Start Your Search
Get a head start on your research with our most commonly used genealogy resources. The finding aids linked below will help you determine what is available before traveling to the William F. Winter Archives and History Building. Our reference staff is also available to help with your research in the archives.
Family Genealogy Fellowships
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History is pleased to offer the Family Genealogy Fellowships to support individuals hoping to locate information related to their family history using resources available at MDAH.
While there are no copies of birth records at the archives, there are microfiche copies of the state’s death records from November 1912 to 1943. Death records often give the names and places of birth of the parents of the deceased in addition to information about the deceased.
Information about birth, death, marriage, and divorce records is available at the Vital Records office of the State Department of Health website.
The 1940 census is the most recent one opened to the public and is available online.
Mississippi researchers also have some surviving state census files. They are not available for every county, and several years are not indexed. Some of these state censuses were taken in years between the federal census.
After a definite location for the family is determined, county records such as marriage licenses, wills, deeds, and tax records should be explored. The holdings for each county will differ as some courthouses have suffered fire or other damage. In most cases, the original copy of the record remains in the courthouse while the state archives maintains a microfilm copy.
The archives’ collection includes hundreds of court cases from the files of the High Court of Errors and Appeals (forerunner of the State Supreme Court). Cases that were thought to have valuable genealogical data were indexed by Mary Flowers Hendrix and published in Mississippi Court Records 1799–1859; the volume is indexed by the name of the contesting parties. The online catalog’s “Quick Searches” offer three finding aids for court records, listed to the right, with entries for individual parties named in the suit.
President Grover Cleveland appointed the Dawes Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes in 1893 to negotiate land with the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole tribes. The commission generated the Dawes Rolls of people eligible for tribal membership from 1898 to 1914. Microfilm copies of Choctaw and Chickasaw enrollment cards are available in our Media Room. Information given on the cards usually includes roll number, name, age, sex, degree of Indian blood, relation to head of household, and names of parents.
Enumeration of Educable Children
The enumeration of educable children has proven invaluable to researchers trying to locate elusive families. These files list the names and ages of children aged five to eighteen and, beginning in 1885, their parents or guardians. Some families who were missed by the state or federal census taker may be listed on the enumeration of educable children. The dates for these records vary by county. The oldest date to 1850, while others are as late as the 1950s. Educable children’s lists may be found in the records of the Secretary of State, Department of Education, or counties.
Freedmen’s Bureau Labor Contracts
Some 36,000 former slaves are listed on the contracts, which record the freedmen’s agreement to work for a planter (possibly their former master) for a fee, medical care, housing, and sometimes a share of the crop. These records contain such information as the county of residence, name of the planter, plantation name (if one was given), name of freedman, age, and terms of pay. Sometimes family units or relationships are indicated on the contracts. Labor contracts are indexed by freedmen, planter, and plantation.
County Marriage Records
The archives offers microfilm copies of most of the original marriage books held by the county courthouses. The extent of the collection varies county to county. County clerks indexed the marriage records, usually by grooms’ surnames.
Statewide Marriage Index
Marriage records prior to 1926 found in Mississippi courthouses by the federal Works Progress Administration were indexed (using the federal Soundex Code) by grooms’ surnames. The information provided on the microfilm index includes name of groom, name of bride, date of record, name of presiding official, county of marriage, and the book and page where the marriage is recorded.
Freedmen’s Bureau Marriage Records
A portion of the fifty microfilm rolls pertaining to the operation of the Mississippi Freedmen’s Bureau include marriage records of some of the newly freed slaves. The information provided includes names of parties, ages, and places of birth and residence. Most of the marriages recorded took place in Warren County and involved grooms who served in the United States Colored Troops.
Mississippians have a long history of serving in the armed forces. Materials documenting this service occur throughout the archives’ collections. Government records include Confederate records, State Auditor’s Confederate pension files, Military Department/Adjutant General series, Veterans’ Affairs Board records, and U.S. military records. The archives has nearly 400 manuscript collections associated with the different wars in which Mississippians have served. The Mississippiana collection includes military history books as well as indices to service records and pension rolls. The archives also has many photographs with military subjects. All of these materials are searchable in the online catalog.
The archives has microfilm copies of service records for Mississippians in the War of 1812 (1812–15), Mexican War (1846–48), Civil War (1861–65), and the Spanish-American War (1898), and draft registration cards for World War I (1917–18). The archives also holds Mississippi World War I statement of service cards, 1917–19.
The only pension files available at the archives are those of individuals who served in the Confederate army or navy. These records are available on microfilm. The pension files for veterans of all other wars and Union soldiers in the Civil War can be found at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.