Florida Courthouse records change extensively from county to county in both level of quality and volume. You will find different kinds of court records that are most likely to possess information related for your genealogical research below.
Although the original records still exist, they are fragile. Also, most of them are written in Spanish. A 5-volume transcript of those records, called Spanish Land Grants in Florida, was published by the Works Project Administration (WPA). It includes Private Land claims, as well as British Grants and Spanish Grants. Many libraries have copies of the collection on file, as does the Florida State Archives.
On August 14, 1842, the Second Seminole War came to an end. At that time, the federal government approved the Armed Occupation Act. That act granted land to men who were willing to take up arms to defend it against Indians. The act was first proposed by a U.S. Senator named Thomas Hart. Each man could apply for 160 acres of unsettled East Florida land. However, they had to agree to cultivate and live on that land for a period of at least 5 years.
Permits to settle the land were issued. They list the name of the applicant, when the applicant moved to Florida, a description of the land, and the marital status of the applicant. Many scanned images of the original permits can be viewed on the website of the Division of State Lands.
After 5 years had passed, the final application was filled out. Those final applications can be found at the National Archives in the donation files. The final approval files may include:
- Proof of Residency
- Land and Dwelling Descriptions
- Family Members
- Affidavits by Neighbors and friends
- Proof of Marriage
- Other Documents
the rectangular survey system is used in Florida. Original plats and field notes, as well as grant records and tract books, have been transferred to the state. Millions of land transaction records have been placed online by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Division of State Lands, Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund Land Document System. Their search engine can help researchers to look up specific land documents according to county, township, range, section, and other descriptive information.
Land entry case files from before July of 1908 have been compiled as part of “The Seven States Index.” those records list the land office, name of entryman, and file or certificate entry, as well as the type of entry. The National Archives publication Preliminary Inventory of the Land-Entry Papers of the General Land Office publication contains more information on records from 1825 onward.
The Florida State Archives holds 1881 to 1905 homestead applications. Those applications include:
- Applicant Name
- Applicant Residence
- Land Description
- Number of Acres
A surname index for those records is also available. That collection includes tax receipts and other related records as well. Some of those records are State Land Office correspondences from 1858 to 1913 and legal records. See Also Guide to U.S. Land Records Research
- BLM Land Records (glorecords.blm.gov)
- Florida Land Records (search.ancestry.com)
- Documents relating to the commercial policy of Spain in the Floridas : with incidental reference to Louisiana (search.ancestry.com)
- Florida Land: Records of the Tallahassee and Newnansville General Land Office[s], 1825–1892 by Alvie Davidson – lists lands transferred from the federal government by grant and sale.
- Florida Land Record Books (amazon.com)
the clerk of the courts in each county now holds probate records, which used to be kept in the probate courts. Most counties will provide those records for easy research. In the 1970s, the FHL also microfilmed several probate records. To this day, original records and new indexes are being listed online all the time. See Also Guide to U.S. Probate Records Research
- Florida Probate Record Books (amazon.com)
The microfilmed collection of tax rolls from 1829 to 1898, which can be found at the Florida State Archives and certain libraries across the state, contains a lot of useful research information. Researchers should note that the information contained in that collection is incomplete and some years offer more information than others.
On July 1, 1862, the Internal revenue Act was passed. It was meant to “support the Government and to pay Interest on the Public Debt” (12 Stat. 432). Those assessment lists for the years of 1865 and 1866 can be found on microfilm at the National Archives. During that time, almost all items became taxable items. Therefore, those lists can offer valuable information about an ancestor’s net worth and lifestyle.
Tax assessment lists and tax rolls, poll tax records (on free white males aged twenty-one and up) are helpful, as are listings of local lawyers, physicians, and dentists. Personal property tax records have been published for a few counties. Tax lists, along with other sources, are being used to reconstruct the lost 1890 federal population census. See Also Guide to U.S. Tax Records Research
- Florida Tax Record Books (amazon.com)
The WPA collection called Naturalization records in Florida provides a dated list of naturalization records. Petitions for Naturalization Records of U.S. District Courts in the Southeast, 1790-1958 can be found at the National Archives-Southeast Region, along with the following records:
- U.S. District Court, Florida Southern District. 1847-1941. Key West, Monroe County (Also Available at FHL)
- U.S. District Court, Florida Middle District, 1913-32. Miami, Dade County (Also Available at FHL)
- U.S. District Court, Florida Southern District, 1909-35. Tampa, Hillsborough County (Also Available at FHL)
- U.S. District Court, Florida Northern District, Pensacola, Escambia County and Tallahassee, Leon County.
Florida’s U.S. district courts and county courts hold records of naturalizations. Some have been microfilmed, but others have not. Researchers should check the courthouse in question to see what records are available. Records for the following 10 counties can be found at the Florida State Archives: Brevard, Dade, DeSoto, Franklin, Hillsborough, Manatee, Monroe, Orange, Pasco and Volusia. See Also Guide to U.S. Immigration Records Research
- Florida Immigration Project (usgwarchives.net)
- Florida Passenger Lists, 1898-1951 (search.ancestry.com)
- Florida, Petitions for Naturalization, 1913-1991 (search.ancestry.com)
- Florida, Key West Passenger Lists, 1898-1920 (familysearch.org)
- Florida, Tampa, Passenger Lists, 1898-1945 (familysearch.org)
- Index to Alien Arrivals by Airplane at Miami, Florida, 1930-1942 (search.ancestry.com)
- Research In Immigration & Naturalization Records (ancestry.com)
- Florida Immigration Record Books (amazon.com)
Florida County & City Government Links
Florida contains 67 counties. Each county is the local level of government within its borders. The links in the table below link to county and city government offices and is limited to government-maintained websites. The Clerk of the Circuit Court is also the County Clerk. His office is located in the County Courthouse. The office of the Clerk is an officer of the court of justice whose responsibilities are mandated by the Constitution as well as state and local laws. The clerk of courts in each county is custodian of all records of all predecessor courts, whether justice of the peace, city, county, probate, civil, or criminal. If you know of a Florida county that has an official government web site but is not linked, or if the link is in error, please contact us so we may edit our database. Florida State Government is located in Tallahassee.