Archives

Break Through Brick Walls

A brick wall is not the end of the line for family research. Join professional genealogist Kim Richardson on Saturday, April 30, at 10 a.m. for Break through Brick Walls, a Zoom presentation about the most common oversights in genealogy research and how to overcome the supposed dead-end search for a particularly hard to find ancestor. Registration is free and space is limited. Click here to register online. Registration ends at noon on Friday, April 29.

Intro to Military Research Workshop

Learn how to trace your military family tree with resources available at MDAH on Saturday, February 19, from 10 to 11 a.m. Jeff Giambrone, a historic resource specialist at MDAH, will lead the Finding Your Family: Intro to Military Research workshop at the William F. Winter Archives & History building.

“For anyone doing research into a Mississippi relative's military history, a trip to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History is vital,” said Giambrone.

MDAH staff will teach participants how to use military records of Mississippi soldiers from the American Revolution to World War II such as service records, pensions, grave registration cards, World War I draft registration forms, statement of service cards, and World War II discharge records that are available in the MDAH archival collections.

Giambrone is currently employed as a historian at MDAH. He earned his BA in history from Mississippi State University and an MA in history from Mississippi College. He has led numerous introductory genealogy workshops and enjoys helping curious participants research their family roots.

Registration is free and space is limited. Register online here. For more information call 601-576-6800. 

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Finding Your Family: Intro to Military Research

Are you interested in learning more about the military service of your family members? Join us for Finding Your Family: Intro to Military Research at the William F. Winter Archives & History Building on Saturday, February 19, 10­–11 a.m. MDAH staff will teach participants how to use military records of Mississippi soldiers from the American Revolution to World War II such as service records, pensions, grave registration cards, World War I draft registration forms, statement of service cards, and World War II discharge records that are available in the MDAH archival collections.

Beginning Genealogy

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 refdesk@mdah.ms.gov to learn more about gaining access to the collections. For more information email info@mdah.ms.gov or visit the department’s website, www.mdah.ms.gov.

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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.

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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 refdesk@mdah.ms.gov.

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 info@mdah.ms.gov.

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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 info@eudoraweltyhouse.com. 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 info@mdah.ms.gov.

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Be part of history. Volunteer with MDAH and help us preserve and connect Mississippi’s rich historic resources with people around the world.


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