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County Research Guide
Introduction | Henry Co Information | Vital Records | Census Records | Maps | Land Records | Probate Records | Court Records | Tax Records | Voter List | Cemetery Records | Church Records | Military Records | Printed Source | Special Interest
For genealogists doing research in Alabama or Henry County, there is no effective substitute for an on-site search of county courthouse records. County level records have not yet been centralized. A comprehensive statewide microfilming project by the Genealogical Society of Utah was completed for Henry County in 1989. These microfilmed records will be available for purchase from the society or Loan from Family History Libraries. Check the index of Henry County Microfilm records held at LDS. Other scattered records are now preserved by the Alabama Department of Archives and History, the University of Alabama Library, and the Samford University Library.
All addresses, prices and contact information found on this page is subject to change. Please let me know if you encounter anything different than what is posted here so I can update the page.
Date Formed - 1819 Henry County was created by act of the Alabama territorial general
assembly on December 13, 1819 from Conecuh County. County seat: Richmond (1819-December 1824),
Columbia (December 1824-1833), and Abbeville (1833-present).
Birth and Death Records
Prior to 1881 a limited amount of information concerning births and deaths
of a few individuals is available indirectly from probate court records.
Such records include adoptions, guardianships and apprenticeships, recorded
wills, and the various records maintained in the settlement and division of
an estate. These records seldom provide more information than establishing
race, sex, and parentage of the adoptee, ward, apprentice, or legatee
Social Security Death Index
Though divorce decrees were tried in county chancery court until 1865, the
state legislature had the exclusive right to finalize all divorce decrees.
These early decrees are thus a part of the legislative record and are
published in the Senate and House Journals. An index to legislative divorce
decrees was published in the Alabama Genealogical Society, Inc., Magazine
Industry and Agriculture Schedules.
State Census - Alabama's census records are scant when compared with other states of the same age. Elizabeth Shown Mills cites twelve groups of census or census substitute materials for 1706 through 1816-19, all with enumerations compiled before statehood, in her essay "Alabama" in Genealogical Research: Methods and Sources, Vol. 2, rev. ed. (Washington, D.C.: American Society of Genealogists, 1983). Sources for locating the census and substitutes are cited as well. She reasons that Alabama's "sparse population and the administrative neglect which the region often suffered has limited the numbers of extant subsequent enumerations" (page 224).
State censuses were taken sporadically, and sizable but not complete collections exist for 1855 and 1866. The originals are housed in the Alabama Department of Archives and History. Microfilmed copies may be purchased from them see (Archives, Libraries, and Societies for address). Part of the 1820 state census, Lawrence County, still exists and is also housed at the state archives. It has been published as 1820 State Census of Lawrence County, Alabama (Huntsville, Ala.: Tennessee Valley Genealogical Society, 1977).
1850--no index: name of head of household; free white males and females in age categories; number of slaves and free persons of color in age categories.
1855--index (14 counties: Autauga, Baldwin, Blount, Coffee, Franklin, Henry, Lowndes, Macon, Mobile, Montgomery [on film, but not included in the index], Pickens, Sumter [not on microfilm and not included in the index], Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa): name of head of household; number of free white males and females in age categories; number of slaves and free persons of color in age categories
1866--no index: name of head of household for African-Americans and whites; number of females and males in age categories.
1907 Confederate Soldier Census County tax assessors canvassed all persons who were receiving a pension for Confederate service. Information enumerated includes name, place of residence, date and place of birth, enlistment and discharge or parole, rank, and name of military unit. Originals are housed in the Alabama Department of Archives and History and are now available from them on microfilm. The Alabama Genealogical Society, Inc., Magazine from 1958 through 1982 published Alabama Confederate pensioners lists from several counties.
Confederate Soldier Census of Confederate pensioners in Alabama. This census was taken by mail with each pensioner being asked to complete and return the form to the state. The original forms may be examined at the Alabama Department of Archives and History.
The first federal census was taken in 1820. Records exist for only eight of the thirty enumerated counties. These counties include Baldwin, Conecuh, Dallas, Franklin, Limestone, St. Clair, Shelby, and Wilcox. The Alabama Historical Quarterly 6 (Fall 1944) abstracts these enumerations.
The only extant records for Alabama of the almost destroyed 1890 census are portions of Perryville (Beat No. 11) and Severe (Beat No. 8) of Perry County.
Enumerations of native Alabama inhabitants were made before cession of their lands. Other significant sources for Alabama's Native Americans are cited in National Archives and Records Service, American Indians: A Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications (Washington, D.C.: NARA, 1984) (see page 11). The enumerations include these works:
Crumpton, Barbara J. 1884 Hester Roll of the Eastern Cherokee. Duncan, Okla.: Creative Copies, 1986 (NARA M685, reel 12).
Felldin, Jeanne Roby, and Charlotte Magee Tucker. 1832 Census of Creek Indians Taken By Parsons and Abbott (With an Added Full Names Index of "White" Names). Tomball, Tex.: Genealogical Publications, 1978 (NARA T275, 1 reel)
---. Index to the Cherokee Indians East of the Mississippi River. Tomball, Tex.: Genealogical Publications, 1978 (Henderson Roll, 1835, NARA T496, 1 reel)
Jordan, Jerry Wright. Cherokee By Blood: Records of Eastern Cherokee Ancestry in the U.S. Court of Claims, 1906-1910. Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1987 - present (Guion Miller Roll, NARA M685, 12 reels)
Siler, David W. The Eastern Cherokees: A Census of the Cherokee Nation in North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia in 1851. Cottonport, La.: Polyanthos, 1972
U.S. Congress. American State Papers. Documents of the Congress of the United States in Relation to Public Land...Vol. 7. Washington, D.C.: Gales and Seaton, 1860 (Armstrong Roll of Choctaws, 1831)
To date about 95 percent of Alabama has been mapped in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey and the Geological Survey of Alabama. These topographic quadrangle maps show selected man-made and natural features as well as the shape and elevation of features. Features include state, county, and municipal boundary lines; townships, ranges, roads, railroads, and buildings; and mountains, valleys, streams, and rivers. The earliest survey maps for Alabama are dated from 1901.
The Alabama Highway Department has prepared a series of county road maps. These maps contain more detailed information about man-made features than the geological survey maps. In addition to roads and boundaries, these maps locate rural communities, churches, and cemeteries. The maps are available for a nominal fee from the Alabama Highway Department, Bureau of Planning and Programming, Montgomery, Alabama 36130.
Another important series of maps for incorporated municipalities is the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps. These maps, dating from 1884 to 1950, include 110 Alabama communities. The maps indicate street names, property boundaries, building use, and in some cases property owners. Originals are available in the Library of Congress and in the University of Alabama Library (see Archives, Libraries, and Societies). They were microfilmed (twelve reels) in 1982 by Chadwyck-Healy of Alexandria, Virginia.
Sara Elizabeth Mason's bibliography, A List of Nineteenth Century Maps of the State of Alabama (Birmingham, Ala.: Birmingham Public Library, 1973), is very helpful in identifying and locating early Alabama maps. The list includes the holdings of the library of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, Auburn University in Auburn, the University of Alabama, Samford University, Mobile Public Library, and Birmingham Public Library (see Archives, Libraries, and Societies). Descriptive annotations as well as detailed physical descriptions add to the usefulness of the list.
The Rucker Agee Map Collection, a privately acquired donation found at the Birmingham Public Library, is an incomparable collection of maps documenting the cartographic history of the southeast and in particular Alabama.
Colonial settlers acquired title to Alabama lands from the French, the Spanish, the British, and the Native Americans. Original copies of these grants from the first three groups may be found, respectively, in the Archives Nationales in Paris, the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, and the Public Record Office in London. When land title was transferred from Great Britain to the United States in 1783, following the American Revolution, preemptive landowners were required to file proof of their land title with the U.S. GLO. Abstracts of the files are found in the American States Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive of the Congress, Class VIII, Public Lands (Washington, D.C.: Gales and Seaton, 1832-61). These volumes are indexed in C.I.S. U.S. Serial Set Index, Part I, American States Papers and the 15th-34th Congresses, 1789-1857 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Information Services, 1977).
Title to previously un-granted lands was vested in the federal government, and titles were conveyed to individuals either by sale or by bounty-landwarrant. The Land Act of 1800, as amended in 1803, simplified the claiming of land titles by authorizing local public land offices to survey and auction lands within their charge. Sales were sanctioned through thirteen land offices including St. Stephens (established December 1806, transferred to Mobile 1867); Huntsville (established at Nashville in March 1807, transferred to Huntsville 1811, transferred to Montgomery May 1866); Cahaba (established at Milledgeville, Georgia, August 1817, transferred to Cahaba October 1818, transferred to Greenville 1856); Tuscaloosa (established May 1820, transferred to Montgomery 1832); Sparta-Conecuh Courthouse (established May 1820, transferred to Montgomery 1854); Montgomery (established July 1832, closed 1927); Mardisville-Montevallo (established July 1832, transferred to Lebanon 1842); Demopolis (established March 1833, transferred to Montgomery March 1866); Lebanon (established April 1842, transferred to Centre 1858); Elba (established April 1854, transferred to Montgomery April 1867); Greenville (established 1856, transferred to Montgomery 1866); Centre (established 1858, transferred to Huntsville 1866); and Mobile (established 1867, transferred to Montgomery June 1879).
Prior to the Revolutionary War, there was no central Federal government, not was there a treasury. In order to lure men to enlist in the military, land was promised as a form of remuneration for military service. Those men who enlisted and served the duration of their enlistment period were awarded a Bounty Land Warrant from the new government after the war. From 1781 until 1855, the federal government issued bounty land warrants to veterans or their heirs as a reward for service. The majority of these applications for Revolutionary War service and the original paper applications for other years are in the possession of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in various record groups. You can contact NARA for information about new form NATF-85 (Order for Copies of Federal Pension or Bounty Land Warrant Applications) and how to apply to locate and receive copies of these records for your ancestors.
When the land offices were closed, their original records were sent to the Washington, D.C., office. Photocopies of the original records may be requested by legal description (subdivision, section, township, range, survey meridian, and state of the land) from the National Archives Suitland Reference Branch (see page 9). Photocopies of the presidential patents are available by legal description from the U.S. BLM, Eastern States Office, 350 South Pickett Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22304. Duplicate copies of some of these records are located in the Alabama Department of Archives and History, the office of the Alabama Secretary of State, and the University of Alabama library's special collections. Plat maps and field notes for these original land grants are also available at these repositories. The Southern Historical Press has published Marilyn Davis Hahn Barefield's abstracts of several of the land offices' records including those of Centre, Demopolis, Elba, Huntsville, Lebanon, Mardisville, Sparta, St. Stephens, and Tuscaloosa; Southern University Press has published her abstracts from the Cahaba Land Office. Other abstracts for north Alabama counties are being privately published by Margaret M. Cowart of Huntsville; her abstracts are for Colbert, Franklin, Jackson, Limestone, Madison, and Morgan counties.
Tract books indicating the original sale of property from the federal government, or the state of Alabama in case of a sixteenth section, are housed in the county probate judge's office. The books, arranged by legal description, include the name of the purchaser, the amount of acres purchased, the price, date of purchase, certificate number, and whether or not the land was obtained under a military act. These records do not include lands cut away to form new counties or subsequent sales of original tracts.
All subsequent title transactions following the original title transfer from the federal government are recorded in the probate judge's records of the county in which the property lies. These records include conveyance records, which detail the transfer of property either by sale or donation.
In some counties, mortgages were recorded in the same volumes as outright conveyance of real property, while in others liens and deeds of trust are recorded separately as "Mortgages."
The office of the probate judge is the county office where the most significant genealogical records are created and maintained in Alabama. A variety of records are housed in this office.
These records may be labeled wills, estates, inventories, administrations or guardian's bonds, and orphan's court records. Within each category there may or may not be separate volumes labeled "record" or "minutes." The "record" volumes contain relatively full accounts of probate proceedings, while the "minutes" volumes normally contain only brief abstracts of the proceedings. Early adoption records and records for the binding-out of poor orphans are recorded here. Until the 1900s adoption records were not filed separately. Record books and files created especially for adoption proceedings are now closed to the public by law. Sometimes bastardy cases and naturalization records are here. In all cases these records are merely copies of the original and contain only such data as the clerk thought legally important. More significant than the clerk's ledger, the "loose papers" contain the documents submitted to prove a will, such as the petition to probate, which listed all heirs of the deceased. Generally, these files are not housed in the record room. The researcher should request these files from the probate clerk. The office of the probate judge in Alabama also recorded other documents intermittently in probate, deed, or commissioner's court records. Particularly useful are proofs of freedom filed by free blacks or natives (often with white deponents), indenture papers, contracts for hiring military substitutes during the Civil War, and lists of slaves brought into the state or loaned to the Confederacy.
Henry County Orphans Court, which pre-dated the Probate Court, and handled probate matters, was combined with the County Court in 1850, forming what today is known as the Probate Court. Some counties continued to call their probate records "Orphans" records. Orphans records include appraisements, accounts, records of settlements, records of administration, guardianship, inventories, etc. Includes general index with some volumes individually indexed.
Microfilm From the LDS Family History Library - List Title, years covered and Film Number.
The records of the office of the court clerk or the circuit court records are the most poorly organized and most frequently missing court records. In smaller counties both chancery and circuit court records are maintained by the same clerk. In larger counties the records may be separated. The state administrative office of the court oversees the maintenance of the circuit court records.
The state-level office of the supreme court clerk has authority over the records of the state supreme court. After five years these records are moved to the state's archives.
Alabama Digest, 1820 to Date . (St. Paul, Minn.: West Publishing Co., 1950-present) indexes the decisions and opinions of the Alabama Supreme Court, court of criminal appeals, and court of civil appeals as well as the federal courts from the district level to the supreme court. The final volume is a defendant-plaintiff name index to cases cited.
The records listed here represent only those present at the ADAH. A more extensive list of records may be available at the county courthouse or through LDS Family History Centers.
Apprentice records, 1867-1888
County tax records are housed in the office of the tax assessor. These records are usually arranged by legal description and are not indexed. There are few counties with tax records before 1860. The National Archives has a microfilm publication titled Internal Revenue Assessment Lists for Alabama, 1865-1866 (NARA M754, 6 reels).
List of registered voters 1902-1920, FHL US/CAN Film 1639125 Item 7
No statewide systematic or comprehensive inventory of cemeteries or bibliography of published transcriptions have been compiled. Scattered volumes have been published by various patriotic, historical, and genealogical societies. Many individual cemetery transcriptions have been published in periodicals.
The Baptists (Southern Convention) form the largest denomination in Alabama. The first Baptist church was founded 2 October 1808 on Flint River near Huntsville. The Baptists are the only denomination having some form of centralized state and congregational historic records. Their records are housed in the Samford University Library, Birmingham, Alabama. Included are not only microfilmed minutes of defunct and active congregations, but also the personal papers of many churchmen and a run of the denomination's state newspaper, the Alabama Baptist (1835-present).
The state's oldest denomination, Roman Catholic, has records dating from the coming of Iberville's colony near Mobile in 1699. Most parish records are maintained by the local parish.
The first ordained Episcopal minister in the state was licensed in 1764 to minister to British settlers. The WPA Historical Records Survey in 1939 compiled a volume surveying the records of the Protestant Episcopal church in Alabama. The inventory contains a brief history of each parish, a statement on extant parish records, and an index by location and by parish names. Parish records are maintained by the parish. Unfortunately, the survey did not inventory any other denominational records. A copy of Alabama Historical Records Survey, Inventory of the Church Archives of Alabama, Protestant Episcopal Church (Birmingham, Ala.: Historical Records Survey Project, 1939), is at the Birmingham Public Library.
In 1803 Lorenzo Dow, who claimed to be a Methodist, did his first preaching in Alabama. Methodist missionaries were sent by the South Carolina Conference into the Tombigbee area in 1809. Today, some Methodist records for north Alabama churches are housed at Birmingham Southern College, and south Alabama church records are housed at Huntingdon College, Montgomery. Birmingham Southern College has a run of the state denominational newspaper, the Christian Advocate (1880-present).
The first Presbyterian church was organized in 1818 at Huntsville. Historical records for active Presbyterian churches are usually maintained by the local congregation. Some records of defunct churches are held by Samford University and the Alabama Department of Archives and History.
Since Bernardo de Gálvez, the Spanish governor of Louisiana, captured Mobile from the British in 1780, Alabamians have seen military service in all wars of the United States. Military records are found at both the state and federal levels.
The most voluminous and readily available military records for Alabama are those of the National Archives
Roster of Revolutionary Soldiers and Patriots Alabama (Montgomery, Ala.: Alabama Society DAR, 1979) lists those soldiers who lived and died in Alabama as well as some who died in other states. Data from scattered published and unpublished sources was edited and compiled. The volume includes a statement on the soldier's military service; a brief biographical sketch including the names of his parents, wife, and children; and bibliographic citations to sources.
The Alabama Department of Archives and History has made their military service surname files available on microfilm. These files include a series for Revolutionary War veterans residing in Alabama; service in the Indian Wars of 1812, 1813, and 1814; territorial service in 1818; the Indian War of 1836; the Mexican War in 1846; and the Spanish-American War in 1898. The series contains a card for each soldier indicating name, military unit, rank, and the source of the information. Most of the sources cited are unofficial as there are limited records for state military service.
The state of Alabama paid its Confederate veterans a pension. The files contain the usual military pension application information: name, rank, unit, dates of service, places of enlistment and discharge, if wounded, and qualifications for pension. If the widow was making the application, she stated when and where she was born, her father's name, date and place of his death, and the date and place of her marriage. To qualify, a pensioner's annual income could not exceed $300 and his real property could not be valued at more than $400. The original files are housed in the Alabama Department of Archives and History. The applications have been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah and are available on loan through the FHL
No comprehensive list of Alabama's Confederate or Union soldiers has been compiled.
C. E. Dornbusch's Regimental Publications and Personal Narratives of the Civil War: A Checklist, 4 vols. (New York, N.Y.: New York Public Library, 1961-88), cites published accounts of Alabama regiments.
Clement Aslem Evans' Confederate Military History, 17 vols., extended (1899; reprint, Wilmington, N.C.: Broadfoot, 1987) includes a separate volume on Alabama, which gives a brief history of each regiment, some biographical sketches, and unit citations.
U.S. War Department, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies in the War of the Rebellion, 128 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1901; reprint, Gettysburg, Pa.: National Historical Society, 1971).
U.S. War Department, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, 31 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1894-1927).
The Alabama Department of Archives and History also has scattered records of local militia units from the Civil War. Most of these files are correspondence between the governor and the county probate judge concerning militia rosters.
Mobile served as a port of entry and is included in the National Archives microfilm of Copies of Lists of Passengers arriving at Miscellaneous Ports on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts and at Ports on the Great Lakes, 1820-1873 (NARA Microfilm Publication M575). An index is available entitled Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Ports in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, 1890-1924 (T517).
Several distinct sources for researching African American families in Alabama are available. As previously stated, separate slave censuses were taken in 1850 and 1860 in addition to enumerations of slaves on earlier censuses. The records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (see page 10) detail this bureau's work to ease the problems faced by black freedmen after the Civil War. Two microfilmed series are available from the National Archives: Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of Alabama, 1867-70 (M809, 23 reels) and Records of the Superintendent of Education for the State of Alabama, 1865-70 (M810, 8 reels).
A publication entitled Alabama Center for Higher Education, Collection and Evaluation Materials about Black Americans Program, Catalogue of the Records of Black Organizations in Alabama (Birmingham, Ala.: Alabama Center for Higher Education, 1979), should be particularly helpful to researchers seeking access to records of black business, religious, civic, political, social, and educational organizations. Entries for 239 different organizations indicate briefly when the organization was founded, what records are available, and whom to contact for access to the records.
See also the brief discussion of free blacks in Probate Records.
Census records have already been cited as resources. A sizeable group of materials on native inhabitants who occupied Alabama's land has been microfilmed through the National Archives (see page 11). Topics included are documents relating to the negotiation of ratified and unratified treaties (T494); Cherokee Indian Agency in Tennessee (M208), which concerns Alabama residents; and trading house rolls for the Creek and Choctaw (M4 and T500 respectively).
|This Page was Created October 2007 | Last Modified Friday, 28-Oct-2011 23:13:34 EDT|