Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Alabama State Archives: Wonderful Local Sources for Genealogical Research
The Alabama State Archives is part of the Alabama Department of Archives and History. Alabama was the first state in the United States to create an official agency to take care of its history. Quoting from a video about the Department:
The Alabama Department of Archives and History was founded in 1901, becoming the nation's first publicly funded, independent state archives agency. The Archives identifies, preserves, and makes accessible records and artifacts of enduring historical value to the state.  Thomas Owen founded the agency and served as its first director. He was succeeded by his wife, Marie Bankhead Owen, who headed the archives for 35 years and was the second woman to lead a state agency.
The Alabama Department of Archives and History has an extensive Channel with almost 200 videos. Recently, they posted a video introducing the Archives.

86 Discovering Alabama State Archives

Of course, this makes my job of writing about the Archives much easier. The Archives YouTube Channel is part of a larger YouTube collection called "Discovering Alabama." I did, just recently, drive through Alabama on my way from Maryland to Utah, but unfortunately, on this trip, I did not have time to stop and explore the state and the Archives. Here is a link to the Alabama Department of Archives and History YouTube Channel.
The Southern States have a reputation among genealogists as a more difficult place to do research, but that impression should not be uniformly applied. What this series on state archives is intended to demonstrate is that genealogical research does not stop with a superficial review of online sources, but must also include, when necessary, extensive onsite research beginning with the state archives and continuing with the local record repositories including state and local historical societies. Although many records have now been digitized and are available online, a visit to a national, state or other archives will quickly convince you otherwise. The actual number of digitized records in almost any state archives is very small compared to the number of records in their collections.

Here is a screenshot of the main collections in the Alabama Department of Archives and History
The Digital Collections are extensive but genealogists cannot expect that all of the collections will relate to genealogical research, many of the collections are historical in nature and only incidentally valuable to genealogists.
Depending on the state, the state archives may or may not have all of the genealogically important records. For example, in Alabama, the probate records are held by the individual counties. However, huge collections of these records are available from the online genealogy websites such as,, and others.

Watch the videos, explore the website, and search for Alabama records online but when you think you are done with your research, take the time to look into a visit to the Alabama Department of Archives and History. Remember to check the requirements for research at the Archives.
Also, remember that each state archive has its own rules and regulations regarding access to the records and that these rules need to be carefully followed.

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