First explored for Spain by Hernando de Soto, who discovered the Mississippi River in 1540, the region was later claimed by France. In 1699, a French group under Sieur d’Iberville established the first permanent settlement near present-day Ocean Springs. Great Britain took over the area in 1763 after the French and Indian Wars, ceding it to the U.S. in 1783 after the Revolution. Spain did not relinquish its claims until 1798, and in 1810 the U.S. annexed West Florida from Spain, including what is now southern Mississippi.
Getting Started with Mississippi Genealogy and Family Trees
Best Methods for Mississippi Genealogy Research – Mississippi is definitely one of the most historic of the states, and because of its connections with Native American culture, African American culture, and the different groups that initially settled the United States, there is a large need for genealogical materials and archives. Fortunately, these are readily available for those looking for Mississippi genealogy materials of all kinds.
Essential Steps in a Search for Mississippi Genealogy Information – The mandatory first step for those searching for Mississippi genealogy materials is to get organized. This is done best when you understand the kinds of resources available. Today, you can use a computer to access many kinds of databases and digitized collections, and you can even obtain prints of documents for Mississippi genealogy projects.
When a group has not yet put their materials online, many still have websites that let you know what you can expect to find when you arrange a visit. Learning which of the resources for Mississippi genealogy are going to be available online, and which require a visit is the best initial step in getting materials for Mississippi genealogy research.
The Basic Records for Mississippi Genealogy Research – You will discover that public records are abundant, but if you don’t know how they are organized, you can waste time seeking materials for Mississippi genealogy work. Below are the best ways to view data:
- Local Records – most of your state research efforts require a visit to a county clerk’s office or website. From there you can head to local genealogical societies, small local libraries, historical societies, and school or college libraries for Mississippi genealogy information. These are items that are usually offline and viewable by appointment or special arrangement.
- Vital Records – generally this is the category for birth, marriage, divorce, and death records from county, state, and national archives. They include census records, newspaper items, military records, immigration and naturalization details, cemetery or obituary information, and passenger lists and records as well. These tend to be available as online or offline resources for Mississippi genealogy.
- State Records – from probate information to private manuscripts, surname lists, newspapers, state census information, marriage details, military or veterans information, land records, maps, estate information, genealogical folders, death records, deeds, birth certificates, cemetery information and more; these are available as online and offline resources for Mississippi genealogy.
Targeted Research for Mississippi Genealogy Projects – Now that you understand the types of resources that will be used in your work, you can head to the links below, as these can give you the targeted materials needed for Mississippi genealogy projects of all kinds:
- Vital Records, State Department of Health, P.O. Box 1700, Jackson, MS 39215-1700; Website: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w/mississippi.htm .
This is where anyone can order birth, death, marriage and divorce records via a written request or even through an online form.
Additional state and local records can be found at the:
- Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
The Archives and Records Services Division is located in the Winter Building at North and Amite Streets in downtown Jackson. The division oversees the state archives and the public reading rooms, where documents, photographs, and other items from the collection are made available.
- The Historic Preservation Division is located in the Charlotte Capers Archives and History Building, 100 South State St., Jackson; Website: http://mdah.state.ms.us/ .
This department is a huge resource for those seeking for Mississippi genealogy and has an impressive website in addition to the resources available at the different locations.
Also, consider using the Mississippi Genealogy page at: http://www.mississippigenealogy.com/.
Also, these three websites give researchers a tremendous amount of state-specific details for those in search for Mississippi genealogy data.
- RAOGK Volunteers for Mississippi (raogk.org)
- Mississippi Genealogy Community (plus.google.com)
- Mississippi State Genealogy Network (facebook.com)
- Encyclopedia of Mississippi (olemiss.edu)
- The Mississippi Family Group Sheet Project (fgs-project.com)
- USGenweb – Mississippi Genealogy (msgw.org)
- Free GenForum Message Boards – Mississippi (genforum.genealogy.com)
- Free Rootsweb Message Boards – Mississippi (boards.ancestry.com)
- Cyndis List Mississippi Links (cyndislist.com)
- Mississippi Mailing List (rootsweb.ancestry.com)
- Mississippi American History and Genealogy Project (usgennet.org)
- Mississippi Migrations Project (rootsweb.ancestry.com)
- Mississippi (wikipedia.org)
- Mississippi Genealogy Look Ups (geneasearch.com)
- USGenWeb Archives Project for Mississippi (usgwarchives.net)
Mississippi Ethnic Group Research
There are many resources for African American research in Mississippi. Researchers should check specialized collections, as well as the state archives, which has a large sound and photograph collection. The National Archives also holds the Freedman’s Bureau Collection, which includes labor contracts and other information. Copies of those records are located at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The Freedman’s Bureau was responsible for dealing with abandoned property, freedmen, and refugees, among other things. All labor contracts are indexed according to the name of the plantation and the planter, as well as the name of the freedman and the county where the plantation was located. However, since not all freedmen had labor contracts, only around 36,000 names are listed, while there were actually 300,000 slaves freed at the time.
Property that was owned by Confederates and later abandoned was also listed with the Freedman’s Bureau. If the property was restored through a presidential pardon or other means, that information is also listed there.
Federal censuses often included enumerations of slaves. That information can be useful to researchers. Slave schedules were recorded in 1850 and 1860. Later censuses included the names and races of each member of a given household. Probate, marriage, tax, and other county records may also have some information about African Americans. Names and ages of slaves may even be listed in certain records. Researchers may also find information on African Americans in cemetery and church records, as well as plantation journals and school census records. Newspapers can also hold valuable African American information.
A collection called the “Slave Impressments-Confederacy” also exists. It covers 1864 to 1865 and can be found at the National Archives. It lists slave owners, physical descriptions of slaves, slave values, and dates. The WPA has also created an ex-slave narrative project. The WPA interviewed freedmen across several states. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History holds copies of those interviews. The department’s manuscript collection also contains oral histories that the researchers may find useful. The state archives also holds the Alfred Stone Papers. That collection contains many published records of African Americans.
News footage from 1954 to 1971 can be found in the Newsfilm Collection. That collection includes documentation of Mississippi’s Civil Rights Movement. It chronicles the Capitol Street Boycott, as well as the Freedom Riders, demonstrations, lunch counter sit-ins, and the University of Mississippi enrollment of James Meredith, desegregating the schools. A large collection of materials relating to the Civil Rights Movement can be found near Jackson at the Coleman Library at Tougaloo College. Those records include some from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
The University of Mississippi Blues Archives holds a large collection of blues materials. There are recordings and biographies of musicians, as well as photographs, interviews, and posters.
- Mississippi African American Books (amazon.com)
- The Negro in Mississippi, 1865–1890 (amazon.com)
- African Americans: A Mississippi Sourcebook (amazon.com)
- The Black Press in Mississippi, 1865–1985: A Directory (amazon.com) With an intended historical purpose, this work directly renders a listing of newspapers, magazines, and newsletters printed by African Americans in Mississippi from 1865 to 1985.
Native American records for Mississippi are available, but names were not listed in records from before the 1800s. The “Armstrong Roll of 1831″ and other census records contain Native American information. The Bureau of Indian Affairs also keeps several important records. Copies of some of those records can be found at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The Choctaw Reservation also has some genealogical records on file. Researchers should contact Tribal Historian, Mississippi Band of the Choctaw.
Treaties can also provide genealogical information. A multi-reel collection of microfilm called the Papers of Panton, Leslie, and Company mention Native American matters from 1738 to 1853. It can be found at the archives.
- Mississippi Native American Books (amazon.com)
- Southeastern Indians, 185-96 For a good explanation of the structure of kinship (amazon.com)
- Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, 1779–1803, vol. 2 (amazon.com)
- Choctaw Mixed Bloods and the Advent of Renewal – A valuable source with listings of Choctaw names is found in the master’s thesis. A copy of the printed form or microfilm may be found at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
- The Choctaw: A Critical Bibliography (amazon.com)
- The Jena Choctaw: A Case Study in the Documentation of Indian Tribal Identity – National Genealogical Society Quarterly 75 (September 1987): 180-93
- The Removal of the Choctaw Indians (amazon.com)
Colonial Americans also recorded many documents relating to Native Americans. Some of those documents can be found at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in the collection called Provincial Records. Most of those records were general references about how the colonists related to the Native Americans.
The Provincial Records are organized according to who ruled Mississippi at the time that the records were created. For example, the French Provincial Records cover 1678 to 1763. They can be found in Paris, France, at the Archives du Ministers du Colonies, Series C13a. The Fifth Annual Report of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, 1905-06, 61-151 describes those documents. Mississippi Provincial Archives French Dominion, 1729-1748, 5 vols contains a translation of those records.
The English Provincial Records cover 1763 to 1783. They can be found in London at the British Public Records Office.
Spanish Provincial Records can be found in Spain in the cities of Madrid, Simancas, and Seville. However, microfilmed copies and transcripts of all colonial records are in a collection called Provincial Records at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.