Atlanta Genealogy: Insider Tips

By Sunny McClellan Morton Premium

If you’re tracing ancestors in the Atlanta area, take advantage of these expert pointers from from Sue VerHoef, an archivist at the Atlanta History Center and Paul K. Graham, a certified genealogist based in Atlanta.

Plus members will find detailed Atlanta record information in our Atlanta City Guide (also available as a $3 PDF download).

Master Georgia geography.
“Militia districts and land lot numbers are used to describe Georgia property locations,” says VerHoef. “These colonial-era designations have changed slightly over time. Look for militia district boundaries and land lot numbers on historical and modern maps (Atlanta generally falls into districts 14 and 17).”

Get census savvy.
“In the 1900 US census, the enumerator put the full date of birth of every person (not just month and year) in at least one enumeration district in Atlanta,” says Graham.

Dig into cemetery records.
“Original Oakland Cemetery Records at the Atlanta History Center (and on microfilm at the Georgia Archives) are more complete than the records they use at the cemetery today,” says Graham. “A lot more people are listed, especially in the post-Civil War decades.”

Explore Jewish history.
“The Bremen Jewish Heritage and Holocaust Museum is an excellent facility on Jewish history, culture, and heritage,” says VerHoef.

Search yesterday’s news.
“The Constitution is partially searchable online at the paper’s own website or at ProQuest. You can pay to view full-text articles, or just use the search functions as a finding aid and look up the papers yourself in the archive,” Graham says.

But don’t rely entirely on the web. “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is only indexed between 1868 and about 1945, and between 1985 and the present. There’s still a ‘black hole’ between about 1945 and 1985 that cannot be searched online,” says Verhoef. “We do have hard copy indexes beginning in 1971 in our collection [at the Atlanta History Center] as well as some card catalog indexes from the 1950s.”

Peruse Atlanta building permits.
These are organized by address, but aren’t complete. Use this resource to see when a house appeared at a certain address (pull the address from a city directory or census). Find on microfilm at the Atlanta History Center.

Search Garrett’s Necrology File.
This is a locally compiled source on white males who died between 1857 and 1931. Search the index at the Atlanta History Center’s website. You may also request a staff search for $12.50; the fee includes the mailing of copies of anything in the file, which sometimes includes full obituaries or headstone transcriptions.

Check the Leon S. Hollingsworth Genealogical Card File.
Your ancestors might be in this 45,000-card statewide index of censuses, wills, deeds, tax records, marriages, military records, cemetery records, newspapers and family Bibles. The original files are at the Georgia Archives; find a printed surname index at the Family History Library and several Georgia repositories.

Conduct research in the Western & Atlantic Rail Archives.
If your relatives worked for the railroad, this could be a rich source. The collection, housed at the Georgia Archives, includes contractors’ and employment records with job descriptions, pay and train assignment.

You’ll find more help researching Georgia ancestors in these resources: