia
County Probate Journal 1882–1888
that mentions Juan Chavez - scroll down to the listing for p. 90-93.
Wednesday, 17 June 2009 21:35:07 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Interesting topic... my GreatGrandfather(Absolom Joshua)AJ Stratton was murdered in 1905 in what was then Indian Territory (Oklahoma now). I have a date of Aug 18, 1905, John Northcutt was arrested by US Marshall J H Bridges and a Judge Gullet and an Hon. JE Humphreys were involved. I found a Tishomingo News article from Aug 23, 1905. It is now known as Johnston County. I've not been able to locate his gravesite, the outcome of a trial (if any) or anything else. Any information pointing me in the right directions on this would be great.
Tuesday, 14 July 2009 19:49:21 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I don't know.
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