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To identify, select, preserve, and make accessible records that constitute Georgia’s recorded history Mission Statement: To increase the efficiency of the State Government through effective records management To improve the quality of records and archives management statewide.
Libraries collect published material. If a book is lost or stolen it probably can be replaced.
Archives collect original unpublished material or primary sources. If an archival document is lost, stolen, or irreparably damaged, the information it contains is lost forever.
A library is organized by subject, archives are organized by provenance.
Another fundamental difference between the two entities stems from their stated purpose: the library makes information available; An archives preserves information for future generations.
Every other year, the American Institute of Architects and the American Library Association celebrate and recognizes the finest examples of library design by American architects – The Georgia Archives was presented with one of those awards in 2005.
As you begin your research, remember: as with any record in an archive, the first and foremost consideration of accessing the material is by provenance , that is, by the agency or person creating the document. Therefore, there is often material available for reference which is not specifically identified by race that may augment your research.
The golden rule in genealogy is: never assume , always research and document.
Don’t assume that all African Americans were slaves.
Don’t assume that all indices, including those for census and other records, include African Americans.
Don’t assume from an entry that he or she is white or African American.
Don’t assume that a person noted as white in a record is necessarily so. American Indians, African Americans, and people of mixed heritage, such as mulattoes and Melungeons, did not always want to be identified as such.
Finally, don’t assume that all laws concerning African-Americans were adhered to in all cases.
For example, even a legal prohibition against slaves marrying or holding property did not always prevent those proceedings from happening. In Kentucky, where slaves were prohibited from marrying, records from as early as 1793 document the marriages of enslaved African Americans in the central and northern areas of the state.
Executive Department, Governor's Letter Books, 1786-1897 (RG 1-1-1) : Among other subjects, these books indicate problems with the illegal importation of slaves and runaway slaves.
Governor's Subject Files, 1781-1993 (RG 1-1-5) : These records are in chronological order and later material has a variety of subject headings. [Example: In Lester Maddox's files, there are such subject headings as "Augusta Riot, 1967-70", "Black Panthers" and "School Desegregation".]
Reconstruction Registration Oath Books, 1867 (RG 1-1-107) : Lists name, date of registration, and county of residence of eligible voters in the state. Over 95,000 white and 93,000 African-American voters were registered. Georgia Archives Microfilm #296/14-75; 297/1-8
Examples of state government records which can yield genealogical information:
Reconstruction Returns of Voters, 1867 (RG 1-1-108) : Lists voter's number; date of registry; name; number and page in Oath Book; race; time of residence in state, county and precinct within a year; nativity by state or county; naturalization (if any); and remarks (if any). Georgia Archives Microfilm #297/9-31 Department of Archives and History (RG 4) File II – Counties, Subjects, and Names (RG 4-2-46) : Alphabetically arranged within each section. Under subjects, there are subject headings such as "Negroes", "Reconstruction", and "Tunis Campbell--Black Legislator." These records contain both secondary and primary material. Department of Education (RG 12); Department of Negro Education , 1911-ca. 1966 (RG 12-6) U. S. Government. Works Progress Administration Records (RG 44) : Most notable in this collection are the WPA surveys of cemeteries, church records, county records, various publications, manuscript collections and the surveys of other states.
U.S. Government records available at the Georgia Archives
U.S. Bureau of the Census: Slave Schedules, 1850 and 1860. 21 rolls.(1850: Georgia Archives Microfilm #331/59-67 and 1860: Georgia Archives Microfilm #332/29-40) On these separate slave schedules, the name of each slave owner appears with the number of slaves owned, and number of slaves manumitted (if any). Under the slave owner's name, a line for each slave shows age, complexion, sex, and whether or not deaf-mute, blind, insane, or idiotic. Names of slaves were not entered. Available for all Georgia counties.
U.S. Department of the Interior (RG 48): African Slave Trade and Negro Colonization, Records of, 1854-1872. M160. 10 Rolls. (Georgia Archives Microfilm #231/6-15) This microfilm publication reproduces three bound volumes and some unbound records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior relating to the suppression of the slave trade and the colonization of recaptured and free blacks.
U.S. Department of the Navy. (RG 45): Correspondence of the Secretary of the Navy Relating to African Colonization, 1819-1844. M205. 2 Rolls. (Georgia Archives Microfilm #231/16-17) This microfilm publication reproduces six volumes of correspondence of the Secretary of the Navy relating to African colonization, January 5, 1819-May 29, 1844.
The legal status of slaves can make research difficult. Slaves were legally prohibited from acting on their own behalf, from marrying, from buying property, and from making other contracts. Even if the person of color was free, he or she probably had to struggle to be treated as a free person rather than a slave. As a result, research on African Americans requires knowledge of the slave system, local practices and customs, and the history of African Americans in the United States.
As with immigrant ancestors, free blacks, as well as slaves, typically lost their African names when they came to the United States. However, slaves did not always take surnames at the same time they gave up their African names. They sometimes changed surnames when they changed owners, were reluctant to tell whites the family name they identified with, and arbitrarily chose new surnames after their emancipation.
For example: William Still’s book on the Underground Railroad shows that, of the first 210 successful runaways, 84 percent had different surnames than the owners they had fled; this is equally true for men and women.
From author David E. Patterson in his work, Georgia 's Slave Population in Legal Records
There is no such thing as a "slave record" in the courthouses of Georgia, if, by slave record, you mean a court document whose purpose was to record the names or activities of slaves for their own sake.
Legal records were about the personal rights and property rights of free persons, and slaves had no personal or property rights.
Slaves do not appear as parties to any lawsuit, marriage, contract, deed, bond. They did not make wills or inherit property. They are not named in the tax digests. They do not appear on any jury list, land lottery, poor school roster, or voters list.
And yet, hundreds of thousands of individual slaves are named and described in the court records of Georgia , their lives inseparably intermingled with the lives of free citizens with whom they lived.
Beginning in 1790, free African American household heads were listed in the federal census.
Before 1850, slaves who were hired out were enumerated in the census with their owners, even if they worked and lived elsewhere.
The first enumeration of all African Americans by individual family member’s name was the 1870 census. Although census takers attempted to enumerate individual African American family members, the 1880 census was more complete than the 1870 census.
One note of caution: while the census included African American families, the companies which produced commercial indices of the censuses did not always include them.
Because the 1870 US Census was the earliest census that tried to name all Americans, five years after the Civil War and nationwide emancipation, research before this year this is sometimes called the “1870 brick wall.”
When other evidence is lacking, you sometimes have to speculate by matching a free persons' last name with the last names of a slave owner, even though we know that freed slaves often did not share the same surnames of their last masters. This can be difficult if there was more than one slave owner with the same last name.
An example: since Alzina Spier's ( Upson County ) estate contained a man named "Manuel," and post-emancipation records from the same county talk about a "Manuel Speer," odds are good that this is the same person. Knowing that Manuel the slave was a shoe-maker, and Manuel Speer the freedman was also a shoe-maker makes the connection more certain.
Indentures of Apprenticeship . Indentures of apprenticeship were often used by poor people when they could not afford to care for their own children. At emancipation, when slavery was destroyed, many former slaves found themselves uncertain that they could provide adequate care for their children. Sometimes voluntarily, sometimes under pressure, they apprenticed these children to white persons who were often their former owners.
Look for records of apprenticeship in the Court of Ordinary up to 1866, and in County Court beginning in 1866. These records typically state the name of the parent or parents who are petitioning for the apprenticeship (or name of a custodian in the case of orphans), the names and ages of children being apprenticed, and the name of the person agreeing to take the apprentices. The following are typical examples from Upson County .
Example 1. Loose papers of County Court, Special Session, January 14, 1867; the petition of Miless R. Meadows states that "at the time the Negroes were Emancipated in [Georgia] your petitioner owned one Willis, the son of Jeremiah Green a freedman, a freed boy now about 5 years old, that said freed boy is entirely destitute of the means of a support or any near relatives that are able & willing to care for [him]. . . That the said boy now has no mother."
Example 2. Loose papers of County Court, petition filed August 23, 1866 , by Jesse G. Butts, states that “at the time of emancipation . . . [he] was the owner of certain slaves, to wit: Catherine a girl about 15 years old, Henry a boy about 10 years old, Sarah a girl about 8 years old, & Lee, a [blank] about 2 years old, & Manerva, the mother of the above children who is about 50 years old.” They remained in his service after emancipation, but Minerva is unable to provide a support for her children “by reason of her physical condition.”
Example 3. Loose papers of County Court, Special Session, October 27, 1866; Petition of Jabez Dallis, states that "at the time of the emancipation of the slaves in this state he was the owner of certain Slaves, to wit: Eliza, a girl about twelve years old; Josie a girl about 10 years old: Harriett a girl about 7 years old; and Samuel a boy about 4 years old all of whom are destitute of either Father or Mother so far as your petitioner knows."
Wills: These can show slaves in an estate and how they were to be distributed. Wills may be found recorded in a special Will Book, or may be recorded in any of the many varieties of probate record books kept by the Court of Ordinary (now known as Probate Court).
Inventory and Appraisement: This was the first action on a deceased's estate. All slaves were listed, usually by gender and name, and often also by age. Sometimes relationships like husband/wife and mother/child were given. The slaves were given a value. When extracting probate records, always include appraised value because these values give clues as to the age or health of a slave, and can sometimes be the only way to differentiate between slaves of the same name.
Annual returns: An accounting of the income and expenditures of an estate given each year by the administrator or executor. Many estates hired slaves, and annual returns frequently state to whom they were hired, as well as for how much.
For the family researcher, annual returns naming "Mary and her child" one year, followed by "Mary and two children" the next year, are obviously useful to suggest births and ages of children. Most expenditures are explained on numbered vouchers (detailed receipts). Vouchers include doctors' bills which give valuable information about ailments and medical treatment of particular slaves, mid-wife's bills which suggest children's birthdays, purchases of clothing for slaves, and even the occasional purchase of a "Negro coffin" which can explain the disappearance of a particular person from the next year's annual return.
The original detailed vouchers may be with the loose original returns which are still preserved in many probate judges' offices throughout the state. Often these loose records have never been microfilmed.
Sales of slaves belonging to estates, like real estate, were carefully regulated by law. After 1805, it was illegal for administrators to sell slaves belonging to an estate without court permission.
Records of petitions to sell particular slaves are usually found in Minutes of Inferior Court Meeting for Ordinary Purposes or the Minutes of the Court of Ordinary. These sales were scrupulously documented and given in with annual returns. Returns of sales usually included the names of slaves sold, the date and place of sale (usually at the steps of the county courthouse on the legal day of sale), the amount each slave sold for, whether for cash or credit, and (in most cases) who they were sold to.
Bills of Sale. Unfortunately for researchers, Georgia law did not require slave bills of sale to be recorded, but they were sometimes recorded anyway. They are usually in the Deed Records of Superior Court, but, before 1827, can also be found in the records of Inferior Court and records of the Clerk of the Court of Ordinary. Occasionally, among loose court records, there are unrecorded slave bills of sale which seem to be present because they were evidence in another legal proceeding.
Deeds of gift were a special type of deed, typically from a parent to a child, transferring property to that child during the lifetime of the parent. Wedding gifts to daughters usually contained things needed to set up a comfortable household, including slaves to act as house servants.
At first recording deeds of gift was optional, and they could be recorded in either Inferior Court or Superior Court. After 1827, they were supposed to be recorded exclusively in Superior Court.
After 1838, Georgia law required all deeds of gift of slaves to be recorded within 12 months, or they would be of no legal validity.
Some farmers and merchants routinely used mortgages to finance their next crop or to secure loans for other purposes. Slaves were often used as collateral in these mortgages. Therefore, mortgages are a valuable source of information about enslaved people during the slave masters' lifetime.
Mortgages can be the only source for the identities of some slaves who were later emancipated by the Civil War during the lifetimes of their owners. Mortgages of slaves often name persons and identify family kinships that are not documented anywhere else. The growth of enslaved families can sometimes be followed if the same families were repeatedly mortgaged.
Until 1827, there was no law requiring mortgages to be recorded, or specifying where they were to be recorded. Up to that time, they may be found in the record books of any court of record, including the Inferior Court and the Clerk of the Court of Ordinary, or the Superior Court.
After December 1827, the Georgia legislature required all current mortgages to be recorded in Superior Court in the same manner as real estate deeds (but sometimes mortgages can be found incorrectly recorded in other courts after 1827).
All these records may be found together in the Superior Court's Deed Record Books, along with miscellaneous instruments like powers of attorney, bills of sale, and prenuptial agreements.
Post-war tax digests can indirectly link free persons to a slave past.
Tax records were arranged by militia district, which can geographically locate a person within the county.
Beginning 1866, tax digests were divided into two parts; the first for white taxpayers, the second for "freedmen." The format for freedmen asked for (1) employer’s name, then (2) freedman’s name, followed by tax data.
Frequently, the employer was the same as the person's previous owner, which, coupled with a coincidence of last names and geographical location, may provide a possible link between free and slave identity.
Tax Digests before 1865 do not name any slaves, but provide valuable data about how many slaves a particular owner possessed on January 1 of a particular year.
Tax law beginning in 1804 required each white male over the age of 21 to pay 31 1/4 cents per year poll tax, and to pay the same amount on each slave under age 60. Beginning in 1826, white males 60 years and older were exempt from poll tax.
Through 1849, it was common practice for tax collectors to combine, as a single "number of poll," the poll owed by the male slaveowner and the number of poll due on his slaves. Therefore, it becomes necessary to know the age of the male taxpayer to determine the number of slaves under age 60 (if the taxpayer was under age 60, the number of taxable slaves is number of poll minus one; if over age 60, poll equals taxable slaves). White women did not pay a poll tax, therefore, in the case of a woman taxpayer, the number of poll equals the number of slaves under age 60. In 1850, poll tax on white adult males was reduced to 25 cents, but tax on slaves remained at 31 1/4; therefore, tax digests beginning with 1850 had separate columns for poll and slaves.
Marriage Records, 1875-6, can be peculiarly valuable in Georgia because the legislature experimented with a system to collect vital statistics for the newly-formed State Board of Health.
Although the experiment only lasted two years, anyone performing a marriage during this period was required to complete "Form A" and return it with the marriage certificate. “Form A” asked for names of groom and bride, their place of residence, age, color, occupation (of groom), place of birth, and father's and mother's name.
Because inter-generational links between slaves and their parents are often hard to document, these records may provide the vital evidence needed to find the parents of a particular slave.
The Archives has a variety of church records available in original format and on microfilm. These collections are available by denomination, by geographic location, and under the subject heading "Afro-Americans--Churches & Synagogues".
Researchers should keep in mind that many churches in Georgia had both white and black members, and in some cases, slaves and/or freedmen were not allowed to have a separate church body. Church minutes usually list members, and often indicate race and legal status (free or slave).
The Freedman's Savings and Trust Company was incorporated in 1865 by an act signed by President Abraham Lincoln. The purpose of the company was to create an institution where former slaves and their dependents could place and save their money.
The original bank was first headquartered in New York and later moved to Washington, D.C. Shortly thereafter branch offices opened in other cities, primarily in ones in the south where there was a larger population of African Americans. Eventually there were 37 branch offices in 17 states with approximately 70,000 depositors (over the banks lifetime) and deposits of more than $57 million.
Freedman's Bank Records are a great source for genealogists researching their African American heritage because of the amount of personal information recorded for each individual within them.
Some information that may be found in this index includes: Name of depositor Date of application/deposit Name of employer Name of plantation Age Height Complexion Name of father and/or mother Marital status Place of birth Residence Occupation Names of children Names of brothers and sisters
Note: not all entries will contain all of this information.
Some examples of the manuscript collections that the Georgia Archives has collected:
Black Studies Papers, 1773-1886, ac 00-165: Numerous Georgia counties, as well as South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee. The documents in this collection were abstracted from materials in the Governmental Records Section of the Archives, where the originals are stored under various Record Group headings. An unpublished inventory is available.
Edmondson Family Farm Records, 1868-1883, ac 83-012: Mrs. Mary (Polly) Edmondson's negro account book (1874-1882), listing a large number of African-American sharecroppers who also appear in the 1880 census.
There are a variety of newspapers available, arranged by city of publication, county of publication, and title of the newspaper.
Some examples of newspapers available are Voice of the People, 1901-1904 , a newspaper published in Atlanta by Bishop Henry McNeal Turner as the monthly organ of the Colored National Emigration Association (Georgia Archives Microfilm #60/22); and The Athens Blade, 1879-1880 , which published religious and social news about blacks in Athens and some surrounding counties. (Georgia Archives Microfilm #91/72)
Legal Notices in newspapers were required to be published before certain actions could be taken, such as before an administrator could sell slaves belonging to an estate or before a sheriff could sell private property at public auction.
Sometimes, notices of sales give details about certain slaves which are not recorded elsewhere.
Sheriffs, coroners, and clerks of the Court of Ordinary were required to publish in a newspaper of their county, or, if the county had no newspaper, in a nearby newspaper which had large circulation in their county.
Making matters more complicated for the researcher, administrators of estates were not limited to advertising estate sales in any particular newspaper, as long as it was published in Georgia .
City Directories are available mainly for Atlanta (1853-1990), but a few are available for other cities in Georgia. In these directories, there are alphabetical and geographic listings of residents, with the race of the individual noted.
If the Archives does not have the city or time period in which you are interested, be sure to check at your local public library.
Nothing is allowed in the archives, except for notebooks (nothing “enclosed” however), laptops, pencils, and digital cameras (no flash). There are lockers available for storing items such as purses or bags.
Ink pens are prohibited
If you are cold-natured, wear a sweater. No outer wear is allowed.
“ Behind-the-Scenes" tours are available by appointment Tuesday-Friday, 8:30-4:00. The tour highlights the public areas as well as glimpses into the vaults, the microfilm/scanning room, and the conservation lab. To schedule a tour, please call 678-364-3730 or email [email_address] and provide the following information: