Alabama County records can vary widely from county to county both in quality and also quantity. Some happen to have been very carefully preserved while some have been much misused and uncared for. A number of Alabama records have purely vanished. For genealogists doing research in Alabama there is no valuable replace for an on-site research of county courthouse records. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia.
The State of Alabama contains 67 counties. Alabama Counties were first created under the Mississippi Territory, and after that the Alabama Territory. Washington County was the first county created on June 4, 1800. The last county to be formed was Houston County on February 9, 1903. Jefferson County has the largest population (658,466), and Greene County (9,045) has the lowest, according to the 2010 Census.
Alabama Counties – The FHL and the Alabama Department of Archives and History each have microfilmed copies of county records on file. Both the quantity of records and the quality of records can be quite different from one county to the next. Some are fairly complete, and others are missing large chunks of information. Some have also disappeared entirely. The Samford University Library, University of Alabama Library and Alabama Department of Archives and History collections contain a few of those records.
There are local county archives that contain useful information in the following counties: Blount, Cullman, Lawrence, Madison, Morgan, St. Clair.
Many records for Alabama counties have also been lost in fires. Ten counties were hit particularly hard by fire damage. Although, some records still exist.
The county seat circuit court holds county court records. However, not all county court records have been surveyed. Researchers should also note that probate and land records vary greatly from one county to the next. Scattered records are now preserved by the Alabama Department of Archives and History, the University of Alabama Library, and the Samford University Library. See also a list of links to county and county seat government run websites.
List of Alabama Extinct Counties
Alabama has counties that no longer are in existence. They were organized by the state, provincial, or territorial government. A lot of these counties were established and disbanded within the 19th century; county borders have modified very little since 1900 in the vast most of states. These counties need to be investigated when you are conducting genealogy and family history research. Pay attention where the courthouse records went to if the county was eliminated or joined with some other county. Those counties are:
Benton County: (Formed 1832 from former Creek Indian territory and named for Colonel Thomas Hart Benton. Renamed Calhoun County in 1858, honor of John C. Calhoun of South Carolina)
Jones County, Alabama: (Formed 1867, renamed Sanford County in 1868, Renamed Lamar County in 1877)
Hancock County: (Formed 1850, renamed Winston County in 1858)
Sanford County: (Formed in 1867 as Jones County, renamed Sanford County in 1868, renamed Lamar County in 1877)
Cahawba County: (Renamed Bibb County in 1820)
Baine County (renamed Etowah County in 1868)
Baker County (renamed Chilton County in 1874)
List of Iowa Counties with Burned Courthouses
The harm to Alabama courthouses drastically has a bearing on genealogists in just about every way. Not only are these historic structures torn from our lifetimes, so are the documents they housed: marriage, wills, probate, land records, among others. Once destroyed they are destroyed forever. Even though they have already been put on mircofilm, computers and film burn up too. The most heartbreaking side of this is the reason why virtually all of our courthouses are destroyed from arsonist. However, not all records were damaged or lost. Many Alabama counties have endured a loss of records due to courthouse fires, floods, and theft.