The states that form the South are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Each state is unique for the types of records available, and the time frames in which they are available. Each state has valuable printed indexes that make their records more easily accessible.
Agriculture formed the economic foundation of the historic South. The mid to late 1830’s brought an economic depression to the whole country, and hit the South especially hard. A persistent drought exacerbated the financial suffering through crop failure.
Most areas of the South were adversely affected by the Civil War in a number of ways. Of concern to genealogists, courthouses were targeted by the Union Army, with the intention of destroying the financial records. Those sources included wills, estate settlements, land transactions and court records. Many counties lost their marriage records as well. Fortunately, most records survived, and they provide valuable genealogical evidence for tracing families. Most southern states began to register births and deaths in the early 1900’s. Marriage records generally begin around the time of each county’s formation. Other valuable sources are personal property and land tax lists. These can be utilized to track an ancestor year by year, between the federal censuses, as well as before the censuses. Many tough genealogical problems have been solved by studying the annual personal property tax lists.
Generally, colonial southern settlers arrived in the northeastern portion, namely Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. Many migrated south from Pennsylvania. Families and adventurers spread west and further south into newly forming territories throughout the Nineteenth Century. They followed well-worn migration trails and watercourses in search of available land. The South has a long, proud heritage. Its unique beauty and gracious culture contribute to the fabric of America.