Alabama History

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Tuskegee Airmen in front of a P-40 fighter in World War II.

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Timeline[edit | edit source]

The following important events in the history of Alabama affected political jurisdictions, family movements, and record keeping.

  • 1702: The first permanent settlement, Fort Louis de la Mobile, was founded by the French north of the present site of Mobile.
  • 1710–1763: The Alabama area was governed by France. English, French, and Spanish settlers and settlers from South Carolina and Georgia established trading posts.
  • 1711: Mobile was the capital of the Louisiana Territory until 1720 when Biloxi became the capital. In 1722 New Orleans became the capital.
  • 1763: The Alabama area was governed by Great Britain.
  • 1783: Britain ceded the southern region, around Mobile, to Spain. The area further north of the Alabama region was claimed by Georgia. The boundary between the two areas was in dispute until 1795, when it was set at the 31st parallel, a few miles north of Mobile.
  • 1798: Georgia abandoned claims to the area. The area north of the 31st parallel became part of the Mississippi Territory.
  • 1800 Census part of Alabama (Washington County in Mississippi territory) 494 African American listed
  • 1800 - 1820: Migrations from Virginia and the Carolinas to central and southern part of the state.
  • 1800-1810: Migrations from Tennessee into northern part of the state.
  • 1802: Choctaw Indians ceded land.
  • 1802: Georgia abandoned claims to the area. The area north of the 31st parallel became part of the Mississippi Territory when it was created in 1798. Spain controlled the Mobile area until the War of 1812.
  • 1805: Choctaw Indians ceded land.
  • 1806: Cherokee Indians ceded land.
  • 1812–1814: During the War of 1812, on 15 April 1813 American forces captured Mobile from the Spanish. General Andrew Jackson defeated the Creek Indians in several battles, including the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, 27 March 1814. Removal of the Creeks and other Indian tribes commenced and European settlers began flooding into the region, bringing African-American slaves with them.
  • March 29, 1814: Creek Indian War ended as General Andrew Jackson defeated the Creeks under Chief Weatherford at the battle of Horseshoe Bend, Alabama where nearly 900 - 1000 Indians engaged were killed.
  • 1814: Creek Indians ceded land.
  • 1816: Chickasaw, Choctaw and Cherokee Indians ceded land.
  • 1817: Cherokee Indians ceded land.
  • 1817: Marengo County (Demopolis) The Frenchman Parmentier obtains a grant in Alabama for French refugees who left Philadelphia and settled at St. Stephens on the Tombigbee River - called Demopolis, about 150 settlers in all.
  • March 3, 1817: The Mississippi Territory was divided into the state of Mississippi, and the Alabama Territory at that time. The Alabama Territory was composed of the following seven counties: Baldwin, Clarke, Madison, Mobile, Monroe, Montgomery, and Washington.
  • 1818: Twenty-two counties were established.
  • 1819: Cherokee Indians ceded land.
  • December 14, 1819: Alabama was admitted to the Union as the 22nd state.
  • 1820: First Federal census in this state, all reported missing.
  • 1830: The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek the Choctaw Indians gave up 10 million acres of land in Alabama and Mississippi. The Choctaw tribe had aided Gen. Andrew Jackson in his war agaist the Creek Nation. The Choctaw were given a reservation in southeaster part of (present day) Oklahoma
  • 1830: Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians ceded land.
  • 1830: Second Federal Census in this state, reported incomplete.
  • 1832: Creek Indians ceded land.
  • 1835: The treaty of New Echota was signed, which led to the removal of most of the Indian tribes, including the Cherokees from Alabama. A few Creeks and Cherokees remained in Alabama. Cherokee Indians ceded land.
  • 1839: The Indians were largely removed westward to Oklahoma.
  • I860: Illegal slave ship Clotilda, with Guineau Africans arrived at Mobile. Slaves were divided between the schooner's owner, Timothy Meaher and Captain William Foster, the remainder were sold. Slaves were freed by Union soldiers in 1865. Former slaves pooled wages from to purchase land from the Meaher family, and formed a community called African Town in in the suburb Plateau near Mobile. ( The wreck of Clotilda, which had been deliberately burned and sunk to conceal evidence of illegal activity, was found 22 May 2019.
  • I860: Slave population was 435,080 (about 45.1% of Alabama's population)
  • 1861–1868: American Civil War and Reconstruction
  • 1862: Over 10,000 Alabama freedmen served as soldiers in the Union Army.
  • 1865: Thirty-five black schools were set up the the Freedmen's Bureau and American Missionary Association.
  • 1898: Over 300,000 men were involved in the Spanish-American War which was fought mainly in Cuba and the Philippines.
  • 1917–1918: Armed forces serving in World War I included 95,000 Alabamians. More than 6,200 were killed.
  • 1941: Tuskegee Airmen: Tuskegee Army Air Field graduated more 14,100 pilots and support crew. Tuskegee Airmen flew more than 15,000 individual sorties over 2 years. More than 150 were awarded the Distinguished Flying Crosses. 300 of the original Tuskegee Airmen received the Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush in 2007.
  • 1990: About one quarter of the population was African-American descent.

Local Histories[edit | edit source]

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search. Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies. The United States Research "History" page cites nationwide bibliographies of local histories which include histories of Alabama.

  • Ward, Robert David. Bibliography of the County Histories of Alabama. Birmingham, Alabama: Birmingham Public Library, 1991. FHL book 976.1 H23w

State Histories Useful to Genealogists[edit | edit source]

Good genealogists strive to understand the life and times of their ancestors. In this sense, any history is useful. But certain kinds of state, county, and local histories, especially older histories published between 1845 and 1945, often include biographical sketches of prominent individuals. The sketches usually tend toward the laudatory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name. Some examples for the State of Alabama are:

  • Memorial Record of Alabama: A Concise Account of the State’s Political, Military, Professional and Industrial Progress, Together With the Personal Memoirs of Many of its People. Two Volumes. Madison, Wisconsin: Brant and Fuller, 1893. FHL film 934817; book 976.1 H2m A digitized version is available through the FamilySearch Catalog entry.
  • Brown, Lynda W. Alabama History: An Annotated Bibliography. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1998. FHL book 976.1 H2bL This contains information about American Indian tribes; European exploration and colonization; territorial and formative periods; and Antebellum, Confederate, Reconstruction, and later periods. Each chronological period is subdivided into subjects, such as education, arts, diaries, industry, migrations, and religion.

For 1798 to 1819, The Territorial Papers of the United States contain petitions, memorials, and other lists of early residents in what is now Alabama:

  • The Territorial Papers of the United States. 26 volumes. National Archives Microfilm Publication, M0721. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1934–1962. FHL films 929376–91; book 973 N2udt See volumes five and six on FHL film 929379 for records of the Territory of Mississippi, which included present-day Alabama. These volumes cover 1798 to 1817 and include lists of residents for 1809, 1810, 1811, 1812 (lists of aliens in 1812), 1814, and 1815. Volume 18 on FHL film 929386 has records pertaining to the Territory of Alabama, including land sales, employment and dismissal, commission, power of attorney, postmaster correspondence, government business, court, election candidate, and Indian affairs records. Each volume is indexed. Records are digitized and available through the FamilySearch Catalog entry.

For the period to 1821 see:

  • Beers, Henry Putney. French and Spanish Records of Louisiana: A Bibliographical Guide to Archive and Manuscript Sources. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University, 1989. FHL book 976.3 H23b Section III discusses the history, government, and land and church records of the area of Louisiana that is in present-day Alabama.
  • Pickett, Albert James. History of Alabama and Incidentally of Georgia and Mississippi, From the Earliest Period. Sheffield, Alabama: R.C. Randolph, 1896. FHL film 924406; book 976.1 H2pThis book lists historical events in chronological order, from the early history to about 1820. Digitized version available through FamilySearch Catalog entry.
  • Brewer, Willis. Alabama: Her History, Resources, War Record, and Public Men, from 1540 to 1872. Montgomery, Ala.: Barett & Brown, Printers, 1872. Digital version at FamilySearch Digital Library.
  • Abernethy, Thomas Perkins. The Formative Period in Alabama 1815-1828. Montgomery, Ala.: The Brown Printing Company, 1922. Digital version at FamilySearch Digital Library. Includes chapters on immigrants, public lands, rivers and roads, religion, and slavery.

United States History[edit | edit source]

The following are only a few of the many sources that are available:

  • Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. (Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983.) At various libraries (WorldCat), FHL book 973 H2almThis book provides brief historical essays and chronological descriptions of thousands of key events in United States history.
  • Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976.) At various libraries (WorldCat), FHL book 973 H2adIncludes historical sketches on various topics in U.S. history, such as wars, people, laws, and organizations.
  • Van Doren, Charles Lincoln; Robert McHenry, Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. (Springfield, Mass.: G and C Merriam, 1971.) At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 973 H2v Includes a history, some maps, tables, and other historical information.

Draper Manuscript Collection. Look for Alabama ancestors 1740-1830 in the Draper Manuscript Collection. These manuscripts cover the history of the "trans-Allegheny West," a region including the west Carolinas and Virginia, all the Ohio River Valley, and part of the upper Mississippi Valley. There are 491 volumes of partially-indexed manuscripts, papers, and books.

Family History Library[edit | edit source]

To access histories available through the FamilySearch Catalog, use the Place-names Search for:


Websites[edit | edit source]

Sources[edit | edit source]