In the middle of the 1500s several European explorers came to the area that is now Arkansas. One of them was an explorer named Hernando de Soto from Spain. However, the first permanent settlement in the area, called Arkansas Post, was not established until 1686. It was founded by Henri de Tonti of France. The United States gained control of the area as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.From 1812 until 1819 Arkansas was part of Missouri Territory. Then it became its own territory, largely as a result as a large group of settlers coming to the area. Soon, the cotton industry spread across the region. In 1861 Arkansas joined the Confederate side of the Civil War. However, Union troops took over the northern portion of the state in 1863.
An Introduction to Resources for Arkansas Genealogy
The 25th state is Arkansas, and though it is not one of the oldest states in the country it does have an incredibly diverse history and background. Long before it was a part of America, it was inhabited by natives who still play a role in modern Arkansas, there is a huge amount of history connected to the Civil War, and to western expansion as well. This means that anyone looking for Arkansas genealogy will have a huge amount of data to use in their work – apart from the traditional census and vital records.
Some Useful Information for Arkansas Genealogy – Wherever you might live, and no matter how easily you can travel, you can still do a huge amount of research for Arkansas genealogy. This is due to the fact that there are resources available in both the online and “offline” formats. In the modern era we know that many things, once only archived in private locations, have been digitized and put on the Internet, but some still have yet to be handled in this way. This means that a mandatory first step in research for Arkansas genealogy is to find out which records you can obtain. Some Useful Research tips are:
- February of 1914 is when deaths and births started to be recorded on a statewide level.
- 1917 is when statewide recording of marriages took place, but most counties recorded marriages from when the counties were formed.
- There is an extant collection of documents relating to early Europeans settling in Arkansas.
- In 1823, 1825, and 1827 Arkansas Territory sheriffs took censuses of citizens, but only the Arkansas County schedule from 1823 still exists.
- In 1803 Arkansas District land transactions began. However, researchers should note that that area was part of Louisiana Territory until 1812 and then became part of Missouri Territory. More land was distributed in 1819, when it finally became Arkansas Territory.
- A lottery system was used to distribute War of 1812 bounty land.
- The county clerk generally maintains Arkansas probate records, which are mainly created by the chancery court.
- The chancery, county, and circuit courts have countywide jurisdiction, along with the justice of the peace.
- Each county courthouse holds tax records, and many tax books are also available at the Arkansas History Commission.
- The Arkansas History Commission holds some Arkansas church records.
- Many Arkansas cemetery records have been cataloged by historical and genealogical societies all over the state.
- The Arkansas History Commission is home to the best collection on military records for servicemen from Arkansas.
- The Arkansas Gazette and Arkansas Advocate were two of the area’s earliest and most important newspapers.
- Most African Americans came to Arkansas after it gained its statehood. They traveled with white families from Mississippi, Tennessee, and a few other areas.
To do so, it is required that you become familiar with the tactics that all researchers for Arkansas genealogy will use. They include accessing online and offline:
- State Records – these offer probate information including birth certificates, deeds, death records, estate information, marriage details, military or veterans information, land records, state census information, surname lists, genealogical folders, maps, private manuscripts, newspapers, cemetery information, and more. These are available as online and offline resources for Arkansas genealogy.
- Local Records – you will start with the county clerk’s office or website, and then use local genealogical societies, historical societies, small local libraries, and school or college libraries to provide you with important information for Arkansas genealogy. These are things that are usually offline and viewable by appointment or special arrangement.
- Vital Records – birth, marriage, divorce and death records are available from county, state, and national archives. These are locations in which you will 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 Arkansas genealogy. See Also How to Order Arkansas Birth , Marriage, Divorce and Death Records
Your Tools for Arkansas Genealogy – The best resources available for Arkansas genealogy projects are also the largest. For example, the following records for Arkansas genealogy can be found in person or online at:
- Vital Records H-44, 4815 West Markham, Little Rock, AR 72205; Website: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w/arkansas.htm.
This is the location through which you can order birth, death, marriage and divorce records via a written request.
Additional state and local records can be found at the following:
- Arkansas History Commission, One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, Arkansas 72201; 501.682.6900; Website: http://www.ark-ives.com/
The state government does not underwrite a genealogical group, but there is the:
- Arkansas Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 26374, Little Rock, AR 72221-6374; Website: http://www.agsgenealogy.org/
The three websites below will also freely provide targeted details that give a huge amount of valuable information to those in search of facts for Arkansas genealogy projects.
- Arkansas Genealogy Network (facebook.com)
- Encyclopedia of Arkansas (encyclopediaofarkansas.net) – free, online resource on Arkansas history, culture, geography, and natural environment.
- Arkansas Research, Inc (arkansasresearch.com)
- The Arkansas Family Group Sheet Project (fgs-project.com)
- Arkansas Indexed Historical Records (familysearch.org)
- USGenweb – Arkansas Genealogy (argenweb.net)
- Free GenForum Message Boards – Arkansas (genforum.genealogy.com)
- Free Rootsweb Message Boards – Arkansas (boards.ancestry.com)
- Cyndis List Arkansas Links (cyndislist.com)
- Arkansas Mailing List (rootsweb.ancestry.com)
- Arkansas American History and Genealogy Project (usgennet.org)
- Arkansas Migrations Project (freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com)
- Arkansas (wikipedia.org)
- Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) – Arkansas (raogk.org)
- Arkansas Genealogy Look Ups (geneasearch.com)
- USGenWeb Archives Project for Arkansas (usgwarchives.net)
- Background Sources for Arkansas (ancestry.com) from Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Arkansas Ethnic Groups
There is a large collection of Native American records for Arkansas on file at the Arkansas History Commission. Those records include: Agency Records, Correspondence, Census of Creek Indians, 1832, Census of Cherokees East of the Mississippi, 1835 and Index, Cherokee Census, 1890, Old Settler Cherokee Census Roll, 1895, Index to Payment Roll, Old Settler Cherokees, 1896, Compilation of Choctaw Nation Records, 1896, Choctaw Nation Census Index for 1896, Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw Tribes, and the Creek and Seminole tribes in Indian Territory, 1906, Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes (in Oklahoma), 1896-1914, U.S. Census Indian Territory, 1900
The Arkansas History Commission has also placed some of that information on its website.
Prior tot he Louisiana Purchase there were a few African American slaves in Arkansas. However, most came to the area with families from Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi after Arkansas became a state. They mainly worked on plantations in the southeastern part of Arkansas, known as the “Delta Region.” The Arkansas History Commission holds copies of slave enumerations that were part of federal census records. The National Archives also has Freedman’s Bureau records on file.
A “Selected Arkansas Black Bibliography” is available online, along with other information, through the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. A list of African American newspapers from 1869 to present is also available, along with a list of Arkansas African American schools. The website of the Arkansas History Commission also lists African American newspapers.
Other information on African Americans in Arkansas can be found online. That information includes the marriage records from the Arkansas Freedman’s Bureau.
The state of Arkansas also has an Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society chapter. The Arkansas Department of Education and the Arkansas Black History Advisory Committee to supply the Arkansas History Commission with records relating to African Americans in Arkansas. They also create historical educational material for use in schools across the state. The committee collects materials that may include: Letters, Diaries, Journals, Business Records, Photographs, Church and Lodge Records, Personal Memoirs