Beginning Genealogy therron Wed, 08/18/2021 - 10:27

Curious about tracing your lost family history, but don’t know how or where to start? Join us for our virtual Beginning Genealogy workshop with MDAH director of library services Ally Mellon on Saturday, August 28, at 10 a.m. Participants will learn how to begin genealogical research and use public resources available in the MDAH archival collections. *UPDATE: Registration for this event is now full. 

"Mississippi Burning" Case Files Open at State Archives

Case files, photographs, and other records documenting the 1964 murders of civil rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner are now available to researchers at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH). The materials were gathered and compiled by the Mississippi Attorney General’s office in its 2004 reopening of the Mississippi Burning (code name MiBurn) case and investigation, which culminated in the June 2005 trial and conviction of Edgar Ray Killen. Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood officially closed the investigation in 2016, and the files were transferred to MDAH in spring 2019.

The materials, dating from 1964 to 2007, include case files, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) memoranda, research notes, photographs of the exhumation of the victims’ bodies and subsequent autopsies, aerial photographs of the burial site, federal informant reports, and witness testimonies.

Goodman and Schwerner were two of the hundreds of volunteers who joined Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964. The primary goals of the project were to register voters, conduct Freedom Schools, and promote civil rights.

Schwerner and his wife, Rita, joined Freedom Summer in January 1964 and worked with Meridian native James Chaney, an experienced Congress of Racial Equality organizer. Chaney and Schwerner worked with the congregation at Mount Zion Methodist Church in rural Neshoba County to organize a Freedom School.

On June 16, 1964, a delegation of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan attacked parishioners attending a meeting at Mt. Zion Church. Later that night, the Klansmen burned the church to the ground. Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner drove to investigate the burning. The three men were abducted and killed on June 21 and buried in an earthen dam.

The bodies of the civil rights workers were found on August 4, 1964. In October 1967, the federal government charged eighteen men with conspiracy, including Edgar Ray Killen. Neshoba County Sheriff Deputy Cecil Price, Sam Bowers, and five others were convicted. The jury failed to convict Edgar Ray Killen. In 2005, Killen, a former Baptist minister and Ku Klux Klansman, was convicted of manslaughter in the 1964 slayings.

There are three catalog records for the collection: the Attorney General’s research files are Series 2870, the FBI Memos are Series 2902, and the photographs are Series 2903. Each catalog record includes a box-level description.

MDAH collects and preserves the archival resources of the state, including official government records, books and manuscripts related to Mississippi history, personal papers, newspapers, newsfilm, audio recordings, photographs, and more. These materials are available to the public free of charge at the William F. Winter Archives and History Building, 200 North St., Jackson. Contact our reference department at to learn more about gaining access to the collections. For more information email or visit the department’s website,


1856 Map of Natchez Slave Market Now Online

Image of Forks of the Road map.

A hand-drawn 1856 map of the second largest slave market in the United States during the nineteenth century is now available on the MDAH Digital Archives. Shown is the Forks of the Road site at the intersection of what was then Washington Road and Old Courthouse Road in Natchez. The image is part of Series 2051: Natchez Municipal Records, 1795–1982.

The map, drawn by Natchez city surveyor Thomas Kenny, shows the city of Natchez corporation line and the names of the slave market buildings: Elam, James, O. Ferrall, Kent, and McCabe. The back of the map reads “Survey of St. Catherine St. at Forks of the Road Aug. 1, 1856.”

Kenny, a native of Galway, Ireland, became a naturalized citizen in 1854. He was elected as Justice of the Peace in Adams County in 1860. He died in Natchez in 1867. An 1853 map illustrating the slave markets at the Forks of the Road site, the earliest of its kind, was also drawn by Kenny and is housed at the state archives.

Natchez was the most active slave trading city in the state and fourth richest city in the United States. Nevertheless, evidence shows the enslaved people in Natchez engaged in countless acts of resistance to their conditions. After achieving freedom in Natchez in July 1863, hundreds of formerly enslaved African Americans sought refuge at the Forks of the Road. The United States Colored Troops established a camp at the site in 1863.

Today, the Forks of the Road site, located at the intersection of Liberty Road, Saint Catherine Street, and Devereaux Street in Natchez, tells the story of the slave trade and the men, women, and children bought and sold there. Learn more about the Forks of the Road on the Mississippi History Now website.


MDAH Among Top Genealogy Websites in U.S.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s (MDAH) website was named one of the best genealogical websites in the country by Family Tree Magazine, a national family history publication.

“We are grateful for being included on this list,” said Ally Mellon, MDAH library services director. “We strive to connect people with genealogical resources pertaining to Mississippi both online and in person and are delighted others have found the page useful.”

MDAH has compiled a list of online resources for researchers interested in tracing their family history. Reference librarians provide quick answers to basic questions using available reference works and finding aids. Email your research questions to

Due to safety precautions for COVID-19, appointments are recommended for research in the William F. Winter Archives and History Building. Available appointment times are Monday–Friday at 9–11:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m., and 2–4 p.m.  Call 601-576-6837 to schedule your time. Patrons without an appointment will be accommodated as space allows.

Appointment times for Saturdays will be 8:15–10:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.–12:45 p.m.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History was founded in 1902. It is the second-oldest state department of archives and history in the country. For more information email


Holiday Hours at MDAH Sites

Holiday HoursMuseum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

The Possum Ridge model train exhibit will be on display at the Two Mississippi Museums through December. Regular museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m.–4 p.m. The museums are open free of charge on Sundays from noon–4 p.m. Safety precautions at museums include requiring all visitors to wear masks and observe social distancing guidelines. The museums will close ThursdayFriday, December 2425, for Christmas and Friday, January 1, for New Year's Day.

Eudora Welty House & Garden

Eudora Welty House & Garden tours take place 9 & 11 a.m. and 1 & 3 p.m., Tuesday–Friday, and 1 & 3 p.m. on Saturday. Purchase tickets by phone at 601-353-7762 or by email The museum will close ThursdayFridayDecember 2425, for Christmas and Friday, January 1, for New Year's Day.

William F. Winter Archives and History Building

The state archives will close November 26–28, December 24–December 26, and December 31–January 1. Due to safety precautions for COVID-19, the reading rooms at the William F. Winter Archives and History Building will be open Monday–Saturday, 8:15 a.m.–12:45 p.m. Appointments are recommended. and available times are 8:15–10:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.–12:45 p.m. Call 601-576-6837 to schedule your time. Patrons without an appointment will be accommodated as space allows.

For more information email


State Archives Collects Items Related to COVID-19 Pandemic, Summer of Activism

MDAH is continuing to fulfill its mission of empowering people through Mississippi’s many stories by collecting artifacts that document today’s unprecedented times in our state’s history. Mississippi, like the nation, is currently in the midst of a global health pandemic, an economic recession, and a new movement for social justice. MDAH archivists and collections staff have taken on a new task to accumulate an assortment of memorabilia that will preserve the stories of this historic time in Mississippi.

“This is really a crucial change in how we look at collecting,” said Shane Keil, MDAH director of curatorial services. “Much of what we traditionally do involves searching for objects that represent an era in the past. Now we’re looking at current events and searching for objects that will represent this period of pandemic and societal change.”

 Local industries have transitioned to manufacture vital safety items such as sanitizers, face coverings, and disinfectant cleaners. MDAH has added several of these limited items to its collections to depict adapting to a pandemic in the state.

“In the early stages of the pandemic, we began to identify certain artifacts that we would like to collect such as homemade face masks and COVID-19 closure signs,” said Nan Prince, MDAH director of collections. “The Nissan plant in Canton began making face shields for healthcare workers, and we asked them for one to collect. When alcohol industries such as Cathead Distillery, Rich Grain Distillery, and Lazy Magnolia Brewery began making much-needed hand sanitizer, we reached out to collect samples of those bottles. These items are now on display in our Mississippi Distilled: Prohibition, Piety, and Politics exhibit.”

Mississippi has also seen a societal change in the wake of George Floyd’s death and other police brutality cases in the nation. A new wave of social activism among Mississippians stirred citywide protests and rallies against racial discrimination and on June 30, Governor Tate Reeves signed a historic bill to retire the 1894 state flag that contained the Confederate battle flag. MDAH now has the last state flag that flew over the state capitol and will soon have it on display at the Museum of Mississippi History.

“The material we’ve collected from the ongoing racial equality and social justice movements is really a continuation of the civil rights story told in the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum,” said Keil. “We’ve reached out to contacts in the social justice movement and collected ‘I Can’t Breathe’ face masks as well as various signs from protests at the State Capitol and Governor’s Mansion.”

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, MDAH has taken a new direction in utilizing digital content and online resources in its operations. Archives and records are available online for public research requests and museums are now featuring digital programming and social media to highlight collections and artifacts in galleries online.

“While we were closed due to the pandemic, we continued communicating via email with potential donors to give their collections to MDAH,” said Laura Heller, MDAH acquisitions and collections coordinator. “We have encouraged donors to communicate more through email and use smart phone pictures to show the artifacts they would like for us to consider accepting into our collections.”

By collecting these artifacts for historical interpretation and preservation, MDAH is preserving the stories of Mississippi during the COVID-19 pandemic for future generations to remember.

“Documenting these experiences during a pandemic brings a multi-layered story that people can use in the years to come,” said Heller. “The record of these times will show how Mississippians pulled together in a time of need.”


MDAH Museums & Library Are Open

On Tuesday, July 7, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) reopened the Eudora Welty House & Garden, Museum of Mississippi History, Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, and William F. Winter Archives and History Building in Jackson, and the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians in Natchez.

COVID safety precautions at each site include requiring all visitors to wear masks and observe social distancing guidelines. Masks are available on-site. All public spaces have been sanitized, and thorough cleaning will continue every day. Staff are on-site to ensure that social distancing guidelines are maintained. 

A list of sites and their hours is below. 

Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum
222 North Street, Jackson

Hours are Tuesday–Saturday 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to purchase their tickets online at Due to safety precautions for COVID-19, the maximum number of people per group is twenty. Groups must follow social distancing guidelines and remain six feet apart from all guests, including each other. 

Eudora Welty House & Garden

Hours are Tuesday–Friday, 9 a.m.–4 p.m., with tours at 9 and 11 a.m., and 1 and 3 p.m. Tours will be by reservation only. Due to safety precautions for COVID-19, the maximum capacity is two guests per tour. To make a reservation, call 601-353-7762 or email

State Archives Library 

Hours are Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Appointments are recommended for research in the Archival and Media Reading Rooms. Available weekday appointment times are 9–11 a.m., 11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m., and 2–4 p.m. Call 601-576-6837 during working hours to schedule a time. Patrons without an appointment will be accommodated as space allows.

The library will reopen on Saturdays beginning August 1, 2020. Saturday hours will be 8:15 a.m.–12:45 p.m.  Appointment times for Saturdays are  8:15–10:15 a.m. and  10:45 a.m.–12:45 p.m.

Grand Village of the Natchez Indians

Hours are Monday–Saturday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m., and Sunday, 1:30–5 p.m.  Due to safety precautions for COVID-19, the maximum capacity for the Visitor Center is fifteen visitors at one time. Admission is free.


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