Digging into Dixie? Alas, sometimes forgotten records have been lost or destroyed over the years. Because of the Civil War and the South’s fondness for wooden courthouses, you’ll find many “burned counties” where records have gone up in smoke. (Record keeping itself also suffered during the Civil War, with manpower in short supply and much of the actual fighting taking place in the South.)
Federal census records also have gaps. Among the missing and destroyed census records are: most of 1820 Alabama; 1790, 1800, 1810 and parts of 1820 Georgia; 1790 and 1800 Kentucky; some counties in 1790, 1810 and 1820 North Carolina; 1790, 1800 and parts of 1810 and 1820 Tennessee; 1790, 1800 and parts of 1810 Virginia. The good news is that you can find state, county and even colonial censuses, as well as tax lists and other substitutes. See the state-by-state resource guides in the Toolkit on page 45 to get started with these. Also keep in mind that the bulk of the entire national 1890 census was lost to fire.
Southern states were also generally slower than the rest of the country in beginning statewide registration of births, deaths and marriages. Even then, statewide compliance sometimes took decades. Below you’ll see when these records officially began and where to write for information (generally states limit access to recent vital records to family members); many other, earlier records are available at the county level. You can find more state-by-state vital records information at <www.vitalrec.com>. For county information, see each state’s page on the USGenWeb site <www.usgenweb.org/thestates.html> or consult a reference such as The Handybook for Genealogists (Everton Publishers).
State archives may house county-created vital records dating even from before the beginning of statewide registrations. The Virginia state archives, for example, has copies of all surviving birth and death records prior to 1896 plus 1853 to 1935 marriage records.
Here are the basics you’ll need to know for the 11 states of the former Confederacy plus Kentucky:
|State||Statehood||First mostly extant federal census||Statewide birth and death records begin||Statewide marriage records begin||Address for state vital statistics||Web site for state vital
Web site for
|Alabama||1819||1830||1908||1936||Alabama Vital Records, Box 5625, Montgomery, AL 36103, (334) 206-5418||www.alapubhealth.
|Arkansas||1836||1830||1914||1917||Division of Vital Records, Arkansas Department of Health, 4815 W. Markham St., Slot 44 Little Rock, AR 72205, (501) 661-2336||www.healthy
|Florida||1845||1830||1899||1927||Office of Vital Statistics, Box 210, Jacksonville, FL 32231, (904) 359-6900||www.doh.state.fl.
|Georgia||1788||1820||1919||1952||Vital Records, 2600 Skyland Dr. NE, Atlanta, GA 30319 (404) 679-4701||www.ph.dhr.state.
|Kentucky||1792||1810||1911||1958||Office of Vital Statistics, 275 E. Main St., Frankfort, KY 40621, (502) 564-4212||publichealth.state.
|Louisiana||1812||1810||1914||parish only||Vital Records Registry, Box 60630, New Orleans, LA 70160, (504) 568-5152||www.dhh.state.la.
|Mississippi||1817||1820||1912||1926||Mississippi Vital Records, Box 1700, Jackson, MS 39215, (601) 576-7981||www.msdh.state.
|North Carolina||1789||1790||1913||1962||Vital Records Branch, 1903 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699, Raleigh, NC 27626, (919) 733-3526||www.schs.state.
|South Carolina||1788||1790||1915||1950||Office of Vital Records and Public Health Statistics, 2600 Bull St., Columbia, SC 29201, (803) 898-3630||none;
|Tennessee||1796||1820||1914||1945||Central Services Building, First Floor, 421 Fifth Ave. N., Nashville, TN 37247, (615) 741-1763||www.state.tn.us/
|Texas||1845||1850||1903||1966||Bureau of Vital Statistics, Box 12040, Austin, TX 78711, (512) 458-7111||www.tdh.state.
|Virginia||1788||1820||1912||1853||Office of Vital Records, Box 1000, Richmond, VA 23218, (804) 662-6200||www.vdh.state.va.
From the August 2001 issue of Family Tree Magazine