Researching Your Georgia Ancestors

A well versed genealogist told me that when you lose an ancestor in south central Virginia in the 1830’s look in Georgia. Losing an ancestor took me from the basement of the Halifax County, Virginia court house to the genealogy records of Georgia.  

Look in Georgia?

The discovery of Georgia gold in 1829 led to the Georgia Gold Rush and an influx of people seeking their fortunes. Almost every surname in Halifax County, Virginia in the 1830’s can be found in Georgia. As it turns out, I was following the ancestor who was following the gold. Without learning the history of the time and the area, looking for my ancestors in Georgia would not have occurred to me. (Tip: Know the historical and economic events that would have impacted your ancestors.)

Now I needed to learn about the Georgia Genealogy resources.

Georgia
Source: Library of Congress


 

Georgia Genealogy Resources

Georgia is made up of 159 counties.  Genealogical records for each county vary as is often found in the Southern states.  Fires, floods and natural disasters account for many of the record losses. Marriage and probate records were recorded by the clerk of the Ordinary Court. Land records were recorded by the Clerk of the Superior Court.  The Superior Court handled most civil cases as well. From 1805-1833, Georgia had a unique land lottery system to distribute lands that had been taken from the Cherokee and Creek Indians.  

Online Resources for Your Georgia Genealogy Research

Georgia Farmer
Georgia Farmer  (Source: Library of Congress)

 

 

African American Genealogy Resources

Are you researching African American ancestors in Georgia?  These resources may be of help.

Genealogical Societies of Georgia

Genealogical societies at the state, regional and local levels provide a variety of helpful resources.

Don't forget to the check out the Legacy QuickGuide: Georgia Genealogy by Stephanie Pitcher Fishman (PDF Edition)

Share your favorite Georgia genealogy resources in the comments below!

[Unfortunately, that gold seeking ancestor did not strike it rich and no family fortune in gold was discovered!]

 

Lisa Lisson is a genealogist, blogger and Etsy-prenuer who writes about her never-ending pursuit of ancestors, the “how” of genealogy research and the importance of sharing genealogy research with our families. Specializing in North Carolina and southern Virginia research, she also provides genealogical research services to clients. In researching her own family history, Lisa discovered a passion for oral history and its role in genealogy research. You can find Lisa online at Lisa Lisson.com.

 

 

 


Starting Your Tennessee Genealogy Research

If you research North Carolina or Virginia ancestors, you will not find it unusual to track your ancestors to Tennessee.  Do you know the best resources and sites to research your Tennessee ancestors?

Starting Your Tennessee Genealogy Research
Original Photo Source: Library of Congress

 

First Things First

Just as you would with any other new location you are researching, learn about the county and state where your ancestors lived. Research the county and state lines and any boundary changes that may have occurred during the pertinent time period. Refer to this interactive map of Tennessee’s evolving county borders.

TN Map 1826 LOC.gov
Source: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

 

Tennessee State Library and Archives

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a natural place to start your Tennessee genealogy research. You will find a variety of resource guides and online digital collections. Examples include Searching for Your Ancestors at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, Early NC/Tennessee Land Grants, and African American Genealogical Resources.  Be sure and check the Family Bible project and the historic Tennessee map collection, too.  Take time to explore the Tennessee State Library and Archive’s website as you begin researching your Tennessee ancestors.

Another great resource for Tennessee residents is the genealogy tab at the  Tennessee Electronic Library.  You will need to provide Tennessee zip code and phone number to gain access.

Tennessee Records in the State Archives of North Carolina

Initially, part of today’s Tennessee’s eastern counties were part of North Carolina.  In 1784, North Carolina ceded part of their western lands to the federal government, but set aside land for land grants to Revolutionary War veterans. Land grants for these counties can be found in the State Archives of North Carolina. 

Once Tennessee became the 16th state, the county records for those previously North Carolina counties stayed with the county seats. A few early records for these counties were retained in North Carolina.  Refer to the Records relating to Tennessee in the North Carolina State Archives document for a listing of these records.

For a more detailed explanation of the formation of modern day Tennessee including the State of Franklin, go to the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Umbrella Rock - Lookout Mountain
Lookout Mountain, TN Source: Library of Congress

 

Tennessee Genealogy Databases around the Web

Sometimes in genealogy research, the researcher needs to think outside the box. In other words, get creative in the search for records and resources to further your research and break down those brick walls.   Examples of good resources for the Tennessee genealogist include:

This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but a starting point for the researcher with Tennessee ancestors.

You can also start your Tennessee research by watching these webinars by J. Mark Lowe in the Legacy Family Tree Webinars library:


What are YOUR  favorite Tennessee genealogy resources? Tell us in the comments!

Lisa Lisson is a genealogist, blogger and Etsy-prenuer who writes about her never-ending pursuit of ancestors, the “how” of genealogy research and the importance of sharing genealogy research with our families. Specializing in North Carolina and southern Virginia research, she also provides genealogical research services to clients. In researching her own family history, Lisa discovered a passion for oral history and its role in genealogy research. You can find Lisa online at Lisa Lisson.com.

 

 

 


Did My Ancestor's Farm Prosper or Fail?

Most genealogy researchers are familiar with the population schedules of 1790-1940 United States Federal censuses. Many are not as familiar with non-population schedules such as the Agricultural schedule, the Mortality schedule or the Industry/Manufacturers schedules. These schedules are often underutilized, but can provide the researcher with valuable information about your ancestors.

Many of your ancestors were farmers and as such would have been recorded in the agricultural census records. The agricultural schedule was kept from 1850-1910. Unfortunately, not all of these schedules survived.  The 1890 schedule was lost due to the effects of the fire that destroyed the 1890 population census. The agricultural schedule of 1900 and 1910 were destroyed by congressional order.  The surviving Agricultural census records are for the years 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880.  (These can be found on Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com can frequently be accessed for free at your local library or your local Family History Center.)

Why would your ancestor not be included on the agricultural schedule? In 1850 farms that did not produce $100 in products were not included.  In 1870 farms that produced less than $500 or that was less than 3 acres were not included.

1850 Ag Census David Talbott

Agricultural Schedule. Image from Ancestry.com.

Information Found on the Agricultural Schedule

  1. The name of the owner, manager or agent of the farm.
  2. In counties where tax and/or land records are missing, the agricultural schedule can place an ancestor in place and time.
  3. The agricultural schedule can provide a look at an ancestor’s household.  What crops were raised (wheat, rye, Indian corn, oats, sweet potatoes, barley…..)   What livestock (horses, asses and mules, milk cows, working oxen, other cattle, sheep and swine) was owned and the value of this livestock. How many acres the farm contained, including improved and unimproved. 
  4. Just like the population census records, your ancestor’s neighborhood can be seen. This is important since you can learn who was in your ancestor’s FAN club [Friends, Associates and Neighbors]. 
  5. The agricultural census can help in differentiating between two people of the same name.
  6. Another interesting thing the southern researcher can learn is what how the Civil War affected your ancestor’s farm and land values. 

Let’s take a closer look at the 1850 Agricultural Schedule

1850 Ag Census

1850 Agricultural Census for Jesse R Haley of Halifax County, VA. Image from Ancestry.com

Jesse R Haley (~1802-1869) lived in Halifax County, Virginia. In 1850 Jesse owned his own farm consisting of 80 acres of land.  25 acres of land were improved and 55 acres were unimproved.  The land was valued at $240. Farming implements and equipment were valued at $10.  His livestock included 1 horse, 3 milk cows, 1 other cattle, 6 sheep and 22 swine. The livestock is valued at $136.  Jesse Haley grew wheat, indian corn, tobacco, oats, peas, irish potatoes and sweet potatoes.  The farm also produced 30 pounds of butter.

Now let’s take a closer look at Jesse Haley’s farm in 1860 Agricultural Schedule

1860 Ag census Jesse Haley a

Portion of the 1860 Agricultural Schedule for Jesse R Haley (Halifax County, VA). Image from Ancestry.com

Jesse R Haley was still living in Halifax County, Virginia on the same land next door to Nancy Tribble.  He now has 80 acres (40 improved and 40 unimproved) worth $600. His farm equipment and implements are worth $40.  He owns one horse, two milk cows, 2 working oxen, 3 other cattle, 22 sheep and 8 swine. His livestock is valued at $234. He grew indian corn, oats and tobacco valued at $985. He also grew peas, irish potatoes and produced 60 pounds of butter.

Between 1850 and 1860, Jesse Haley’s economic situation improved. He acquired more livestock and switched to predominantly sheep in 1860 as compared to swine in 1850. More milk cows led to an increase in butter production.

Unfortunately, Jesse Haley died in 1869, so the value of his land and farm after the Civil War in not known. Like others around him, it is almost certain the value of his farm was less than in 1860.

When searching your farming southern ancestors, be sure to look beyond the population census records.  The Agricultural Schedules of the United States censuses will provide you with valuable information and clues about your ancestor leading to new research possibilities.

 
Lisa Lisson is a genealogist, blogger and Etsy-prenuer who writes about her never-ending pursuit of ancestors, the “how” of genealogy research and the importance of sharing genealogy research with our families. Specializing in North Carolina and southern Virginia research, she also provides genealogical research services to clients. You can find Lisa online at Lisa Lisson.com.


5 Online Places to Start Your Southern Genealogy Research

Research in the South can be both challenging and rewarding. Historically, the southern states’ culture and economy have been deeply rooted in agriculture. As an agrarian society, many areas were not meticulous in keeping records. When living on farms any significant distance from the courthouse, taking care of business at home took precedence over a lengthy trip to the courthouse. Births and deaths might not be recorded until months or years later. Deed transfers within the family might not be formalized for a generation. As a researcher of the American South, it is imperative to understand the agrarian way of life.

Another challenge for the Southern researcher is burned counties.  Many counties have lost records over the years to fire and/or natural disasters.  Certainly the Civil War played a role in the loss of courthouse records. While research in a burned county can present a brick wall for the researcher, the brick wall is not insurmountable.

Don’t despair! Research of your southern ancestors will still be a rewarding experience.  

Richardson familyDaniel T. Richardson of Pittsylvania County, VA - ~1906 (Source: Personal Collection of Lisa Talbott Lisson)

5 Online Places to Find Your Southern Ancestors

  1. The State Archives – More and more records are becoming available online for the genealogy researcher.  A good place to start is with the state archives where your ancestors lived. Each state will have its own unique holdings. For example, if you have North Carolina ancestors, visit the State Archives of North Carolina website. You will be able to search their holdings and explore their digital collections. Examples of what you will find include family Bibles, Civil War Pension Applications, and War of 1812 Pay Vouchers.  The State Library and Archives of Florida’s Florida Memory Collection is another good example of using a state archives’ available online records. On their site a sample of what you will find includes Spanish land grants, WWI Service Cards and Civil War Pension Applications.

  2. State and Local Genealogical Societies – The amount of information found on state and local genealogical societies will vary quite a bit. The information is usually provided by the society’s volunteers.  Still, be sure to check these societies for where your ancestor lived. Depending on the individual society, variable local records will be available. For example, transcripts of individual will and deeds might be found. Photographs of local residents and landmarks are another example that may be found. Some of the information may only be available to the society’s members while others are available to the general public. These sites are certainly worth a look.

  3. Documenting the American South (DocSouth) – The University Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) sponsors this online resource for southern history, cultural and literature. Among its collections are first person narratives of slaves, women, farmers and soldiers. Other collections include personal diaries and papers relating to the Civil War and slave narratives. DocSouth is an invaluable resource for any southern researcher.

  4. The Library of Virginia – While obviously focused on the records of Virginia, many southern families of other states such as Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama can trace families back to Virginia.  The LVA website is also a valuable resource for learning about the southern culture and way of life.

  5. The Digital Library on American Slavery – If you have African American ancestry, this site sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro is an excellent place to visit. Many slave deeds, runaway slave advertisements and slavery era insurance records may be found here.

Remember: For all the excellent records available online, there are many more that are not. To be complete in your research, sometimes you need to travel to a repository or use the assistance of a local genealogist.

Now…. Go grab a tall glass of iced tea and start exploring your southern roots!

You can learn more about southern genealogy research in these Legacy webinars:

 
Lisa Lisson is a genealogist, blogger and Etsy-prenuer who writes about her never-ending pursuit of ancestors, the “how” of genealogy research and the importance of sharing genealogy research with our families. Specializing in North Carolina and southern Virginia research, she also provides genealogical research services to clients. You can find Lisa online at Lisa Lisson.com.