Throughout its early history, Florida was controlled at various times by Spain, England, and France. Those periods of possession are: 1513, Discovery;
1565-1763, First Spanish Colonial Period; 1763-83, British Colonial Period; 1784-1821, Second Spanish Period; 1821-45, U.S. Territorial Period; 1845, Became the 27th U.S. State.

How to Search for Florida Genealogy Data

Now known mostly as a place where vacationers head to enjoy the pleasant weather and wonderful attractions, the state of Florida is also incredibly historic. There are many historical organizations, museums, and groups that can be of tremendous use to those looking for Florida genealogy material.

Beginning the Search for Florida Genealogy Data – A modern researcher just beginning their search for Florida genealogy data will be able to make a lot of progress before they even leave their home office. This is because the state of Florida has already digitized a huge amount of the information of specific interest to those hunting around for Florida genealogy information. It is important to remember, however, that although there is already a large amount of material online, there is also going to be the need to make a few trips to physical locations as well.

This means that anyone doing research for Florida genealogy projects will have to familiarize themselves with the online tools that can save them from making any unnecessary trips. For instance, they might find that in a search for Florida genealogy data, they can request reprints and documents all through the Internet.

A Reliable Approach for Florida Genealogy – Some of the most comprehensive sets of data for Florida genealogy researchers will be the public records listed below:

  • Vital Records – these are comprised of the birth, marriage, divorce and death records from county, state, and national archives, and can also contain cemetery or obituary information, newspaper items, military records, census records, immigration and naturalization details, passenger lists and records as well. These are available as online and offline resources for Florida genealogy.
  • State Records – from probate information to birth certificates, cemetery information, death records, deeds, estate information, genealogical folders, land records, maps, marriage details, military or veterans information, newspapers, private manuscripts, state census information, surname lists and more. These are available as online and offline resources for Florida genealogy.
  • Local Records – those looking for Florida genealogy will start in a county clerk’s office or website, and then head to the local genealogical societies, small local libraries, historical societies, and school or college libraries for Florida genealogy data. These are things that are usually offline and viewable by appointment or special arrangement.

Your Best Tools for Florida Genealogy – Good researchers quickly discover strong resources for Florida genealogy work, and below are some of the best for Florida genealogy that we have found to be of use:

  • Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, P.O. Box 210, 1217 Pearl Street (Zip 32202), Jacksonville, FL 32231-0042; Website: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w/florida.htm .
    This is where you can order birth, death, marriage and divorce records via a written request or even online.

Additional state and local records can be found at the:

  • State Archives of Florida, R.A. Gray Building , 500 South Bronough Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250; Website: http://dlis.dos.state.fl.us/index_researchers.cfm .
    This is a site that provides access to a large number of records that range from Civil War data, Spanish Land Grants, war service records, and much more.

Also, consider using the Florida Department of State Genealogy Resources website at: http://dlis.dos.state.fl.us/library/Bibliographies/genealogy.cfm.

Finally, these websites provide a tremendous amount of state-specific details to those in search of facts for Florida genealogy projects.


Florida Ethnic Group Research

Florida Hispanic Research – Many Floridians who have Cuban or Spanish ancestry will benefit from the files in the David Masnata Y De Quesada Collection at the University of Miami, Otto G. Richter Library, Archives & Special Collection Department (see Archives, Libraries, and Societies). Masnata became a Cuban exile and moved to New York in 1961. When he left Cuba, he left behind records covering many years of researching family and local history. However, he compiled a new collection of documents on Cuban and Spanish families. A complete description of this collection can be found at <www.library.miami.edu/archives/papers/MASNATA.html>.

Other helpful sources, especially for tracing Spanish or Cuban ancestry:

  • Cuban Genealogy Club of Miami, FL, Inc., 5521 SW 163 Ave., Southwest Ranches, FL 33331 <www.cgcmiami.org/cuba>
  • Cuban Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 2650, Salt Lake City, UT 84110 <www.rootsweb.com/~utcubangs>
  • Los Floridanos Society, Inc., P.O. Box 4043, St. Augustine, FL 32085 <www.losfloridanos.org>. Los Floridanos Society represents descendants of the early Spanish settlers of St. Augustine, Florida, who arrived during the “First Spanish Period, 1565–1763.” Currently, the society represents the Solana and Sanchez families.
  • Cuban Heritage Collection, Otto G. Richter Library, University of Miami, Florida (see Archives, Libraries, and Societies). Cuba GenWeb <www.cubagen.org> includes church records on the website.

Other resources include:

  • Caribbean Historical & Genealogical Journal. Published four times a year by TCI Genealogical Resources, P.O. Box 15839, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93406.
  • Carr, Peter E. Genealogical resources of Hispanic Central & South America. San Luis Obispo, Calif.: TCI Genealogical Resources, 1996.
  • Carr, Peter E. Guide to Cuban Genealogical Research—Records and Sources. Chicago: Adams Press, 1991.
  • Feldman, Lawrence H. Anglo-Americans in Spanish Archives: Lists of Anglo-American Settlers in the Spanish Colonies of America: A Finding Aid. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1991.
  • Platt, Lyman. D. Cuba General Research Guide. Salt Lake City: Institute of Genealogy and History for Latin-America, 1991.

Other African American Research  – The Black Experience: A Guide to Afro-American Resources is a compilation by the Florida State Archives. It is available at the archives, as well as online. It contains many records of African American life in Florida. The collection lists record groups, coverage dates, source descriptions, and coverage dates for various African American resources.

The Florida State Archives also hols several other African American resources. Some of them include:

  • Slave Books
  • African American Church Membership Lists
  • The Governors’ Administrative Correspondence
  • Black Teacher Association Papers
  • The Papers of Judge Joseph Lee, a Prominent African American Republican of Duval County
  • African American Marriage Records
  • Deeds Documenting African American Ownership of Land
  • Probate Files Containing Wills
  • Appraisement Inventories
  • Slave Lists

Indexes of “Colored” or “Negro” marriages are available for the counties of Gulf, Gadsden, and Leon only. Researchers should also check court-order books, mortgages, chancery case files, guardianships and similar records for information.

Some African American midwife applications for the Florida Midwifery Program are contained in Midwifery Program Files, 1924-75, which is a collection held at the Florida State Archives.

1868 voter registration rolls offer some information on African Americans. That information includes names, and naturalization statuses.

Some research centers available for African-American research are:

  • Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Tallahassee, FL 32307 <www.famu.edu/acad/coleman/index.html> the state’s “historically black university,” maintains an African American Collection, including a microform reproduction of the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature and History, an important resource for the study of African American people.
  • The African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, 2650 Sistrunk Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33311 <www.broward.org/aarlcc.htm> contains more than 75,000 books, documents, artifacts, and related materials that focus on the experiences of people of African descent. Local history is a cornerstone of the available resources.
  • The Black Archives Collection, History and Research Foundation of South Florida, Inc., The Joseph Caleb Community Center, 5400 NW 22nd Ave., Miami, FL 33142 constitutes another resource for researchers.

There are currently two African-American societies in Florida: Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society-Central Florida Chapter and South Jacksonville African American Historical & Genealogical Society.

  • Florida African American Books (amazon.com)
  • Florida African-American Roots
  • “Florida’s Black Public Officials, 1867–1924, 1998 by Brown, Carter, Jr.
  • “African Americans in Florida”, 1993 by Jones, Maxine D. and Kevin M. McCarthy.
  • “Slavery in Florida: Territorial Days to Emancipation”, 2000 by Rivers, Larry E.
  • “Slavery and Plantation Growth in Antebellum Florida, 1821–1860″, 1973 by Smith, Julia Floyd.
  • “Seminole of Florida: Indian Census 1930–1940, with Birth and Death Records 1930–1938″, 1997 by Bowen, Jeff.
  • Kersey, Harry A. The Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes: A Critical Bibliography. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.
  • Lantz, Raymond C. Seminole Indians of Florida, 1850–1874. Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1994.
  • ______. Seminole Indians of Florida, 1875–1879. Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1995.

Other Native American Research – There are three tribes of modern “Florida Indians.” they are the Creek, Seminole, and Miccosukee tribes. They banded together in the 1800s when they were moved to Oklahoma by the thousands, eventually creating one of the “Five Civilized Tribes.” many of them live on reservations in Florida now, some of which are located in the Everglades. The index to Final Rolls of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory: Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, Seminole is the best place to start research on Native Americans in Florida.

The Miccosukee reservation on the Tamiami Trail outside of Miami is a good source of information. So are the following Seminole libraries:

  • Billy Osceola Memorial Library
  • Dorothy Scott Osceola Memorial Library, (Broward County)
  • Willie Frank Library (Hendry County)
  • Tampa Reservation Library
  • Immokalee Reservation Library

There are over 3,000 Seminoles living in Florida today. They have a website, which details information about their 6 reservations. Those reservations are located at Big Cypress, Brighton, Fort Pierce, Hollywood, Immokalee and Tampa

  • ” Tracing Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes: Southeastern Indians Prior to Removal”., 2002 by Lennon, Donna Rachal.
  • “So You Think There’s a Seminole in Your Family Tree?”, 1997 by Wickman, Patricia R., Ph.D.
  • Florida Native American Books (amazon.com)

Other Ethnic Groups – Florida is a melting pot of people from different backgrounds, beyond the historical presence of Native Americans and African Americans. Hispanic migration did not occur until the last half of the twentieth century, except for the Spanish colonial period. Among the earliest colonies still traceable are the Minorcans, who came from the Mediterranean, Greek, Spanish, and Italian isles with Dr. Andrew Turnbull to settle his ill-fated New Smyrna plantation on the coast south of St. Augustine in 1768. See: Griffin, Patricia C. Mullet on the Beach: The Minorcans of Florida, 1768–1788. St. Augustine, Fla.: St. Augustine Historical Society, 1990.

Rasico, Philip D. The Minorcans of Florida: Their History, Language, and Culture. New Smyrna Beach, Fla.: Luthers, 1990. Quinn, Jane. Minorcans in Florida: Their History and Heritage. St. Augustine, Fla.: Mission Press, 1975.

Immigration to southern Florida in the 1920s by Jewish U.S. northeasterners of European heritage boosted today’s Jewish population. As a result, there are many Jewish genealogical societies and Holocaust Museums located in Florida, including Jacksonville, Broward County, Greater Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach, Southwest Florida, Tallahassee, and Tampa Bay. Most can be located online through standard search engines.