Researching Your Georgia Ancestors
February 24, 2016
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 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 Archives – Your starting place for Georgia genealogy research.
- Georgia’s Virtual Vault – part of the Georgia Archives – Examples of available records include deed books, colonial wills, and death certificates.
- Digital Library of Georgia – Records from 60 institutions and 100 government agencies.
- Historic Newspapers of Georgia - part of the Digital Library of Georgia
- The Georgia GenWeb Project – A variety of resources provided by dedicated volunteers.
- Historical Georgia Maps – Historical maps dating back to the mid to late 1600’s.
- Vital Records – Site for the Georgia Department of Public Health.
- New Georgia Encyclopedia - This is a good resource on the history of Georgia.
- Family Search – Examples of Georgia records include Freedmen’s Bureau, probate and headright and bounty land records.
- Baptist Church Records – Historical Baptist church records at Mercer University. The finding aids are online, but most of the actual records are not. Contact the archivist for assistance.
- Georgia Land Lotteries – Information on each of the 8 land lotteries held between 1805-1833. If your ancestor participated in one of the Georgia land lotteries, know the eligibility rules for the participants. Clues to the participant’s age, marital status, arrival in Georgia can be gleaned.
African American Genealogy Resources
Are you researching African American ancestors in Georgia? These resources may be of help.
- AfriGeneas - A website devoted to African-American genealogy research. Be sure and check out their online community, too.
- Low Country Africana - African American Genealogy in SC, GA and FL - Beautiful website dedicated to African-American genealogy research of SC, GA, and FL ancestors.
- Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872 (FamilySearch.org) – Includes records on rations, medical care, school reports and more.
Genealogical Societies of Georgia
Genealogical societies at the state, regional and local levels provide a variety of helpful resources.
- Georgia Genealogical Society
- East Georgia Genealogical Society
- Central Georgia Genealogical Society
- Southwest Georgia Genealogical Society
- Check out local county genealogy and/or historical societies specific to the locations of your ancestors. Often times, they have “an insider’s knowledge” on resources unique to an area or family.
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.
The link for "Georgia’s Virtual Vault – part of the Georgia Archives – Examples of available records include deed books, colonial wills, and death certificates." is not working.
Posted by: Arthur | February 25, 2016 at 06:41 AM
I can't find Georgia's Virtual Vault online anymore. My understanding was that it had been taken down. Hope I understood that incorrectly!
Posted by: Janice Cox | February 29, 2016 at 12:36 PM
Great article. I am researching GA and this is great. Thank you!
Posted by: Pat Giordano | March 03, 2016 at 02:11 PM
This is great information. I am an African American and traced my genealogy as far backs as 1815. I was able to use property/will information to help identify slaves in my family. I got stuck with a slave that records show was born in Virginia. Needless to say, my search was halted.
Thanks for the info
Posted by: Wyketta | March 11, 2016 at 12:38 PM