In 1519, it is believed that a group of Spanish explorers came to Mobile Bay. Another explorer, named Hernando de Soto, came to the territory in 1540. However, it wasn’t until 1702 that the first major settlement was founded by the French. It was created at Fort Louis de la Mobile. Then, in 1763, the Treaty of Paris granted the area that is now Alabama to the British. However, when the Revolutionary War took place, the British were forced to give most of Alabama to Spain and the United States. During the Civil War, Alabama was quite important. Montgomery, Alabama was where the Confederacy was formed, and it remained the Confederate capital for quite some time.The State of Alabama has had five capitals during its history. The first was the territorial capital in St. Stephens in 1817, followed by the state convention in Huntsville in 1819, then the first “permanent” capital in Cahaba in 1820. It was then moved to Tuscaloosa in 1826, until moving to its current location in Montgomery in 1846.
Getting Started with Family Trees in Alabama Genealogy
Alabama Genealogy Tips & Hints – Genealogy is an endeavor that many people begin with tremendous enthusiasm, but which an almost equal amount might quickly abandon due to the confusion that often surrounds the pursuit. After all, our family trees have very complex branches, and it takes special tools and lots of effort to uncover the past.
Fortunately, for Alabama researchers, there is an enormous amount of information available online. It is important, however, to understand the different records required.
A Good Beginning for Alabama Genealogy – When you conduct any investigation for Alabama genealogy, regardless of your actual location, you need to consider your resources that are online and “offline”. Remember that there is not a lot of smaller town or local archives that have been converted into online digital entities, and that means the first step in any research for Alabama genealogy is to make a list of the different records that you actually can investigate.
This discussion is going to provide you with complete details about the sources available to anyone doing research for Alabama genealogy. First, it is important to know that the basic list that all researchers for Alabama genealogy will use includes:
- Vital Records – these are documents recording births, marriages, divorces and deaths and are available your county, state, and national archives. You will also find cemetery or obituary information, census records, newspaper items, military records, immigration and naturalization details, passenger lists and records, and more. These are available as online and offline resources for Alabama genealogy. See Also How to Order Alabama Birth , Marriage, Divorce and Death Records
- State Records – these may have everything from probate information to birth certificates, death records, estate information, marriage details, military or veterans information, land records, state census information, surname lists, genealogical folders, maps, deeds, private manuscripts, newspapers, cemetery information, and so much more. These are available as online and offline resources for Alabama genealogy.
- Local Records – though these are found mostly with county clerks, you may want to consider historical societies, small local libraries, local genealogical societies, and school or college libraries that will provide you with access to small troves of vitally important information for Alabama genealogy. These are things that are usually offline and viewable by appointment or special arrangement.
Resources for Alabama Genealogy – There is an impressive range of resources for Alabama genealogy. There is also the Alabama Genealogical Society that gives all kinds of useful support for Alabama genealogy work, and they can be found at the Samford University Library , AGS Depository and Headquarters , 800 Lakeshore Drive , P.O. Box 2296 , Birmingham, AL 35229-0001
Lastly, websites such as those listed below will provide state-specific genealogical details that can work wonders for Alabama genealogy enthusiasts.:
- Alabama Genealogy Network Community
- USGenweb Project – Alabama Genealogy
- Alabama Genealogy Network
- Alabama Indexed Historical Records (familysearch.org)
- Alabama Pioneers
- Encyclopedia of Alabama
- The Alabama Family Group Sheet Project
- USGenweb – Alabama Genealogy
- Free GenForum Message Boards – Alabama
- Free Rootsweb Message Boards – Alabama
- Cyndis List Alabama Links
- Alabama Mailing List
- Alabama American History and Genealogy Project
- Alabama Migrations Project
- USGenWeb Archives Project for Alabama
Alabama Ethnic Group Research
Alabama African American History – There are many sources of information on African Americans in the state of Alabama. Slave census records can be quite useful to researchers. They were taken in 1850 and 1860, but there are some earlier census records that contain slave information as well. The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands was responsible for several efforts to improve life for post-Civil War freedmen. So, their records can also be quite useful for genealogists.
The Genealogical Society of Utah also has some useful records on file, in the form of computer disks containing the records for the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company Mobile and Huntsville branches from 1865 to 1874.
- USF Africana Heritage Project
- 19th Century Village Life
- Alabama African American Genealogy
- Black Families of Alabama’s Black Belt
- Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938
- Joseph G. Baldwin’s The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi
- Using Primary Sources in the Classroom: Slavery Unit
- American Slave Narratives: An Online Anthology
- Montgomery Slave Auction: Harper’s Weekly
- Narrative of James Williams, an American Slave: Electronic Edition
- Kate E. R. Pickard, The Kidnapped and The Ransomed: Being the Personal Recollections of Peter Still and his Wife Vina after Forty Years of Slavery
- The Alabama Supreme Court and Slaves
- AL-AfricaAmer. A mailing list for anyone with an interest in African American genealogy in Alabama. Additional information can be found on the Alabama African American Genealogy web site and the Alabama Slavery and History website. To subscribe send “subscribe” to firstname.lastname@example.org (mail mode) or email@example.com (digest mode).
- AL-AfriGeneas. A mailing list to coordinate, network and strengthen the efforts of African ancestored family researchers within Alabama. You can subscribe from http://groups.yahoo.com/group/al-afrigeneas/ or by sending the following to firstname.lastname@example.org: subscribe
- AL-FREEDMEN. A mailing list for anyone with a genealogical interest in Freedmen in Alabama from all ethnic backgrounds (e.g., African, Native American, Caucasian). To subscribe send “subscribe” to email@example.com (mail mode) or firstname.lastname@example.org (digest mode).
- Alabama African American Books
Alabama Native American History – Information about Native Americans in Alabama can be obtained from some census records. The National Archives has also compiled a collection of information relating to Alabama Native Americans. Some of those records relate to treaties (both unratified and ratified), Cherokee Indian Agency records, and Choctaw and Creek trading house rolls.
Large collections of Native American research and records have also been compiled by the Anniston Public Library and the Wallace State College Family and Regional History Program. (see Archives, Libraries, and Societies)
- Alabama Indian Tribes
- Historical Overview of the Cherokee U.S. Historical/Genealogical Records
- Historical Overview of the Choctaws U.S. Historical/Genealogical Records
- Overview of the Historical/Genealogical Records Concerning the Muskoke (Creek) Indians
- Guide to Tracing Your American Indian Ancestry
- Indian Tribes of Alabama
- The Great Indian War
- Alabama Indian Affairs Commission
- Alabama Indian Tribes
- American Indians
- Southeastern Prehistory: Paleoindian Period
- Southeastern Prehistory: Archaic Period
- Southeastern Prehistory: Woodland Period
- Southeastern Prehistory: Mississippian and Late Prehistoric Period
- Mississippian and Late Prehistoric Period
- Alabama-Coushatta Indians
- Among the Creeks
- Muscogee: A Study of the Creek Indians
- A Creek Indian Bibliography
- Creek Lanuguage Archive
- Creek Indian Researcher
- Poarch Band of Creek Indians
- The Dawes Commission and the Enrollment of the Creeks
- Laws of the Cherokee Nation
- 1835 Cherokee East of the Mississippi Census Index
- The Chickasaw and Their Cessions
- “Chokmah!” The Chickasaw Historical Research Page
- Mississippi History Now — Chickasaws: The Unconquerable People
- Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
- Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians
- Mississippi History Now — Pushmataha: Choctaw Warrior, Diplomat, and Chief
- U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs
- Lost Worlds, Alabama — Public Indian Sites in Alabama
- AL-INDIAN-TRIBES. A mailing list for anyone researching their Indian ancestors to discuss and share information regarding Indian tribes that lived in or traveled through Alabama. To subscribe send “subscribe” to email@example.com (mail mode) or firstname.lastname@example.org (digest mode).
- Alabama Native American Books (amazon.com)
Alabama’s early history is entwined with both Spanish and French cultures. It is commonly accepted that the first European explorers were from Spain. In 1519, Spanish explorer Alonso Alvarez de Pineda arrived at Mobile Bay. He was followed in 1540 by Hernando de Soto.
Although the Spanish were the first to arrive to territory, it was the French who actually settled in the area. The first French explorers, Pierre LeMoyne,Sieur d’Iberville, and Jean Baptiste LeMoyne arrived in 1699. Just three years later, in 1702, the French colony of Louisiana was founded, which included the territory of present-day Alabama. Fort Louis de la Mobile, was established as its capital and the first permanent settlement in the area.
The British and French both tried to claim the territory, each looking for support from different Native American tribes. However, at the conclusion of the French and Indian War in 1763, the Treaty of Paris forced the French to hand the area over to Britain. Britain eventually lost its claim to the region after the American Revolution, ceding the territory to the United States and Spain. For several years the claims to the land were divided between Spain and various changing U.S. state and territory lines. Finally, in 1819, Alabama became a state, as settlement increased from both Europeans and African Americans.
As new settlers moved into the area, the natives were eventually pushed out by unfulfilled promises of farm land. Between 1802 and 1838, lands held by Native Americans were opened by the federal government to white settlers. Mary Elizabeth Young wrote about this process in Redskins, Ruffleshirts and Rednecks: Indian Allotments in Alabama and Mississippi, 1830–1860 (Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961). The majority of natives were gone from the area by 1840.
This was followed by a statewide economic depression that started with a national financial panic in 1837 and lasted throughout the 1840s and 1850s. Drought and disease worsened the situation, as crops were ruined and yellow fever spread throughout the area. As the northern U.S. states became industrialized, conflict developed with southern agricultural states. The issues of slavery and states’ rights deepened the conflict, and Alabama seceded from the Union as the Confederate States of America was founded in its city of Montgomery in 1861.
Although Alabama did not see as much military conflict as other Southern States, the economic and political fall-out still devastated the area. The state was readmitted to the Union in 1868, but an economically tough period of Reconstruction in the 1860s and 1870s caused a migration of 10 to 15 percent of the white population to other states. Texas received a majority of the migrants.
Economic development began again in the 1870s with the construction of railroads. This opened up an opportunity for mining in the state, along with the development of other industry, such as steel, lumber, and textile in the next decade. The economic expansion created the cities of Anniston, Birmingham, and Cullman. This expansion continued through the First World War, as a shipbuilding industry developed along with foreign trade.
The economic boom ended with the Great Depression, as poverty swept the nation again. However, during this time the Tennessee Valley Authority made affordable electricity available with the building of power plants. This eventually led to an industrial expansion that was strengthened by World War II. Several military training sites were developed in the state, and Huntsville’s Red Stone Arsenal played an instrumental role in the space age of the 1950s and 1960s.
Alabama also played a key role during the Civil Rights Movement. Important historical events such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the 1963 demonstrations, and the Selma Freedom March of 1965 all took place in the state.
Today, the primary industries in Alabama include apparel, textiles, rubber and plastics, chemicals, paper, auto manufacturing, and primary metals. Iron, coal, and steel manufacturing continue to be strong industries, as well as health care. Agricultural products include poultry, hogs, cattle, milk, corn, wheat, soybeans, vegetables, fruit, peanuts, and cotton.