Alabama History

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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: Under the Treaty of Paris in 1763, France ceded present-day Alabama to 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: Alabama was admitted to the Union as the 22nd state.
  • 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.
  • 1861–1868: Alabama seceded from the Union, but was readmitted in 1868. Nearly 100,000 men from Alabama served in the Civil War.
  • 1880: Almost half of the population of Alabama was of African-American descent.
  • 1917–1918: Armed forces serving in World War I included 95,000 Alabamians. More than 6,200 were killed.
  • 1941–1945: Approximately 288,000 men and women from Alabama served in the armed forces during World War II.
  • 1960: More people in Alabama live in cities with a population of at least 2,500.
  • 1990: About one quarter of the population was African-American descent.

State Histories

Sources for studying the history 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 book 976.1 H2m; film 934817.)

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 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 book 976.1 H2p; film 924406.) This book lists historical events in chronological order, from the early history to about 1820.

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:

United States. Department of State. The Territorial Papers of the United States. 26 volumes. National Archives Microfilm Publication, M0721. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1934–1962. (FHL book 973 N2udt; films 929376–91.) 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.

Local Histories

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of area families. The United States Research Outline "History" section cites nationwide bibliographies of local histories which include histories of Alabama. For a statewide bibliography of local histories see:

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

History books are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:




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