Florida History

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United States > Florida > Florida History

Brief History

The following important events in the history of Florida affected political boundaries, record keeping, and family movement.

  • 1565:  The Spanish founded St. Augustine, the first permanent white settlement in what is now the United States. Pensacola was founded by the Spanish in 1698, but there was little significant European settlement in Florida until the late eighteenth century.
  • 1763:  At the close of the Seven Years' War (French and Indian War), Britain gained control of Florida. Settlers from Europe and the American colonies to the north began to move into the area. The provinces of East Florida and West Florida were formed.
  • 1783: Most of the British settlers left when Spain regained the Floridas.
  • 1812: The United States annexed portions of West Florida to Louisiana and to the Mississippi Territory.
  • 1812, 1816 & 1817:  Seminole Indian Wars  (Osceola; Seminole Chief 1804-1838)
  • 1819:  Spain ceded the remainder of West Florida and all of East Florida to the United States. Official United States occupation took place in 1821, and Florida was organized as a territory in 1822.
  • 1822:  (September 18,) Treaty of Fort Moultrie between the United States and the Seminole Indians.
  • 1835-1842:  The Second Seminole War was caused by reaction to the Treat of Payne's Landing (1832) and the attempts by the U.S. to remove them from Florida.  The Seminole's were led by Chief Osceola, WIld Cat, Alligator and Aripeka conducted a gurerrilla war.  Over 1,500 U.S. troops lost their lives.  
  • 1842:  At the close of the Seminole Wars, most of the Indians were removed west to present-day Oklahoma, but a few hundred escaped into the swamps.
  • 1845: (March 3) Florida became a state.
  • 1850: (January 21) Western migration of the Florida Indians began.  This removed most Indians from the Atlantic seaboard.  A few remained on isolated reservations.  Today some Seminole Indians live in the Lake Okeechobee area.
  • 1861:  Florida seceded from the Union. It was readmitted in 1868.
  • 1870-1900:  The post-Civil War boom brought many settlers to Florida, as developers from the North built railroads and resorts.
  • 1911:  The Hollywood Indian Reservation was established for the Seminole Indians.
  • 1921-1925:  The last 13 of the state's 67 counties were organized as the Florida land boom attracted new settlers from the north.
  • 1938: Big Cypress and Brighton Indian reservations were established.

Historical Content

Histories are great sources of genealogical information. Many contain biographical information about individuals who lived in the area, including:

  • Parents' names
  • Maiden names of women
  • Place of birth, death, or marriage
  • Occupation
  • Migration
  • Military service
  • Descendants

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 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.

  • A Bibliography of American County Histories [1]
  • United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress [2]

State Histories Useful to Genealogists

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 lauditory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name. One of the best sources for studying Florida history is:

  • Florida: Historic- Dramatic-Contemporary,' is an especially helpful source for studying the history of Florida. [3]

United States History

The following are only a few of the many sources that are available at most large libraries:

  • The Almanac of American History, [4]This provides brief historical essays and chronological descriptions of thousands of key events in United States history.
  • Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium [5] This includes a history, some maps, tables, and other historical information.
  • Dictionary of American History, Revised ed [6] This includes historical sketches on various topics in U.S. history, such as wars, people, laws, and organizations.

To find more books and articles about Florida 's history use the Internet Google search for phases like "Florida history." Family History Library Catalog Surname Search lists many more histories under topics like:


Web Sites


  1. Filby, P. William. A Bibliography of American County Histories. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1985. (FHL book 973 H23bi)
  2. Kaminkow, Marion J. United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress. 5 vols. Baltimore: Magna Charta Book, 1975-76. (FHL book 973 A3ka.)
  3. Junius E. Dovell, Florida: Historic- Dramatic-Contemporary, Four Volumes. (New York, NY: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1952; Family History Library book 975.9 H2do).
  4. Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983. (FHL book 973 H2alm)
  5. Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. Springfield, Mass.: G&C Merriam, 1971. (FHL book 973 H2v)
  6. Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976. (FHL book 973 H2ad.)